Andragogy along for the ride: How do we bring Knowles’ ideas into virtual classrooms?

It has been more than forty years since Malcolm Knowles made the term andragogy a household word in adult learning circles. The shelf life of the term, which Knowles made famous in 1970, and its premise has surprised many experts. As the world of training and higher education continue to transition to online and distance learning, how can we best bring andragogy along for the ride? How can we take the best that andragogy has to offer and apply it to learners in virtual environments?



Let’s step back for a moment and take a closer look at the term andragogy. The word itself does not easily roll off the tongue. Like pedagogy, andragogy is derived from the Greek root “agogus” (to lead), exchanging the prefix “peda” (child) for “andra” (adult) to give us the art and science of teaching/leading adults (Knowles, 1980). Although word and the idea of andragogy actually emerged in the 1800s, it was Knowles’ writings that energized the training and adult education profession, giving a framework and name to what we do. It was an initial step in the movement that rocked the latter part of the 20th century, where trainers moved from being the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side” shifting toward learner focused delivery.


Six assumptions

Knowles gave us six assumptions about adult learners to guide us in the pursuit of andragogical design and delivery (Taylor & Kroft 2009).

  1. Self-concept: As a person matures, his/her self-concept moves from one of being a dependent personality toward one of being self-directed. Adults tend to resist situations in which they feel that others are imposing their wills on them.
  2. Experience: As a person matures, he/she accumulates a growing reservoir of experience that becomes a resource for learning. Adults tend to come into adult education with a vast amount of prior experiences compared to that of children. If those prior experiences can be used, they become the richest resource available.
  3. Readiness to learn: As a person matures, his/her readiness to learn becomes oriented to the development task of his/her social roles. Readiness to learn is dependent on an appreciation of the relevancy of the topic to the student.
  4. Orientation to learn: As a person matures, his/her time perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application, and accordingly his/her orientation towards learning shifts from one of subject-centeredness to one of problem-centeredness. Adults are motivated to learn to the extent in which they perceive that the knowledge in which they are acquiring will help them perform a task or solve a problem that they may be facing in real life.
  5. Motivation to learn: Internal motivation is key as a person matures. Although adults feel the pressure of external events, they are mostly driven by internal motivation and the desire for self-esteem and goal attainment.
  6. The need to know: Adults need to know the reason for learning something. In adult learning, the first task of the teacher is to help the learner become aware of the need to know. When adults undertake learning something they deem valuable, they will invest a considerable amount of resources (e.g., time and energy).


What do you think?

Kathy Iverson is a professor and department chair for Roosevelt University's Training and Development graduate program. She teaches organization development, cultural diversity, research methodology, training foundations, consulting, and evaluation.

Kathy Iverson is a professor and department chair for Roosevelt University’s Training and Development graduate program. She teaches organization development, cultural diversity, research methodology, training foundations, consulting, and evaluation.

Back to the questions posed at the beginning of this article: Is andragogy relevant in virtual learning? Does is need a remix or can we directly apply the assumptions to adults who learn in virtual environments? Please add a comment to this post and let me know your thoughts about how we can best apply andragogy to virtual learning.



Knowles, M. (1970). The modern practice of adult education: Andragogy versus pedagogy. New York: Association Press.
Knowles, M. (1980). The modern practice of adult education: From pedagogy to andragogy. Englewoods Cliff, NJ: Cambridge Adult Education.
Taylor, B., & Kroth, M. (2009). Andragogy’s Transition into the Future: Meta-Analysis of Andragogy and Its Search for a Measurable Instrument. Journal Of Adult Education, 38(1), 1-11.


Posted in Learning Theory, Technology, Training, Web 2.0 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Perfect Performance Objectives

By: Kathleen Iverson

targetAt first glance the premise of the perfect performance objective is deceptively simple. Dick and Carey (2009) define performance objectives as statements of what the learners will be expected to do when they have completed a specified course of instruction, written in terms of observable performance. To most novice designers, this sounds easy enough—just write down what learners will do after they complete their training. Experienced designers know that objectives are much more than a laundry list of desired outcomes. They provide an essential link between each phase of the training process from needs assessment, to design, delivery, and finally, evaluation. Trainers who scratch out their objectives quickly and easily are likely missing an essential component.

So what is a perfect performance objective? The most widely used framework for performance objectives was developed by Robert Mager (1997) and specifies three components that are included in each objective:

  • Performance – what the learner is to be able to do.  This is best described by using an active verb like list, describe, discuss, draw, explain.
  • Conditions – important resources or constraints.  For example: without using references; or using a map.  Think about what will be provided to the learner.
  • Criterion – the quality or level of performance that will be considered acceptable.  Think of this in terms of standards.  How much, how many, how well should the learner perform?

