My philosophy of higher education is grounded in a belief that students at this level are adults and should be educated using principals and techniques that target adult learners as opposed to methodologies geared toward teaching children. Knowles (1980) referred to this theory as Andragogy and pointed out that adult learners are self-directed and ultimately responsible for their learning. The theory also forwards the belief that the adult learner’s experiences should be based on problem-solving, discussion and service learning. The curriculum should be application based. The orientation towards learning should be based on solving problems, and student’s motivation is internally driven based on self-actualization and self-determination.
Andragogy is based on seven assumptions and focuses on the comprehension, organization, and synthesis of knowledge as opposed to rote memory (Knowles, 1980). The seven assumptions are that:
- Adults only learn effectively when they are free to direct their learning.
- Adults will only learn what they feel they need to learn.
- Adults learn by doing.
- Adults tend to start with a problem and then work to find a solution.
- Experience affects adult learning.
- Adults learn best in an informal situation.
- Adults want guidance and consideration as equal partners in the educational process.
These assumptions have driven my work in adult education over the past 18 years where I started as a corporate trainer responsible for implementing instructional programs that were provided by the organization and continued during my time as a training manager where I was responsible for designing courses and developing curriculum. These assumptions also guided my decisions as a Vice President and Executive with responsibility for global adult education programs where I was responsible for setting educational design and delivery standards and accountable for learning results.
As a corporate trainer, I positioned myself as a facilitator of learning as opposed to a “keeper of the knowledge.” In this role, I continually asked the students to share their experiences and perspective on the topic being discussed and challenged them to challenge me. As a training manager, I leveraged these assumption to assist me in designing instructional activities that were student-centered as opposed to instructor-centered and took into account the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles when planning instruction. In my roles as Vice President and Executive Director of Global Adult Education Programs, I used these assumptions to implement global design and facilitation standards as well as evaluation standards that would ensure that the students with whom we interacted would obtain the knowledge, skills, and abilities they required to achieve success in their work environments.