Pedagogy vs Andragogy: Which Is the Best Learning Choice

There is no best learning choice between Pedagogy and Andragogy, as they are learning models aimed at children or adults. Using Andragogy is best when teaching adults, and pedagogy is best when teaching children. Both models have concepts that allow teaching methods to be tailored to the audience in question.

Learning can happen in different ways for different people, thus being aware of different learning strategies available to utilize will ensure teachers/trainers can use the best model for their specific setting. 

If you are active in the theory-driven learning world, you may have heard about pedagogy vs. andragogy. But if not, here is our take on the two different approaches to help you make an informed decision. 

Pedagogy vs AndragogyPedagogy and andragogy are related words of Greek origin: 

  • Pedagogy is derived from the phrase paidi (child) + ago (guide) 
  • Andragogy is derived from the phrase andras (man) agogos (leader). 

From the meaning of the Greek words, it is easy to interpret pedagogy to mean a “child-focused teaching approach,” while andragogy is an “adult-focused” teaching approach. Pedagogy can be described as leading children, while andragogy means leading men (or women). 

Related: Check out the book: Greek Pedagogy on Amazon

Both methods are effective in their own right, but it’s difficult to say one is better than the other. Teachers and trainers who understand the differences will be able to figure out what works best with their students. This post will go into more detail to help you make that call.

Children learning in a classroom
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

The first step in understanding a teaching tool, how do we pronounce it?!

The International Phonetic Alphabet pronunciation is ˈpɛdəˌɡoʊdʒi/ /ˈpɛdəˌɡɑdʒi/. In both the U.K. and U.S., it’s often pronounced “ped-a-gaug-gee” (as in “geese”) though some use the “j” sound and pronounce it “ped-a-go-jee.”

Definition of Pedagogy

As previously mentioned, Pedagogy is the learning approach that focuses on the child. It is often described as the act of teaching and is regarded as the most acceptable approach to teaching and learning in the world. It includes all teaching styles, feedback, and assessment, as well as teaching theory for children.

Related: Introduction to Pedagogical Theories of Learning

In pedagogy, the learners (children) are entirely dependent on the teachers. Since learners are considered to have little or no experience to share, teaching can be too didactic. They learn whatever the curriculum offers and will look up to the teachers for direction at every instance.

Who is a Pedagogue?

Classroom teacher teaching in a classroom
Photo by Max Fischer from Pexels

The term pedagogue (also pedagog) is used in most instances to describe a teacher, or more precisely, a schoolteacher – a person (teacher) who is pedantic, dogmatic, and formal. It denotes someone who believes in the pedagogic approaches and utilizes them at every stage of teaching.

The pedagogy adopted by a teacher will significantly determine his/her actions, judgments, and other teaching strategies. Often, a pedagogue considers theories of learning, understands the individual needs of students and the background of the students, and then adopts teaching strategies that work for them. The teacher is the absolute knowledge keeper, and students are the recipients.

Pedagogy in Practice

Modern pedagogy still governs child education. It has evolved over the years, but the principles remain intact. Ideally, the aims may range from furthering liberal education (which entails the general development of human potentials) to vocational education’s narrower specifics (which relates to impartation and acquisition of specific skills).

How is Pedagogy practiced

Pedagogy has a one-way focus. The learning method involves only the teacher sharing his/her knowledge with the learners. The learners are entirely reliant on the teacher. Ideally, the learning process’s success will depend on the teacher’s methods, strategies, and understanding.

Related: Top 10 Classroom Management Strategies

The students’ goal is to assimilate the knowledge the teacher is trying to impart. The is the absolute authority, so they will also evaluate students’ progress and assume full responsibility for what is taught and its efficacy. The teacher will also decide when their pupils are ready for the next level.

How is education different for children?

girl distance learning

Children behave differently from adults, and that reflects meaningfully in the learning behavior in pedagogy vs. andragogy. Teachers still shape the learning behavior in pedagogy. They have to help children’s awareness of classroom expectations, guiding their cultural behaviors along the way.   Since children have yet to gain meaningful life experiences, they need a teacher’s relationship to lead them to build skills, learn, and grow.

While children are ready to learn in most instances, this readiness has to be encouraged by the teacher. They may be willing to know more about their environment, but their willingness to be part of formal learning is built by the teacher using advanced methodologies and interactive lesson plans to develop knowledge and skills in specific fields.

Related: Teach Kids When They’re Ready

Learners in this model are mostly motivated to learn extrinsically, like getting good grades and accolades and avoiding failure and its consequences.

