"Emotional Intelligence and Andragogy" : The Adult Learner

Text-only Preview

“Emotional Intelligence and Andragogy”:
The Adult Learner
Mark Esposito
Emotional intelligence, a type of social and personal
intelligence, is important in managing interpersonal
relationships and interactions, especially in the business
and educational sphere. Educators, that involve frequent
contact and interaction can benefit from the application of
multiple intelligences. This presentation examines how and
to what extent emotional intelligence can benefit the
educational relationships, and identifies a clear spectrum
of action plans. The analogy with the use of andragogy will
then, reinforce the study to the adult educational module
and its applications in some leading edge case studies.
Results showed that all educators, to a certain degree,
utilized emotional intelligence to offer more personalized
and effective solutions for the learners.

Andragogy, initially defined as “the art and science of helping adults learn,” has
taken on a broader meaning since Knowles’ first edition. The term currently
Source: This paper was presented at 19th International Conference, “Learning Organization in a Learning World”
April 18th-22nd 2005. King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi Thailand. © Mark Esposito. Reprinted
with permission.

“Emotional Intelligence and Andragogy”: The Adult Learner
defines an alternative to pedagogy1 and refers to learner-focused education for
people of all ages.
The andragogic model asserts that five issues be considered and addressed in
formal learning. They include letting learners know why something is important
to learn2, showing learners how to direct themselves through information3, and
relating the topic to the learners’ experiences. In addition4, people will not learn
until they are ready and motivated to learn. Often this5 requires helping them
overcome inhibitions, behaviours, and beliefs about learning.
Unfortunately, andragogy usually is cited in education texts as the way adults
learn. Knowles himself concedes that four of andragogy’s five key assumptions apply
equally to adults and children. The sole difference is that children have fewer
experiences and pre-established beliefs than adults and thus have less to relate.
In the information age, the implications of a move from teacher-centered to
learner-centered education are staggering. Postponing or suppressing this move
will slow our ability to learn new technology and gain competitive advantage.
How can we expect to analyze and synthesize so much information if we turn
to others to determine what should be learned, how it will be learned, and when
it will be learned? Though our grandchildren or great-grandchildren may be free
of pedagogic bias, most adults today are not offered that luxury. To succeed, we
must unlearn our teacher-reliance. We must take it upon ourselves to meet our
learning needs and demand training providers do the same. To know our demands,
we must know how we process information.
Malcolm Knowles’ theory of andragogy (adult learning) is an attempt to
differentiate the way adults learn. Each learner is respected for their current skills
Pedagogy from the Greek word paid, meaning “child,” and agogus meaning “leader of.”
Malcolm Knowles (1998). The adult learner: The Definitive Classic in Adult Education and Human Resource
. Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing.
John Dewey tested and proved his theories in the Laboratory School, established at the University of Chicago in
Eduard C. Lindeman (1926). The meaning of adult education. New York: New Republic. Redistributed edition 1989.
In The Adult Learner, Knowles stated that Andragogy is not a new word. It was used in Germany as early as 1833
and has been used extensively during the last decade in Yugoslavia, France and Holland. It is also worth noting that
in 1927, Martha Anderson and Eduard Lindeman used the term in a volume titled Education Through Experience.

and experience. New skills and understanding are based on existing ones. Students
are encouraged to ‘learn how to learn’ - as this will prove infinitely useful. A
number of assumptions are made based on this theory:
• adults are goal oriented.
• adults are autonomous and self-directed.
adults are relevancy oriented (problem centered)—they need to know why.
• they are learning something.
• adults are practical and problem-solvers.
• adults have accumulated life experiences.
Kearsley summarizes what this means to educators in practical terms:
“andragogy means that instruction for adults needs to focus more on the process and
less on the content being taught. Strategies such as case studies, role playing, simulations,
and self-evaluations are most useful. Educators adopt a role of facilitator or resource
rather than lecturer or grader.” (1996)

What Motivates Adult Learners?
Adults typically, have motivations for learning such as those pointed out by Cantor
(1992, 37-38):
• to meet external expectations—the boss says you have to upgrade skill ‘X’
to keep your job.
• learn to better serve others — managers often learn basic First Aid to protect
their employees.
• professional advancement.
• escape or stimulation.
• pure interest.
• to make or maintain social relationships.

