A student’s personal library. Mine.

Personalized Learning: How adult education is the new pedagogy

Teachers are no longer the gatekeepers of education as students can acquire competencies and knowledge without the guidance of educators and outside the constraints of classroom walls. Personalized Learning and Self-Directed Learning are the result of this access to knowledge and has shifted the classroom from teacher-focused to student-centered. This pedagogic shift is beginning to take place in schools around the world and needs to continue.

Pew (2007) concedes that “in Pedagogy, the educational focus is on transmitting, in a very teacher-controlled environment, the content subject matter. In Andragogy, the educational focus is on facilitating the acquisition of and critical thinking about the content and its application in real-life practical settings.” This andragogical approach is more aligned with self-directed and personalized learning as the student has a larger role in the process and has authentic control over their decisions and progression.

Younger students learn with the notion that the information and skills they are acquiring will be useful to them in the future, whereas adult learners understand the immediate impact of their newly developed competencies. There is reason to believe that this time sensitive learning in adult education, coupled with their bank of experiences, changes the focus of learning from subject-specific to more of critiquing and problem solving. How can we ensure that our younger learners understand the importance of what they’re learning or more importantly, should we not be able to show them by connecting it to real-world, authentic experiences?

Motivation to learn, whether it be intrinsic or extrinsic, is often controlled by the teacher in pedagogical approaches, but lies with the student in the andragogical model. Children are often dependent on the teacher to lead, educate, and motivate, but this is often performed by the teacher incorrectly and without taking into account context. Pew (2007) contends that teachers will “apply motivating structures to others based on what might motivate them”, which can easily lead to conflict of motivation and a decrease in learning. Pew (2007) argues “the realm of student motivation is often narrowly understood and is instructor- rather than student-centric because of the complexity of incorporating the unknown (student internal motivation) into the equation. Instructors fall back on a pedagogical teacher-centered orientation to comprehend and manage student motivation, rather than let natural tendencies evolve.”

Context must be considered if quality learning is to happen.

The student must be motivated to learn and this motivation is directly related to the context of the content and/or concepts and the learner.

Schools must alter their pedagogical approach and embrace what they cannot control. Personalized and self-directed learning is taking place through students’ use of technology and their access to knowledge, but needs to be embraced by schools. Imagine the future where education, regardless of age, is student-centered and where the learner has choice. Actually, I don’t need to imagine it… it’s happening at my school! Next year, we are offering Personalized Learning Modules to students and I will be facilitating Archaeology. This is what life-long, personalized, self-directed learning is all about! Now, where’s my hat and whip?

Pew, S. (2007). Andragogy and Pedagogy as Foundational Theory for Student Motivation in Higher Education. Insight: A collection of faculty scholarship, 2, 14–25.