The Pillars of Andragogy and How They Relate to Teaching the Creative Arts.

Despite the fears of Visual Art teachers, online or blended mode teaching empowers both quality of instruction, depth of learning and decrease teacher/student workload.

In 1980, Knowles defined andragogy as “the art and science of helping adults learn,” contrasted to pedagogy, the art and science of helping children learn (p. 43).

Within the Visual Arts andragogy in the context of an online CLIP frees students so that they have the flexibility to attend class whenever and wherever they can manage. Each artist can choose to work alone in the peace of their studio feeling that they are still hooked in to the workings of the larger cohort.

Those that need face to face sessions can still regularly attend art studio sessions or flex through a blended mode of participation. If teachers feel a student is at risk; face to face sessions can be negotiated. So long as students work consistently and remain connected they are expected to work within a mutual feedback loop of creative development. The feedback can be person to person or can be in the form of links to instructional material coming from instructional sites such as this one How to Crop a Photo in Photoshop.

Fear of the Unknown – Loss of Control?

Many Visual Art teachers fear the introduction of online or blended mode teaching of the Visual Arts will affect both quality of instruction, depth of student learning and an increase in workload for teachers and students alike. Merriam (2001) says that there is no single answer, no one theory or model of adult learning that explains everything known about

·        adult learners

·        the various contexts where learning takes place

A Mosaic of Learning Strategies of Visual Art CLIPs

Within a Community of Learning Inquiry and Practice (CLIP), there is a mosaic of theories, models, sets of principles, and explanations that, combined, compose the knowledge base of adult learning. Two important pieces of that mosaic are andragogy and self-directed learning, gaps analysis assessment (readiness to learn) and “staying power” as important components of our present-day understanding of adult learning. (eBook Murphy,J. Confident Artists Pending 2013)

Suggested Traits of Adult Learners

Merriam (p4) says to be professional about the way we teach adults, educators need to develop a knowledge base unique to adult education. The most important theory-building aspects of this project are andragogy and self-directed learning.

In 1968-80 Knowles would not have been taking into account the impact of collective intelligence mediated through the Internet and mobile technology. The empowering capacity of collective intelligence has sped up the capacity of learners of all ages and within a mutual environment of support perseverance and staying power required for adult learners to “adjust” or adapt to learning in ever changing technological learning areas can be nurtured.

Defining Andragogy as a Unique Field of Adult Education

There are five assumptions underlying andragogy which describe the adult learner as someone who

1.     has an independent self-concept and who can direct his or her own learning

2.     has accumulated a reservoir of life experiences that is a rich resource for learning

3.     has learning needs closely related to changing social roles

4.     is problem-cantered and interested in immediate application of knowledge

5.     is motivated to learn by internal rather than external factors

In a tertiary setting it is not clear where a student sits on a continuum between motivated, self-directed and calling on a reservoir of life experience to young, unchallenged and not yet resilient and perseverant. It is wise to introduce needs analysis and gaps testing and well as notions of Proximal Development (Zaretskii 2009) and scaffolding of learning, as well as use learning contracts when useful. This is also the place where motivational interviewing clarifies the situation and sets up the goals, aims and trajectories of the individual as well as the group.

CLIP a Blended Mode Model of Learning

Students arrive at tertiary institution from 15 onwards and models of assumptions about learning or a conceptual framework that serves as a basis for an emergent theory (Knowles 1989, p. 112) only approximately place them on a scale describing andragogy through to pedagogy. Gaps analysis and motivational interviewing can further position students on a continuum – teacher-directed to student-directed learning.If students are positioned in working partnerships according to theories of proximal development both ends of the spectrum can function in a mutually supportive parallel fashion.

Knowles proposed a program planning model for designing, implementing, and evaluating educational experiences with adults. As adults mature they become more independent and self-directing, “this suggests the classroom climate should be aimed at ‘adultness,” both physically and psychologically. There should be a climate of acceptance, respect and support as well as “a spirit of mutuality between teachers and students as joint inquirers” (1980, p. 47). It is assumed that because adults manage other aspects of their lives, they are capable of directing, or at least assisting in planning, their own learning.

Some adults know little or nothing about a topic and will be more dependent on the teacher for direction; at the other extreme, children who are naturally curious and who are “very self-directing in their learning outside of school in a specific area such as animation or games creation. (Knowles, 1984. p. 13).

Defining Andragogy by the Learning Situation Rather Than by the Learner

Houle says curriculum planners “should involve learners in as many aspects of their education as possible and in the creation of a climate in which they can most fruitfully learn” (p. 30). Because the Visual Arts are ideally suited to community driven project based inquiry methodologies they are exceptionally well suited to the processes of documentation, communication and presentation required to empower and fuel andragogy. Knowles (1975) suggested earning contracts to facilitate self-directed learning, scaffolding self-direction as work strategies become more mature. Whether learning is described as andragogy or adult education, there is a grown person in the process of education who is a community member.

(Resources about the development of Tribal Leadership (2008) and Proximal Development. (ibid)

It’s the Process not the Product

The purpose of modern visual arts education is to uncover and document how an artist’s learn how to learn and communicate within the context of everyday life. These explorations need to be systematic and through the process of blogging artists can mature into a position where they do not depend on an instructor or a classroom for motivation or organisation.

Learning can be sporadic and generated within the context of break through and insight within the context of an intelligent collective emotionally supported internationally. Self-directed learning is by its nature descriptive, and narrational verifying widespread presence of self-directed learning among adults and documenting the process by which it occurred. (p8)

The most important aspect of any arts course these days is to provide software and a means of public discussion so that the meandering process can be publicly filed in chronological order. Software such as Toledo will track paperwork and assessment profiles so that the teachers time is spent working with students rather than shuffling paper. Co validation of assessment becomes an easy matter as the work is chronologically profiled and readily available to all stakeholders within the assessment process. This also enables ease of filing.


  • Logan,D. et al (2008) Tribal Leadership, Collins Business.
  • Knowles, M. S. (1975). Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall/Cambridge.
  • Knowles, M. S. (1977). The adult education movement in the United States. Malabar,FL:Krieger.
  • Knowles, M. S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education: From pedagogy to andragogy. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall/Cambridge.
  • Knowles, M. S., et al. (1984). Andragogy in action: Applying modern principles of adult education. San francisc: Jossey-Bass.
  • Knowles, M. S. (1986). Using learning contracts. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
  • Merriam. S. B. Andragogy and Self-Directed Learning: Pillars of Adult Learning Theory
  • Zaretskii,V.K. (2009). The Zone of Proximal Development What Vygotsky Did Not Have Time to Write

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