“Emotional Intelligence and Andragogy”: The Adult Learner
Educators should be aware of the possible motivations behind their students’
enrolment. Then they can better shape the instructional materials.
Training and Active Learning
Involving Learners with the Training Process, effective teachers demonstrate more
implementation of learner-centered domains of practice than less effective teachers
(Fasko D. & Grubb D. J. & McCombs J. & McCombs B. L.).
The Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education
A group of scholars of higher education were asked to derive from their knowledge
of the past 50 years of research a set of principles that could be applied to improve
learning. The Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education was
then formulated from their conclusions, as reported herewith: (Chickering &
Gamson 1997).
Encourage contacts between students and faculty.
Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students.
Use active learning techniques.
Give prompt feedback.
Emphasize time on task.
Communicate high expectations.
Respect diverse talents and ways of learning.
Learner-Centered Principles for Training
A set of Learner-Centered Principles for Training (Ellis, Wagner, & Longmire, 1999)
were created to help with the learning process. They are based on the work of
Barbara McCombs (McCombs, 1992):
• Learning does not occur in a vacuum. Learners discover and construct
meaning from information and experience based on their unique
perceptions, thoughts and feelings.
• More information doesn’t necessarily mean more learning. Learners seek to
create meaningful uses of knowledge regardless of the quantity and quality
information presented.

• Learners link new knowledge to existing information in ways that make
sense to the learner. The remembering of new knowledge is facilitated when
it can be tied to a learner’s current knowledge.
• Personality influences learning. Learners have varying degrees of self-
confidence and differ in the clarity of their personal goals and expectations
for success and failure.
The Andragogic Learning Model
The Andragogic Learning Model recognizes several facets to learning (Knowles,
They are problem centered rather than content centered.
The permit and encourage the active participation of the learner.
They encourage the learner to introduce past experiences into the process in order
to re-examine that experience in the light of new data.
The climate of learning must be collaborative (instructor-to-learner and learner-
to-learner) as opposed to authority-oriented.
The learning environment (planning, conducting, evaluating) is a mutual
activity between learner and instructor.
Evaluation leads to appraisal of needs and interests and therefore to redesign
and new learning activities.
Activities are experimental, not “transmittal and absorption.”
Thus, the primary function of the trainer is to become a guide to the process of
learning, not a manager of content. The “learning guide” uses two-way
communication to establish the objectives and methods of the learning process.

A Climate for Learning
Learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort than a solo race. Good
learning, like good work, is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated.
Working with others often increases involvement in learning. Sharing one’s ideas
and responding to others’ improves thinking and deepens understanding.
(Chickering & Gamson 1997)

“Emotional Intelligence and Andragogy”: The Adult Learner
There are three general types of learning group: informal learning groups,
formal learning groups, and study teams (Johnson, Johnson, and Smith, 1991).
Informal learning groups are “off the cuff” clustering of learners within a single
class session, e.g. asking the learners to turn to a neighbor and spend two minutes
discussing a question you have posed. These informal groups are formed to check
on the learners’ understanding of the material, to give them an opportunity to
apply what they are learning, or to provide a change of pace.
Formal learning groups are established to complete a specific task, such as
perform a lab experiment, write a report, carry out a project, or prepare a position
paper. These groups may complete their work in a single class session or over
several weeks. The learners work together until the task is finished.
Study teams are long-term groups with stable membership whose primary
responsibility is to provide members with support, encouragement, and assistance
in completing course requirements and assignments. Study teams also inform
their members about lectures and assignments when someone has missed a session.
The larger the class and the more complex the subject matter, the more valuable
study teams can be.
Also, the process that these learning group uses falls into two different camps:
Cooperative learning involves the more conventional notion of cooperation, in
that learners work in small groups on an assigned project or problem under the
guidance of the trainer who monitors the groups, making sure the learners are
staying on task and are coming up with the correct answers (if there is a right or
a best answer).
Collaborative learning is a more radical departure. It involves learners working
together in small groups to develop their own answer through interaction and
reaching consensus, not necessarily a known answer. Monitoring the groups or
correcting “wrong” impressions is not the role of the trainer since there is no
authority on what the answer should be.
Achieving a climate for learning can be accomplished by:
€ Breaking the class into small groups.

€ Keep people moving around from group to group/person to person.
€ Have activities and projects outside the classroom for group participation.
€ Developing teams.
€ Peer tutoring.
€ Encouraging the learners to study together.
€ Encouraging the learners to answer each other’s questions instead of
answering them yourself.
€ Have learners teach all or part of a lesson.
€ Be a model by asking questions and displaying good listening behaviors.
A Structure for Mutual Planning
Frequent student-faculty contact in and out of class is a most important factor in
student motivation and involvement. Faculty concern helps students get through
rough times and keep on working. Knowing a few faculty members well enhances
students’ intellectual commitment and encourages them to think about their
own values and plans. (Chickering & Gamson 1997) Further to this, the out of
the class time, that is qualitatively spent between students and faculty summarizes
the reinforcement of the beneficial relationship between educator and students.
How do we know that? Mostly through large-scale co-relational studies that
conclude that students who have frequent contact with faculty members in and
out of class are better satisfied with their educational experience, less likely to drop
out, and perceive themselves to have learned more than students with less faculty
contact (Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991). Thus, the matrix between the source of the
information and the learning process, sees its direct allocation, through the catalyst
role played by the educator, outside the classroom environment.
Some methods of mutual planning are:
€ Using a one-on-one approach to assessing the learner’s requirements.
€ Personalize feedback on learner assignment—ask questions.
€ Open door policy.
€ E-mail.