What is Andragogy

Young adults learning together in a library

Andragogy is an adult-focused approach to teaching and learning. It explores the different ways adults learn, including the science of understanding and supporting adults’ lifelong education. This approach recognizes that the methods used in teaching children are not always effective when it comes to adults.

Related: What is Adult Learning Theory?

In andragogy, instructors are expected to connect learning experiences to what adult learners already know. The learners have experience and can build on the experiences to maximize learning opportunities. While it recognizes the self-directed and autonomous learners, it also acknowledges teachers’ roles or facilitators of learning.

The andragogy approach is not curriculum-focused; it allows for the personal opinion of the learner, knowledge checks and rechecks, as well as better pacing. It leaves room for a lifetime of learning, which is something every person should welcome.

Related: The Adult Learning Theory – Andragogy – of Malcolm Knowles

Knowles’ 4 Principles of Andragogy

Malcolm Knowles (Adult Teacher) helped with the adoption of Andragogy and also in 1984 developed 4 principles for what is needed for adults to learn effectively.

  1. Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
  2. Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for the learning activities.
  3. Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life.
  4. Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented. (Kearsley, 2010)

The above principles are key to develop effective learning programs for adults. Through my own experience as a L&D professional, I have learnt it is key to understand what knowledge/skills gaps exist before you can build interventions to “train” learners in the workplace. In understanding the gaps, it will make it that much easier to convince adults to want or be willing to learn. 

Related: Top Learning Tips And Techniques For Adults (The Secret Sauce Uncovered) | Taughtup

If you want to know more about Malcolm knowles and his principles of adult learning, check out his book called “The Adult Learner” on Amazon and read for yourself his ideologies and ways of thinking around adult education. It really make me realize that his theory’s are still super valid today and can be applied very easily. 

Andragogy in Practice

Andragogy may appear “less organized” than pedagogy, but that is due to it being more motivation-based.  The expectation is adults have previous experiences they can build upon and know what works best for them. They do not rely on the teacher’s structure, having all the knowledge to impart to them. 

Andragogy has a two-way learning focus that draws on the teacher’s knowledge and the experiences of students. Everyone has meaningful experiences that can be shared to drive the learning process. It is self-directed, and success depends on teachers’ cooperation and learners making learning more interactive and diversified.

How is Andragogy different to Pedadgogy

Learners have more control over the learning experience; they have a say in the learning tools and techniques.  There is no specific authority that determines when one has completed a stage. In fact, the goal is always to fill a knowledge gap and not to advance to a “next level”.

Related: Pedagogy vs. Andragogy: Where Many Get it Wrong In Their Learning Strategy

Adult learners come with formed behaviors that a facilitator cannot always influence. The learners know what knowledge they seek to acquire and understand how to go about it since they draw on their personal experiences to help forecast and estimate their learning.

How does Andragogy benefit adults

man helping woman study: Pedagogy vs Andragogy

With andragogy, “the knowledge” is something the learner knows they will need to improve their lives and that of others.  This knowledge may be useful in their personal or professional life or even both, so they are ready to learn because they want to change their lives in some ways. The readiness may be triggered by a necessity to tackle specific issues or circumstances in life. It is always about self-desire to improve education, knowledge, and skills.

Adults are motivated by intrinsic factors to learn; some of these factors include curiosity, recognition, self-development, self-esteem, self-confidence, and the desire for a better quality of life. These factors are always more powerful than extrinsic factors, which is why the andragogy method of learning is often more aggressive.

Related: Get Your Audience Pumped: 30 Ways to Motivate Adult Learners

Unlike in Pedagogy, grading is not as important in adult learning. Learners are more concerned about the acquisition of knowledge and skills than getting good grades. In most instances, there are no grading systems at all, but some assessments may be used to assess competence.


Pedagogy vs. Andragogy, that is the question, but is there really a “best” answer?

Realistically, no the method chosen should be dependent on the learners.  One major factor that distinguishes pedagogy and Andragogy is the way they are organized. We can easily conclude that pedagogy is more organized than Andragogy. After all, pedagogy has been around for centuries. It has been the norm and has developed over the centuries to be well-organized. But that doesn’t make it better or worse. 

Pedagogy and Andragogy are both great ways to learn. Understanding the tenets of both approaches will help you determine the most suitable in any situation. At the foundational stage of learning, pedagogy is an excellent method. When there is a need to solve real-life problems at an adult stage of learning, Andragogy is the best method to use.

To answer the question of which is the best learning choice, we can say that it all depends on who is involved.

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