Skip to Main Content

Digital Pedagogy - A Guide for Librarians, Faculty, and Students

This guide is meant to inform the user about Digital Pedagogy. It includes information on educational theory, a collection of case studies, and resources relevant to the study of digital pedagogy.

Knowles' Theory of Andragogy

Malcolm Knowles and the Theory of Andragogy

In 1978, Malcolm Knowles, in Adult Learners: A Neglected Species, writes "Andragogy assumes that the point at which an individual achieves a self-concept of essential self-direction is the point at which he psychologically becomes adult." Knowles states, that at this moment, when the person becomes psychologically an adult, it is important for that person to be perceived as self directed, and when they are not perceived as such, a tension is experienced between the situation and their own concept of self, and the person typically responds with resistance. This is pertinent to education because the traditional structure within post-secondary education frequently does not allow for self direction. 

Knowles assumes the following in the context of adult education:

  • The need to know — adult learners need to know why they need to learn something before learning it. Contextualizing for a lesson makes for clearer understanding as to why something should be learned.
  • Learner self-concept —adults need to be responsible for their own decisions and to be treated as capable of self-direction. There is a move from dependent to self-directed learning.
  • Role of learners' experience —adult learners have a variety of experiences of life which represent the richest resource for learning. These experiences are however imbued with bias and presupposition.
  • Readiness to learn —adults are ready to learn those things they need to know in order to cope effectively with life situations. Adults learn content better when it is situationally appropriate. Adults learn better through problem solving.
  • Orientation to learning —adults are motivated to learn to the extent that they perceive that it will help them perform tasks they confront in their life situations.

Adapted from Atherton J S (2013) Learning and Teaching; Knowles' andragogy: an angle on adult learning [On-line: UK] retrieved 30 June 2016 from

and Halpern, Rebecca1,, and Chimene1 Tucker. “Leveraging Adult Learning Theory with Online Tutorials.” Reference Services Review 43.1 (2015): 112–124.


Please see's comparison of Pedagogy to Andragogy here.

Adult Learning (Andragogy - Knowles) - Ithikos