Some of the criticism levelled at Knowles’s view of andragogy in its early days was that he considered the individual as isolated from his/her context and situation. Knowles later revised his theory and indeed continued adjusting it to the results of research and input from his own experience as well as that of other theorists and disciplines.
The Andragogy in Practice Model is a framework which incorporates three levels of the theory in practice, shown as concentric rings:
The outer ring – goals and purposes of learning – comprehends developmental outcomes of the process, and they shape and mould the learning experience. In keeping with Knowles’s perspective on the mission of adult education, they are divided into three general categories: individual, institutional and societal growth. The goals and purposes of education need to be considered to assess the suitability of the core adult learning principles to a given situation. Programmes created do not have to fulfil the three levels of outcomes simultaneously; at any given moment, they can combine and connect them, or focus on one of them in particular (whether personal advancement, enhanced institutional performance, or societal transformation).
The middle ring of the model – individual learner differences – comprehends the variables that condition the learning process and shape the practice of andragogy. Here we can find three categories:
“An understanding of individual differences helps make andragogy more effective in practice” (Knowles, Holton & Swanson, 2005, p. 156).
Finally, the Core Adult Learning Principles which form the basis for planning andragogy-oriented learning programmes and experiences. The dimensions which constitute it provide guidance for evaluating the learner.
For practitioners, the framework proves useful before creating any programme to analyse the profile of the andragogical learner, determine if this perspective is suitable for the circumstances in question, and improve its application. And it fits Knowles’s claim that the andragogical model is a flexible system of elements to be adapted to the actual situation as required, which he saw as the strength of andragogy.
Knowles, M.S., Holton, E.F. & Swanson, R.A. (2005). The Adult Learner. The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. 6th edition. Burlington, USA: Elsevier.