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Adults Transfer Past Experiences to Learning

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Malcolm H. Knowles introduced the andragogy model of learning for adults in 1968 and this model has been supported by several other theorists.   This model is in direct opposition to the child learning theory of pedagogy which describes how children are taught and learn.

Knowles’ model assumes that people who take the responsibility for their own learning activities learn more.  They want to understand why they are being taught something.

According to Knowles, adults learn differently from children.  Adult learning is strongly influenced by life experiences. They approach learning as problem solving and learn best when immediate  solutions  are needed.

Not only do adults bring these life experiences (including mistakes) to the learning environment, they learn new things by experiencing them.  An instructor needs to acknowledge a learner’s past experience.  This helps the adult  learn quickly and learn something the first time it is taught.

An instructor must be aware of his audience and teach them as adults who want to experience the learning.  The trainer can capitalize on the positive experiences and generalize past experiences to new learning.


Culatta, Richard (2011), Andragogy, M. Knowles.  Instructional Learning,

Retrieved from:

Hiemstra, R., & Sisco, B. (1990). Moving from Pedagogy to Andragogy.

Individualizing instruction. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.)

Oakland Community College (2008) What is Pedagogy?  Slideshare. Retrieved


Thompson, C. B.  (1999). Adults Learn Differently Than Children.   Retrieved

From Training Systems, Inc.


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