Friday, March 25, 2016

Andragogy? No, it's not Pedagogy for Androids

Andragogy is a specialized word that describes a concept that has become increasingly important to my success as a trainer of teachers. Malcolm Knowles researched and published much about the topic of adult learning (click here to go to resources) and I am focusing on incorporating his findings into my face-to-face training sessions for teachers, as well as my on-line course offerings. Adragogy seems pretty common sense at first glance, but transitioning from being a teacher of children to a teacher of adults does take some intentional redesign and thought about instructional delivery. Making myself remember and attend to the different needs of my older learners is crucial as I try to design sessions that are relevant, productive, and enjoyable. Whether I am sitting down one-to-one with a teacher or running a large rotation station activity for a staff of over a hundred, I want my attendees to value the experience.

As I constantly try to keep up the latest in educational technology, I find myself in the adult learner role almost as much as I am in the trainer role which provides me with many opportunities to observe and analyze effective best-practices of adult learning from that perspective. The biggest revelation for me is that best-practices for adult learners are not "one-size-fits-all." What I mean is that the best practices address the learning needs of the majority of adults, but there will always be outliers who need intuitive trainers who can be flexible and make instructional changes on the go in response to the individual needs of the audience.

So, as I embrace and implement Knowles' understandings about adult learners, I also humbly offer my own observations about the trainers themselves from my experiences.

But, if I was to single out one essential trait in effective trainers, it would have to be humility. Student learners don't necessarily need this trait from their teachers, but adult learners definitely require this. Adults are more receptive to trainers who are humble and helpful because adult learners absolutely will not tolerate even a hint of condescension from a trainer. I have seen how quickly the attitude and personality of a trainer can "turn" the adult participants "off." Adult learners demand autonomy with their teachers; they want trainers who are experts but who don't rub their upper hand in knowledge in the trainees' faces. "Know-it-all" personalities do not make effective trainers, no matter how much knowledge and experience they possess on a topic.

As I review attendee evaluations from my sessions and identify things I can improve for future trainings, I revisit the principles of andragogy and try to exemplify the traits of trainers I respect and have learned from. Acquiring a new pedagogical skill set is my personal professional development goal as I fine-tune how I deliver professional development for others.