What is the Theory of Adult Education? In PDF Format

Theory of Adult Education

The theory of adult education, also known as andragogy, was developed by Malcolm Knowles in the 1960s. Andragogy is the study of how adults learn and is based on the premise that there are distinct differences between adult and child learners. Adult education theory is based on the assumption that adults can and want to learn and that the learning itself should respond to their needs.

There are several theories of adult learning, including:

  1. Andragogy refers to the method and process by which adults learn. It states that adult learners are vastly different from children in terms of their motivation, the relevance of education to their lives, and how they apply that education.
  2. Self-directed learning, emphasizes the learner’s control over the learning process. It involves the learner’s ability to identify their own learning needs, goals, strategies, and resources.
  3. Transformative learning focuses on how adults change their perspectives and worldviews as a result of critical reflection and dialogue. It involves the learner’s awareness of their own assumptions, beliefs, and values, and how they affect their understanding of reality.
  4. The seven principles of adult learning include self-direction, transformation, experience, mentorship, mental orientation, motivation, and readiness to learn. These principles can help adult educators design and deliver effective instruction that meets the needs and interests of adult learners.

Some of the implications for practice are:

  • Setting a cooperative climate for learning in the classroom
  • Assessing the learner’s specific needs and interests
  • Developing learning objectives based on the learner’s needs, interests, and skill levels
  • Designing sequential activities to achieve the objectives
  • Working collaboratively with the learner to select methods, materials, and resources for instruction
  • Evaluating the quality of the learning experience and making adjustments, as needed, while assessing the need for further learning
  • Explaining the reasons for teaching specific skills and how they relate to the learner’s goals
  • Focusing on tasks that adults can perform, rather than on memorization of content
  • Involving the learner in solving real-life problems that are relevant and meaningful to them

Key principles of the theory of adult education include:

  • Self-concept: Adults have a self-concept that is more independent and self-directed than that of children. They see themselves as capable of taking responsibility for their own learning.
  • Experience: Adults bring a wealth of experience to the learning environment. They are more likely to be motivated to learn when they see the immediate relevance and application of the information.
  • Readiness to learn: Adults are ready to learn things they feel they need to know. They are motivated by internal factors, such as the desire to solve problems or achieve personal or professional goals.
  • Orientation to learning: Adults are task-oriented and want to apply what they’ve learned immediately. They prefer practical, problem-centered approaches to learning.
  • Motivation: Adults are motivated by both internal and external factors. They are more likely to be motivated when they see a direct relationship between what they are learning and their real-life situations.
  • Need to know: Adults need to know why they need to learn something before they are willing to invest time and effort in the learning process. They are more motivated when they understand the purpose and relevance of the learning.


Knowles’s andragogy theory has been influential in shaping adult education practices. It emphasizes the importance of treating adult learners as independent, self-directed individuals who bring unique experiences and motivations to the learning process.

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