Andragogy was initially defined as the art and science of helping adults learn. It has now taken a broader meaning alternative to pedagogy where education is focused on the learner. According to Conner (2004), Knowles model of andragogy highlights five issues that should be considered in formal learning. The issues include, letting learners know the importance of learning something, helping learners know how to direct themselves through information, relating topics to learner’s experiences, motivating the learner to learn and helping learners overcome beliefs, inhibitors, and behaviors about learning. When taking andragogy, it is important to know that though principles of andragogy are applicable in the majority of adult learning situations, it is not limited to adult learning implementation. Adult learning is self directed and allows learners to take control of their learning by taking different approaches (Hase & Kenyon, 2000). By the time an individual reaches adulthood, they tend to be responsible for their success and they are capable of making own decisions with the information they have. Adults learn best when learning is focused on them.
Information retention is related to memory since the mind has the capacity of storing, retrieving and acting on the knowledge gained. Since learning is the act, process, and experience of gaining skills and knowledge, it helps us move from novices to experts. Learning allows people to gain new information, abilities and knowledge (Conner, 2007). Learning strengthens human brain by increasing connections we can rely upon when there is need to learn more. Physiologically, learning entails cell formation assemblies and phase sequences. Adults learn by making arrangements than forming new sequences, thus through experiences and background, we are able to learn new concepts (Conlan et al, 2003).
Neurologically, an established knowledge from experiences appears to be made up of intricate arrangement of cells, chemical elements and electrical charges. Learning requires energy and thus we must access higher brain function to generate the needed energy. Learning is a lifelong process that enables us to make sense of our experiences and constantly search for meaning. Some people believe adults cannot learn and adults themselves assume they can’t learn. It is important to know that we can learn everything we perceive at any age. This is because the mind is able to build and strengthen neural pathways at any time and place or with regards to the subject of the context of learning (Conner, 2004).
Learning Process and Aging
As we age, we experience changes in our physical and cognitive well being. The changes have effect on our learning. Older learners tend to have slower reaction than young learners. They need more time to learn new things since they are able to control their pace of learning. Adults can effectively compensate for their lack of speed to learn new things successfully (Hase & Kenyon, 2000). Teachers handling the aged should use contextual learning since research has found out that when this learning approach was used, fewer declines were found in the memory process as people age. The greatest obstacle for older adult learning occurs when learners are engaged in complex learning, meaningless learning, and learning of new ideas that would need reassessment of learning (Hase & Kenyon, 2000). Learning is possible at old age since recent research found out that as brain traverses middle age, it gets better at recognizing bigger picture and the central idea. When the brain is kept in good shape, it is able to build pathways that will help the learner recognize patterns and as a result they are able to see the significance and find solutions to problems much faster than a younger person (Strauch, 2010).
Adult learners need self directed learning because they will be self motivated to learn. Instructors need to put their learning experiences within learning context. The key to putting learning experience within this context is that learners themselves have the responsibility of planning, carrying out and evaluating their own work. Learners should participate when learning since participation in self directed learning is universal, it occurs by design and chance, in that it depends on interests, actions of individuals, experiences of learners and the circumstances under which learning is taking place. In self directed learning, learners should not be entirely left for themselves but should be assisted by friends, acquaintances and experts in planning and executing learning activities.
Factors Affecting Adult Learning
Adult learning happens in variety of settings ranging from places of employment to formal institutions. It is important for instructors to have prior knowledge and experience of learners. Learners on the other hand should be able to recognize their own skills of life long learning (Dewar, 1999). Adult development and learning should include physiological, biological, socio-cultural, and integrative development. This enables them experience a life changing experience. Factors affecting their learning include life experiences, aging factors, performance affecters, work experience, and positive/negative adult learning experiences.
Adult learners often experience difficulty when learning because their vision declines from the age of 18-40. A sharp decline is often experienced after 40 but after the age of fifty five the decline slows up (Strauch, 2010). At the age of 70 hearing declines sharply making adults experience problems with volume, pitch and rate of response. The problem with hearing can be adjusted when the adult uses hearing aid, but in most cases, older adults are embarrassed by their hearing loss and thus feel less confident. The loss of confidence therefore becomes another greater hindrance to learning than the hearing disability (Merriam et al, 2007).
As one ages, they develop few changes in both their short-term memory and sensory. As this happens long term memory declines and as a result older individuals experience a hard time when retrieving and acquiring new information. Older adults experience difficulties in organizing and processing information. Compared to the young learners, older learners are not as able in test of recall but do well in recognition tests. The difference between the two age groups in terms of learning is therefore small or nonexistent (Dewar, 1999)
Facilitators of Adult Learning
Effective adult learning happens in a corporate environment where a variety of training processes are implemented. Trainers or facilitators should have working experience set to meet the demands of a continuous changing environment. New trends in adult learning involve instances where adult instructors are assets to training departments. Trainers should not only have delivery skills, but ought to have design experience and should be able to apply learning theories in various settings (Conlan et al, 2003). Facilitators must be able to incorporate technology in the content of delivery. This trend continues to make a significant impact on learners since they develop up to age. Professional development toolkit should have the basics of design and delivery. The design must include areas such as developing objectives, selecting appropriate activities, providing for transfer, creating an agenda, needs for assessment, and designing and conducting evaluation activities.
Facilitator toolkit should enable them understand learner’s diversity and differences in learning styles. This enables them to have the ability to assess needs, read the context, and create appropriate mini-learning sessions for delivery in time learning. Facilitators ought to use reflective practice skills in order to tailor learning situations to local learning needs, make sense if situations, and developing/nurturing collaborative communities of practice (Conlan et al, 2003). Facilitators of adult learning should have the ability to coordinate in-service programs designed as learning laboratories. They should be able to use more than one delivery skill and must have the ability to develop activities that involve experiential learning and debriefings. Finally, facilitators ought to be able to use learner-centered instructions especially in self-directed learning. Trainers should create opportunities for clarification, reflection, and guidance.
Instructors should understand that their learners have different learning styles. The learning styles include visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Visual learners rely on visual stimuli such as pictures to understand. They love diagrams, pictures and illustrations. Such learners love sitting in the front of the class to avoid obstruction. They must be communicated with using handouts and writing on the white board. Auditory learners listen carefully to sounds associated with learning. They understand best by paying close attention to the teacher’s message. They are best communicated to by clear communication and giving environment for asking questions. The last group of learners is the kinetic learners. This group will need to do something in order to understand it. They trust their feelings and emotions about what they are tackling. They are best taught when they are involved in role playing and are allowed to practice what they have learnt (Lieb, 1991).
Andragogy is defined as the art and science of helping adults learn. It an alternative to pedagogy since education is focused on the learner. Knowles model of andragogy highlights five issues that should be considered in formal learning. The model allows learners to know the importance of learning something, helping them know how to direct themselves through information, relating topics to learners experiences, motivating the learner to learn and helping learners overcome beliefs, inhibitors, and behaviors about learning. When applying andragogy, it is important to know that though principles of andragogy are applicable in the majority of adult learning situations, it is not limited to adult learning implementation. Adult learning is self directed and allows learners to take control of their learning by taking different approaches. By the time an individual reaches adulthood, they tend to be responsible for their success and they are capable of making own decisions with the information they have. They learn best when learning is focused on them.