Nursing Continue Education · Nursing Informatics

Today’s Textbook Readings: Theory of Andragogy – the Education of Adults

Today’s Textbook Readings:

Billings, D. & Halstead, J. A. (2012) Teaching in Nursing -A Guide for Faculty (4th ed.) p 220-225

Andragogy: the education of adults

-(In contrast to Pedagogy: the education of children)

Malcolm Knowles developed the theory of andragogy in relation to adult learners, with the intention to help understand how adults learn. From psychological perspective, Knowles explained that adults are self-concept, increasingly self-directing, and being responsible for their own life, thus, their motivation to learn is internal, it may rise from curiosity, but their readiness to learn develops from life tasks and problems, and their orientation to learning is task centered or problem centered.

Knowles acknowledged that adult learners have experiences from the past, in which serve as a rich resource for their own and other’s learning, therefore, it should be take into consideration that how previously learned knowledge and experience influence new learning process.

Knowles outlined some principles of adult learning and typical characteristics of adult learners that an instructor/ educator/ faculty should consider when planning strategies for teaching parents, families, staff, or students.

Practical Oriented & Self-directed: adults are not content centered, they are self-directed and problem centered, and they need and want to learn useful information that can be readily adapted. Thus, educator should

  • Provide overviews or summaries and examples
  • use collaborative discussions with problem-solving exercises
  • Provide active involvement, asking for input
  • Allow different options toward achieving goals
  • Give them responsibilities

Goal oriented: Adults make a commitment to learning when the learning goals are perceived as immediately useful and realistic and as important and relevant to their personal, professional, and career needs. Thus, the instructor/ educator/ faculty should

  • Remain organized with the goal in mind

Knowledgeable: the learning behavior of adults are shaped by past experiences, their maturity and life experiences provide them with insights and the ability to see relationships, thus educator should

  • Show respect for their life experiences or education
  • Activities should stimulate and encourage reflection on past and current experiences and be sequenced according to the learners’ needs
  • Validate their knowledge and ask for feedback
  • Relate new material to information with which they are familiar
  • Within the context of the content, faculty help learners use their experiences, intuition, and trial-and-error thinking to define, solve, or rethink a particular problem or issue.


  • Explain how information will be applied
  • Clearly identify objectives
  • Course materials are sequenced according to learner readiness


  • Provide certificates of achievement or some type of recognition for achievement
  • Learning plans are actually learning contracts established with learners.

Application into nursing education:

  • Field-based experiences such as internships and practicum assignments provide experiential learning.
  • Reflective journals, critical incidents, and portfolios are other types of activities that allow adult learners to introduce their past and current experiences into the content of the learning events.

Such learning methods help learners make sense of their life experiences, providing added incentive to learn.

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