Although writing objectives can be very straight forward using Mager’s framework, even the most experienced instructional designer may find it challenging to hit the mark every time on every objective. So where do we go wrong? Here are some common errors that novice and experienced designers have made when crafting performance objectives:

  1. Failing to include each component in every objective (performance, condition, and criteria).
  2. Using vague terms for performance like understand, know, and learn. These terms are not readily observable and measurable. Think about it—how do we see and measure understanding? In fact, how do we define understand without adding specific behaviors? When in doubt, refer to verbs from Bloom’s Taxonomy (2001).
  3. Failing to link the criterion to the assessment tool. For example, an objective might state that the learner will “describe the three components of a performance objective,” yet, in actuality, learners take a multiple choice test, which really measures recall.
  4. Objectives that read like agendas. Adding unnecessary detail and specifics about the training sequence that fill the objective with confusing verbiage.
  5. Lack of clarity in the criterion. We often miss the mark by specifying an arbitrary criterion of “100% accuracy.”
  6. Including multiple unrelated performance outcomes in a single objective: “Learners will recognize the benefits of writing objectives and differentiate between the three components of an objective.”

Please add a comment to this article to share your challenges and successes in writing perfect performance objectives. Can you add to my list of common errors?


Anderson, L., Krathwohl, D., & Bloom, B. (2001) A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman.

Dick, W. ,Carey, L. Carey, J. (2009). The Systematic Design of Instruction. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Pearson.

Mager, R. (1997) Preparing Instructional Objectives: A critical tool in the development of effective instruction. Atlanta, GA:  Center for Effective Performance.

Posted in Human Performance Improvement, Instructional Design, Training | Leave a comment

A Welcome Note from the Program Coordinator


All knowledge is connected to all other knowledge. The fun is in making the connections. – Arthur Aufderheide

Whether you are a returning student or just starting out, we want to take a moment and sincerely welcome you to the school year. We look forward to building connections and having some fun along the way.

Before we start having too much fun, there are a few “coordinator” items I’d like to share with you. First off,  all TRDV courses are 8-week sessions. We are the only graduate program at the University to offer classes in this accelerated format for our adult students. This means you can take two classes back-to-back within the same semester instead of taking them concurrently. This works particularly well when classes need to be taken in succession so you can compete both in one seamless semester, for example TRDV 451 Instructional Systems Design and TRDV 470 Instructional Systems Design-2.

Speaking of TRDV 451 and TRDV 470, the new session format has led to a different approach to online modules in these classes. Professor Cyboran, who is teaching both classes in the fall,  will open weekly class modules on Wednesdays allowing the full weekend plus a couple days to complete course work. This may look different to returning students who are accustomed to seeing modules open earlier in the week.

Our faculty stayed busy this summer teaching along with revising classes to 8-week sessions. I had the chance to connect with alumni and attend professional events like the Chicago eLearning and Technology Showcase earlier this month. The showcase highlighted mobile learning and gamification. As advancements continue to open up more delivery options it is good remember when and why we use this technology. I think the keynote speaker, Cammie Bean,VP of Learning Design at Kineo, summed it up when she said, “e-learning isn’t about the technology—but all about the people”.

Finally, let’s talk about graduation. Graduation applications should be submitted by August 29th to avoid a late fee. For more information on applying for a degree please visit the Graduation Office

On behalf of the Training and Development Department, we hope you have a great semester and build lots of meaningful connections!

Tara Hawkins, TRDV Program Coordinator





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ATD Virtual Job Fair


Take Your Career to the Next Level.

Join us for the first ever ATD Virtual Career Fair on September 15th from 12:00-3:00pm EDT. During this virtual event you’ll connect with employers from companies nationwide who are looking for candidates just like you. The great part—you don’t have to leave your home or office. A new career path is just a click away!

Benefits of Attending the ATD Virtual Career Fair:

  • Browse employer booths, complete with featured job listings
  • Download benefits information and watch employer videos right from your computer
  • Have live conversations with recruiters via instant chat
  • Meet multiple recruiters without leaving your home or office

Watch this video to get a better idea of how the ATD Virtual Career Fair Works:


Register today for the ATD Virtual Career Fair.



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Digital Compentecy….How are YOUR Skills?

On August 19, Training Magazine is hosting a free webinar on this topic.  Click here to register.


Vince Cyboran

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Beyond the Myers-Briggs: Assessment tools for Organization Development Practitioners

Each year millions of copieMyersBriggss of the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) are administered by counselors, coaches, and consultants yet some experts in the field of psychometrics are not impressed by the reliability and validity of the instrument.  Still others feel that its role in executive coaching is very limited (see Wagner 2003, Using the MBTI as a tool for leadership development?  Use with caution).

There are a number of other common tools used in coaching that are nearly as popular as the MBTI:

Although these tools can offer insight and information that might be useful in coaching, I’d first like to emphasize that these are simply one piece of the assessment puzzle and although all have been tested, none are completely valid and reliable in all situations

There are many other assessment tools than can be used to gain useful information when the need arises.  Here are some often overlooked instruments to consider adding to your coaching toolbox that have been proven valid and reliable:

What are your thoughts about the MBTI and other tools?  Can you locate a link to an additional instrument or tool that might be used in Organization Development at the individual, team, or organization-wide level?

Posted in Human Performance Improvement, Mentoring, Organizational Development | 21 Comments

Social Justice and one of our own: Israel Vargas, MATD 2008



Posted in Careers, Social Justice | Tagged | 1 Comment