Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Androgogy - How teaching adults is different than teaching kids

We have had quite the day in Pinnacle training today - the morning was full of app-smashing, and I can't wait to start developing some lessons to share using what I've learned.

This afternoon, we had the pleasure of listening to @Judyjudymoore talk about how to teach our peers what we've learned. (Well, to be honest, that last sentence may have given the wrong impression. It definitely wasn't a sit-and-get type of session. She's much better than that. But you'll get the idea.)

I wish she could go back in time to talk to all of the people that have ever presented at PD at my school and district level. She started by asking us how many of us have ever gotten "quietly violent" during a PD session because of a speaker either:
a) talking about something they have no clue about
b) wasting your time with cute-sy games that serve no purpose but to fill time
c) reading powerpoint slides to you

The major point of the session was this. The biggest difference between androgogy (teaching adults) and pedagogy (teaching children) is that adults instantly connect everything they learn to previous eperience. Children don't have this experience, so when you teach children, you're more focused on helping them to learn facts/gain understanding that will build to future topics. With adults, the time they spend is much more precious. When teaching adults, the focus needs to be purely what they can use, and how they can relate it to what they've done before.

It's all in the way you present the information.
The reponse to "This is the coolest app I've ever seen and you should use it" will be significantly different from "If you decide to use this app, you'll get 20 minutes of your planning period back everyday just in the time it will save you."

Adults zero in naturally on connecting new information to how it can be used. When we see something on Pinterest, we don't just see it without context. We intuitively see that decoration in our home, or those labels in our classroom. We internalize new inputs. And we need to make sure that PD sessions allow teachers to do just this with the new information that we're providing.

Practically, what does this mean?

  1. Time to discuss, and brainstorm aloud (in groups, and individual brainstorming time)
  2. Making sure there's a specific take-away so that the information can be used SOON, rather than a list of possibilities and vague potential. (For example, allow time for participants to look up a specific topic for their classroom on pinterest and find a foldable, rather than showing them that Pinterest has lesson ideas on it) Bonus points if this implementation/play time happens during the PD session, rather than afterwards. 
  3. Adults tend to be self-directed learners, so if you can get them to buy-in to the idea, AND get them started, they'll be able to take it to the next level later, and be intrinsically motivated to do so. 
  4. Try not to lecture - have discussions, and ask what THEY want to know, then follow that path. 
  5. Don't read powerpoints or handouts to participants - use them so participants don't have to take notes. 
I'm so glad I got the chance to hear all of this before presenting in August - I have 3 sessions in our county Teaching & Learning Conference, so this was perfect timing.


  1. Thank you for articulating the frustrations that many of us have with PD. I think that the differences between pedagogy and androgogy are especially pronounced because (usually) we are learning about tools that we are supposed to use, not basic information on a subject.

    1. I suppose in an ideal world we would be teaching students things they would use, but I suppose the best we can do is things they COULD use, compared to things we are EXPECTED to use. The immediate nature of the information is also a difference - we use what we learn that afternoon, they may not for several years (if at all).