“Emotional Intelligence and Andragogy”: The Adult Learner
• Stick around for after class conversations.
• Mentoring.
• Learn student’s names.
• Telephone access.
• Frequent question & answer periods.
Learners’ Needs, Interests, and Values
Many roads lead to learning. Different students bring different talents and styles
to college. Brilliant students in a seminar might be all thumbs in a lab or studio;
students rich in hands-on experience may not do so well with theory. Students
need opportunities to show their talents and learn in ways that work for them.
Then they can be pushed to learn in new ways that do not come so easily. Also,
the emotional anchoring to the learning process is a vital instrument of prime
advantage in the educational pattern. (Chickering & Gamson 1997) Research
shows therefore, that the emotional intelligence aspect of learning, can be an
indispensable tool of mastery of the notions.
The learner’s needs can be met by:
€ Utilizing multimedia presentations that engage the learners (see, hear, and
do or visual, auditory, kinesthetic/tactile).
€ Provide outside of the classroom activities (fieldtrips).
€ Give the learners a problem to solve that has multiple solutions.
€ Change the media or delivery method frequently.
€ Identify a variety of learning opportunities for each module.
• Explain theory from “practical approach” first, then add the structural
• Use real life case studies in class, to promote the job sharing and the team
work abilities, framed in a learning in action modality.

Formulation of Objectives
Expect more and you will get it. High expectations are important for everyone—for
the poorly prepared, for those unwilling to exert themselves, and for the bright and
well motivated. Expecting students to perform well becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
(Chickering & Gamson 1997)
Due to some training requirements, certain learning objectives are often
required. However, by focusing in on the learner’s needs, instead of the training
program’s needs, you can get the learners involved with the achievement of the
Although a lot of learning is developmental and cannot be easily defined, work
with each learner to set as complete a learning goal or objective as possible—what
is the task to be learned, how will it be learned, how will you know it has been
Assign realistic time values for each objective or learning point. If the total
time is greater than the time you have, adjust accordingly (suggest self-study for
the less critical learning points).
Designs for Learning
Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just sitting in classes
listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out
answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write reflectively about it,
relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what
they learn part of themselves. (Chickering & Gamson 1997)
The US Department of Education and the National Institute of Education
highlighted student involvement as one of three critical conditions for excellence
in education, noting that:
“It is only the amount of time one can allocate for learning, but the quality of
effort within that time makes the difference...quality of effort refers to the extent to
which learning is active rather than passive and colleges clearly can control the
conditions of active learning by expecting students to be participants in, rather than
spectators of the learning process.” (US Department of Education 1984:18-19)

“Emotional Intelligence and Andragogy”: The Adult Learner
“Students learn best when they are actively involved in the process. Researchers
report that, regardless of the subject matter, students working in small groups
tend to learn more of what is taught and retain it longer than when the same
content is presented in other instructional formats. Students who work in
collaborative groups also appear more satisfied with their classes.” (Cross, K.P
cited these sources: Beckman, 1990; Chickering and Gamson, 1991; Collier,
1980; Cooper and Associates, 1990; Goodsell, Maher, Tinto, and Associates,
1992; Johnson, Johnson, and Smith, 1991; Kohn, 1986; McKeachie, Pintrich,
Lin, and Smith, 1986; Slavin, 1980, 1983; Whitman, 1988).
To help achieve the design:
€ Set up problem solving activities in small groups and have each group
discuss with class.
€ Get feedback on what activities help the students to learn.
€ Encourage reflection (e.g. learning journals).
€ Encourage learners to challenge (challenging is not flaming each other)
ideas, the ideas of other students, or those presented in readings or other
course materials.
€ Give learners concrete, real-life situations to analyze.
€ Encourage students to suggest new readings, projects, or course activities.
The learning environment needs to be dynamic, not passive.
Carrying out the Design
Time plus energy equals learning. Learning to use one’s time well is critical for
students and professionals alike. Allocating realistic amounts of time means
effective learning for students and effective teaching for faculty. (Chickering &
Gamson 1997)
€ Carrying out a plan or design, if often the hardest part, but the most
€ Ensure that time spent on a task is real learning, not busy work.
€ Understand that there will be problems and changes along the way—plan
for them.