Chapter 4

Knowles’s Androgogy, and Models of Adult Learning by McClusky, Illeris, and Javis

The debate in this chapter lies in these questions: Do adults learn differently than children do? What’s the difference between adult learning/education and other areas of education? What can help maximize adult learning? There is no single theory of adult learning; instead there are various models and frameworks seen in this chapter.

Before looking at the frameworks, let’s see Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

Maslow's Hierchy


The andragogical model as conceived by Knowles is predicated on four basic assumptions about learners, all of which have some relationship to our notions about a learner’s ability, need, and desire to take responsibility for learning. He clearly saw these assumptions as foundational to designing programs for adults:
1. Their self-concept moves from dependency to independency or self-directedness.
2. They accumulate a reservoir of experiences that can be used as a basis on which to build learning.
3. Their readiness to learn becomes increasingly associated with the developmental tasks of social roles.
4. Their time and curricular perspectives change from postponed to immediacy of application and from subject-centeredness to performance-centeredness
Later we see a 5th and 6th assumption as well
5. The most potent motivations are internal rather than external
6. Adults need to know why they need to learn something
Debates on the assumptions
These assumptions are believed to have given adult learners a “badge of identity” that distinguishes adult learners from other areas of education. Difficulties were seen when trying to classify andragogy. Was is a theory, was it a good practice? With the inference that andragogy was definitely different than pedagogy (theory on how children learn), there were theorist that came to their own assumptions.
a. Davenport & Davenport (1985) – asserted that is was in fact a theory of adult learning p.85
b. Hartree (1984) – observed that it was not clear if it was a theory of learning or teaching, or whether adult learning was actually different from children.
c. Brookfield (1986) – debates that andragogy is a proven theory
d. Knowles (1989) – clarified everything as he states what he preferred andragogy to be classified as. “The Making of an Adult Educator” presented that the author “prefers to think of it as a model of assumptions about learning or a conceptual framework that serves a basis for an emergent theory”.
7. Grace, Pearson, Podeschi & Jarvis – More controversies from other theorist seemed to think that Knowles based his andragogy solely on the thought that the adult was independent, autonomous and alone in the learning process. That it relied too much on psychology versus sociology. Lake of attention to the context in which the learning takes place and that androgogy assumes that all learners learn the same way.
Research on Andragogy
Although this theory has been around for over 50 years, little research is found that asserts its validity in the behavior aspects of adult learning. Please view theorist that performed their own research on it:
1. Bender and Darkenwald 1982
2. Gorham 1985
3. Rosenblum and Darkenwald 1983
4. Courtenay, Arnold and Kim 1994
5. Rachal 2002

Other Models of Adult Learning

There are a number of other models of adult learning theories that offer some good insight

I. McClusky’s Theory of Margin (1963) – introduced in the early 1960’s by Howard Y. McClusky, a Professor of Educational Psychology and Community Adult Education at the University of Michigan from 1924 until 1982. McClusky set out to find ways to help adults uphold an optimistic view of life. McClusky’s Theory of Margin was pertinent for understanding adults, especially as they aged and faced increasing demands or pressures. McClusky believed that adults faced continuous growth and transformation and with this growth and transformation a steady effort had to be made to use the energy available to meet ordinary living responsibilities. But because adults have no control over many issues of their lives, they must discover ways to prepare themselves to meet erratic emergencies or predicaments as they arise.
McClusky theorized that the main factors of adult life are the load the adult bears in living, and the power that is on hand to bear the load. Margin was considered a formula to communicate the relationship between the load and the power. According to McClusky (1970, p. 27), load is “the self and social demands required by a person to maintain a minimal level of autonomy…. [Power is] the resources, i.e. [sic] abilities, possessions, position, allies, etc. [sic], which a person can command in coping with load [sic]. In this formula for margin (M), he placed designations of load (L) in the numerator and designations of power (P) in the denominator (M = L/P). Read more here:

II. Illeris’s Three Dimensions of Learning Model (2002) – According to Illeris, the cognitive dimension is comprised of knowledge and skills. The emotional dimension involves feelings and motivation. Cognition and emotion are internal processes interacting concurrently in the acquirement of knowledge and skills. The dimension Illeris labels sociality involves external interaction such as participation, communication, and cooperation. This dimension involves dealing with people as we learn. According to the model, the process of learning starts with one of five stimuli, referred to by Illeris as the raw material of the process:
 Perception – “where the surrounding world comes to the individual as a totally unmediated sense impression” (Illeris, 2002, p. 120);
 Transmission – wherein someone else passes on information of transmits “specific sense impressions or messages” (p. 120);
 Experience – “limit the use of the word so that experience presupposes a particular activity, i.e., that the learner is not simply receiving, but also acts in order to benefit from the interaction” (p. 120);
 Imitation – occurring when the learner endeavors to imitate or reproduce another’s actions; and
 Activity or Participation – where the learner is engaged in a goal-directed activity at times participating with others as in a community of practice.

Illeris’s Three Dimensions of Learning Model

this video clip mentions 5 DoL but I found it useful to watch as it simply defines the processes better using images.

III. Jarvis Learning Process (1987) – Jarvis theory starts with an adult’s life situation, whether good or bad. “If we actually could understand every aspect of the learning process, then we would understand the person in society and we would be able to manipulate people like cogs in the complex machine of society, but we will never be able to do this in its totality – if we could, then we would understand life itself to the full. (Jarvis, p. 199)
To arrive at that statement, Jarvis outlines elements that he sees as critical to any discussion of learning
 The person-in-the-world
 The person experiencing the world
 Transforming the content of an experience
 Transforming the person experiencing the world
 The changed person in the world (Jarvis, 2006)
Jarvis combined these elements into a diagram that describes how he believes a learner moves through an experience. “Learning then always begins with experiencing” (Jarvis 2004, p93)

Jarvis Learning Model


It was not until the 1970’s that the research and study of adult learning took on a greater focus within education. This was in part to be able to differentiate adult learning from the rest of the areas of education.

Take it to the Word

1. How can we integrate Andragogy to teaching the scriptures? Please use Bible scriptures to back up your discussion and cite any outside references.
2. Which of the three last theories did you agree on the most and why? Which one did you dislike? Please explain your answers.
3. Using the example figures above, create your own conceptual map on how you would integrate any of the theories in a sermon. Make sure you diagram your map.


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