Do I see the concepts of andragogy in my learners? Not initially. Is the theory still relevant and reflective of today’s learners? Definitely.

Let me elaborate. I mainly teach a first-year introductory computer course with students typically fresh out of high school. In regards to the six assumptions of Knowles’ model of andragogy:

  1. Many of these students are dependent on being told what to do from high school and they are typically quite shocked that they have to take responsibility for their learning.
  2. The students sometimes may have some experience from low-level jobs taken before embarking on a diploma/degree.
  3. I am unsure of my students readiness to learn in relation to their social role but this knowledge typically becomes apparent as the semester progresses.
  4. Many courses at the university level are still subject centred and an introductory computer course can fall into that category. However, I teach the course centred around business-oriented problems. As the course progresses I see my students mature in their learning and this is one of the most rewarding parts of teaching the course.
  5. The students are solely focused on grades and I try to shy them away from that mindset. If the student only does what they need to pass (or even get an A) they probably will, however they will not be gaining the knowledge, skills, and attitudes for future courses and potential their career.
  6. It is sometimes a great mystery why students need to learn certain things. I always try to provide context as to why the skills they learn are useful and where they will be using them.

In regards to the relevance and reflectiveness of andragogy in today’s learners I agree with the criticisms mentions about Knowles’ model in the second video. Applying andragogy only to adults is a bit insulting to children. It makes them out to be mindless entities that need to be force fed information. My daughter is three years old and even she needs to know why she needs to learn something (the 6th assumption of Knowles model).

A criticism I have against Knowles’ model is its application to international learners. Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner (2007, p. 89) discuss this criticism briefly. One study among Hmong refugees to Caribbean immigrant women concluded that Knowles’ model does not characterize their experiences. Similar conclusions were discovered amongst groups of African-American learners. I mainly teach Chinese and Indian students and although I’m aware of the cultural differences in their learning I too struggle to apply assumptions of Knowles’ model with these students.


Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


About simoncrothers

I am an Australian who moved to British Columbia, Canada with my family in 1998. After completing my undergraduate degree in mathematics and computing science at Simon Fraser University, I moved back to Australia for several years. During this time I completed a Masters in Computational Mathematics and began my teaching career in mathematics at the University of New South Wales. In 2010, I moved back to Canada and taught computer science at Douglas College for three years. I am currently regular faculty in the Computer Business Systems department at KPU. I have also taught some courses in the Business and Quantitative Methods department at KPU. In my spare time I like to spend time with my wife Jami, who I met in Australia, our three year old daughter Lillian, and our newly born son Aiden. I also like to indulge in the occasional video game and I am involved in various self-employed web development projects.
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