This is the title of an article in the most recent Journal of the Australian Council for Educational Leaders* and it focuses on the transition years where learners are progressing from experiences of pedagogy to andragogy.  Pedagogy is marked by the fact that is is generally the teacher who predetermines what will be taught, plans and organises lessons and instructional activities.  It tends to be primarily focused on teaching rather than emphasizing the learner.  Andragogy, on the the other hand, pays greater attention to engaging the student in the processes of learning activities.  The article refers to some recent studies that consider the developmental shifts in adolescents and young adults that suggest learners in this stage are more effectively engaged through experience.  The incorporation of technology means that they have additional channels through which to connect with the world.  And it seems these world connections – social, professional, vocational, etc – are exactly what these learners are seeking; “community, understanding, acceptance and respect” loom high on the list of priorities.

The article suggests that universities and post-school education have traditionally been the drivers of the shift from pedagogy to andragogy, and further that secondary education is now where that should be occurring.  I would suggest that it is something that universities still need to embrace more directly.  The extra emphasis and pressure to prepare students for university entrance has, in my experience, often seen high school teachers maintain a strong hold on directing the learning.  As such students are perhaps even less prepared for independent study than in days gone by.  Perhaps that is part of the intention of the article; to encourage schools to reframe their approaches to teaching and learning with a greater depth of field.

I would venture to suggest that there is a greater imperative for universities and other post-school contexts to reconsider the capabilities of the students they are encountering.  A high entrance score doesn’t necessarily equate to a highly developed independent learner.  The early years of undergraduate study probably still need to be focused on fostering the requisite ‘adult learning’ skills.

Aspects such as “Learner is involved in planning and implementing learning” (p.22) is perhaps something that is currently addressed in quite limited ways.  Students in univeristy do not often have a role in planning and implementing learning.  Many classes in university do not venture into the territory of considering the learners.  Prior knowledge and experience are seldom considered, I’ve encountered many situations where lecturers presume knowledge that isn’t present, or qually as demotivating, they ignore the wealth of experience that some learners bring with them – and in neither case does the teacher adapt or modify their delivery of content.  The flexible learning model combined with responsive and adaptable LMS units could conceivably provide a platform where students are more transparently and  actively involved in defining their learning needs.

If, as this article suggests, there is greater emphasis on learning activity then it becomes much easier and more efficient for teachers and learners alike to identify what learning is required.  Problem-based, appropriately contextualised, collaborative relevant activity will soon highlight student capabilities and address what material needs more attention.  Scaffolding still has a place in the early undergraduate years.  By highlighting activity the needs of independent and developing learners can be better addressed.

The article suggests that it becomes necessary for teachers to take stock of the specific features of this new generation of learners (sometimes dubbed “digital natives”) who have quite a different set of social and educational experience than those of us who’ve waved goodbye to 30.

eLearning is considered to be a high priority – the knowledge domain is no longer the closeted and privileged domain of professors – information is far more readily available than it has ever been , as is access to expert commentary and analysis.  What this means for educators (even those research academics who grudgingly take on lecturing and tutoring duties) is that it is no longer sufficient to simply rest on the laurels of knowing a lot about a subject – what is required these days is also knowing a lot about bringing others to engage with what they know.  Against the backdrop of embracing flexible approaches to learning, this also means that educators must be able to leverage the technological tools of social networking to engage and motivate learners.

The model discussed in the article is perhaps more in tune with a 21st century technology-mediated university content than many of us are used to.  Interestingly, the bulk of the discussion focuses on learning ACTIVITY and INVOLVEMENT- the old DOING model…. And it recognises the need for the teacher to have a constantly changing role within the learning community…. There seems to be little scope for passive models of learning.

I suppose if we are truly wearing the mantle of “Instructional Designers” we will already be embedding these sorts of principles in our discussions and work with teaching staff…. And as alluded to in the article we will be paving the way for the shift to heutagogy… As discussed in the article its more than just teaching and learning, it requires “a congruence between our curriculum, teaching and learning, systems and structures, and culture” – so what role do we play in the requisite change management that is required in these various dimensions of the university?

* Nicholas, S. and O’Brien, T. ( 2008) “Pedagogy, Andragogy or blend thereof” in The Australian Educational Leader. Vol 30, No. 4.Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

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