How might we use knowledge of andragogy and pedagogy to enhance our ability to leverage educational technology for teaching and learning?

I recently took a new position which involved a change in my roles and responsibilities. One of these new responsibilities is the support of our Learning Management System, Moodle. Prior to this I was at a Blackboard school and had little knowledge of or experience using Moodle. Now all of a sudden I had to jump in with both feet to learn it quickly. I scrambled to take a online course on Moodle Basics and also signed up for a Moodle MOOC that was self paced. Yikes.

I epitomize the adult learner and have been directing my own learning for most of my adult life. Malcolm Knowles (1980) suggests that adult learners are ready to learn when they assume new social or life roles and want to apply new learning immediately. Bingo! I have always been the kind of learner who needs to know WHY I am learning something and learn the best when the subject is of immediate use to me. At work we call this “just-in-time” training. I spend a good proportion of my time teaching and coaching faculty with one-on-one sessions where they have an immediate need to know a certain technology app/tool. This can be very rewarding but challenging at times. If I don’t know the technology they want me to teach them I am under pressure to quickly learn it myself. The breadth of technology apps/tools we support makes it almost impossible to be an expert in any one of them. I need to know how to find information quickly to deepen my knowledge quickly. Being in the faculty development role has required many hours of self-directed learning where I need to stay one step ahead of my “students.” According to Cyril O. Houle in his seminal study, The Inquiring Mind, I fall into one of three types of continuing learners. I am goal-oriented and use education as a means of accomplishing fairly clear-cut objectives.” (Houle, 1961, p. 15)

Connecting and Acting

How might we use knowledge of andragogy and pedagogy to enhance our ability to leverage educational technology for teaching and learning?

Experience is the best teacher, regardless of age, but the amount and quality of experiences one has may shape their ability to learn throughout life. As an instructional technologist, faculty developer and adult learner myself, I have found that self directed learning provides some of my best experiences, and subsequently can help my students form theirs as well. Providing faculty with meaningful learning experiences that are a break from the norm can challenge their perception of how learning is done. Many spend years teaching in a traditional classroom yet find themselves having to now learn technologies on their own or with my help.


I constantly ask myself what it takes to create effective adult learning (andragogy), and how the styles of student instruction (pedagogy) contrast to adult learning. A common mantra in higher ed is to create “lifelong learners,” or what I like to think as developing our students to have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. I know that our student’s ability to learn now will greatly impact their ability to learn later as adults. I firmly believe that the ability of a student to have as many quality experiences as possible will craft the best adult learners who can then draw upon those experiences. Strong experiences within pedagogy leads to successful andragogy.

The approaches of andragogy are considerably different than that of pedagogy. This summer we are going to upgrade our Moodle LMS. The user interface will look much different and may prove to be a source of concern for faculty who need to learn this new system. As I design professional development opportunities to learn the new Moodle system I will do so while keeping in mind the six essential principles of Andragogy. (Knowles, 1980):

    1. Adults need to know why they need to know something before they are taught it. Colgate faculty all need to use our Moodle LMS and post readings, assignments and grades. In order to use the new system they will have to spend some time learning it.
    2. The self-concept of adults is heavily dependent upon a move towards self direction. Most faculty would prefer to learn on their own with textual or video tutorials. The days of the 20 person workshop are over.
    3. Prior experiences provide a rich resource for learning. If a faculty member has spent time on sites like or Youtube and is comfortable with self directed learning they will be more successful in future learning.
    4. Adults typically become ready to learn when they experience a need to cope with a life situation or perform a task. Again, they all need to use Moodle and will need to learn it before the fall semester begins.


  • Adult’s orientation to learning is life-centered, and they see education as a process of developing increased competency levels to achieve their full potential. Their lives are their teaching jobs and how well they perform depends on not only their subject knowledge but the way they deliver instruction. Being capable of using the Moodle LMS is critical to their delivering instruction.


  1. The motivation for adult learners is internal and not external. The desire to be successful and collect that monthly paycheck is definitely an internal motivation.

When looking at these principles it is evident that I need to shape faculty development to encourage more self direction then what is typically taught in the college classroom, where teachers have responsibility in the learning process.

As much as it’s my job to offer workshops to teach faculty I know the potential for educational technology to empower faculty to do more self-directed learning. Some ways I can use technology are: use Screencast-O-Matic to record short Colgate-specific tutorials, encourage the use of, and direct faculty to the Moodle Youtube channel to watch the series of video tutorials available on the new version.  

A Learning Organization.

Another idea I have that fits well within the Andragogy principle is to form a learning organization or communities of practice (CoP) around specific technologies faculty use here at Colgate. Teams reach high functioning levels because they are extraordinary learning organizations – the learning that a group engages in propels it to greatness (Aguilar, 2016, pg. 185) These can be groups of faculty who share a common interest in a topic and who come together to fulfil individual and group goals. These groups can be from different disciplines and focus on sharing best practices and creating new knowledge and should meet on an ongoing basis. Each group’s specific goals inform the technologies that support it. As Harvard’s Teresa Amabile advises, “Set up work groups so that people will stimulate each other and learn from each other, so that they’re not homogeneous in terms of their backgrounds and training. You want people who can really cross-fertilize each other’s ideas.” (Pink 2009, pg. 174)

Next Steps

I really like the idea behind the learning communities (Aguilar, 2016) and bringing Goldilocks to the groups you set up (Pink 2009). I think this will be a challenge for me but agree with Pink’s advice to begin with a diverse group, make it a no competition zone, and emphasize their shared mission.

Key Questions

  • How are new potential community members going to be identified, chosen, developed, and supported by the community?
  • How should the knowledge created by the community be shared beyond the community?


Knowles, M. S. (1988). The modern practice of adult education: from pedagogy to andragogy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Cambridge Adult Education.

Houle, C. O. (1963). The inquiring mind. University of Madison Press, Madison.

Aguilar, E. (2016). The art of coaching teams: building resilient communities that transform schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

Andragogy & Pedagogy

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