Pedagogy. Andragogy. Adolgogy?

I have been banging the drum for some time and will continue to do so to the end of Reclaiming the Nomenclature. The first iteration of this phrase gets a rare nod and mostly puzzled looks. Well, sure, people do not use the term nomenclature much these days but I have always been fond of it since seeing Little Murders with Elliott Gould. Enjoy. It is right around 2’23”.

In my mind are a short list of terms that are overused and abused and through this type of use have lost their meaning entirely.




I could go on. Alright, I admit, it is a long list and I have a good memory so it continues to grow at a exponential rate. In this post, I will focus on the term pedagogy. <shudder>

Pedagogy is a term that we must all understand is both antiquated and misused for the most part. We understand the connotation when it comes up, but still cringe a bit when it is used.  The etymology of the word tells us that it simply means ‘child leading.’ Discussion about it usually goes like this:

‘that isn’t what I mean.’

“then why did you say it?”

Pedagogy refers, in large part, to the approach, process, and learning of teaching. By defining it, we denote the terminology and make it sound fine, do we not? In that sense, we can use pedagogy in our in-services, professional training, college courses, etc. Correct? Of course not!

The ducks who waddle close behind

We know that pedagogy is stuffy and that we are no longer in a field dominated by lecturers in the K-12 classrooms. We know that direct instruction is acceptable for some lower grades in some instances but that we should, as soon as developmentally possible, get our students involved and participating rather than “being led” but the pedagogue.

We know, thanks to Malcolm Knowles,of the term andragogy that still tricks our spellchecker even though it is a common word that has been in published materials throughout the world.

Malcolm Knowles

Andragogy refers, in large part, to the approach, process, and learning methods used when working with adults. It recognizes that adult learners have specific needs that must guide the development of instruction. We like to use terms such as facilitate when we do not know what else to say in regard to andragogy.

It is much more than facilitation and Men are

from Mars-style deceptive communication practices. Take some time to read up on it–by the way, by definition, andragogy doesn’t work with college students but that is another post for another day.

Returning to my battlecry,

Reclaim the Nomenclature!

What, then shall we name the set of acceptable, beneficial, necessary, and sufficient learning approaches used to educate the adolescent? Let us not fall into the poor practice of saying that other terms are good enough. Let us think differently about education. Let us be responsible. The answer to this question is not just about creating terminology, but it is about creating definitions that are both functional and accurate.

So what’s in gonna be?

Adolgogy? You heard it here first. Maybe last.

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  • […] rail against those who abuse nomenclature and also fight the colloquial research that we pass on over and again. Myths that we propagate. Do […]

  • I concur Dr. Timony. Pedagogy is an easy catchall term that carries particular meanings which are out of sync with adult education. Adolescents at university don’t fit either older term you mention. But Adolgogy sounds like the uncomfortable nexus of ideas and positions it embodies. Needs a monograph, or a series of papers and conferences to give it some credibility. Adolescent pedagogy could work. I think pedagogy has evolved as a term to encompass more than K-12. It’s what pedagogy complements or is extended by, that carries the meaning, I feel. Are you writing on this, or just musing possibilites?

    Dr. Jennifer Mitchell, Melbourne University, Australia.

  • Dr. Timony wrote:

    Dr. Mitchell–Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Yes, the term is awkward–as it was intended. Currently, I’m musing and would love to have more input or additional muse-ers along for the ride. The construct of adolescence deserves serious thought in regard to specific prescribed approaches. To think that Andragogy is still considered a new approach!

  • Count me in. I’m up for any kind of discussion like this. I teach students who bridge the child-adult divide, and planning activities to meet needs of a diverse age / culture mix is a constant challenge.

  • Dr. Timony, I’ve been thinking on this issue on and off for the last month, reflecting closely on my own cohort of students aged 16 through to 23. One of the guiding ideas in Knowles’ Androgogy is to enable adult learners to engage with curriculum through their own life experiences, to exploit if possible adults’ mature capacity to self-direct their learning experiences. If learners can see the future potential of what they are learning, they can direct interests and exploration towards that vision with energy and motivation.

    Most of the students I teach – international students from diverse countries – incrementally develop the awareness of how the subjects they are studying will benefit them. Only a handful come to the course with the above sense of potential in mind as they study. My course is not elective – I need to “justify” in some senses why what we will learn together will be worthwhile, and I believe it is. End of year evaluations generally confirm the students’ agreement. Over the year they have developed a broader appreciation, and many learn to self-direct as adults might, in time for them to progress to full higher education study.

    My initial feelings about how Adolgogy might manifest in my teaching, is that I would begin with highly structured and supported learning activities, and as in the constructivist model, gradually remove supports and scaffolds to enable (and in some recalcitrant cases impel) students to become self-directed. Thus, a year begins with pedagogy, pauses for a while at adolgogy, before progressing to androgogy. I think the entire process could be termed Adolgogic – if you like.

    But the problem of assessment remains when there is a blend of dependent and independent, weaker and stronger students within a class. Do we ‘measure’ only summative competency, or value the formative process capabilities equally? I know you regularly muse such issues in your tweets. Over a short course, of 12-14 weeks, this is a harder challenge.

    I teach my students for four terms, over ten months, and have ample opportunities to set formative assessments – presentations, short quizzes, reflections, contributions to discussions etc – before the summative finale. I can’t choose these assessments for myself at present, but have been engaging colleagues in conversations about changing the assessment measures to embrace a more “adolgogic” approach to learning and assessment.

    I do not have a good sense that higher education teachers are deeply engaged with questions of pedagogy, or androgogy in Australia. We are still entrenched in the research model of self-justification, for funding and prestige. I am fortunate to be valued as a teacher before being valued as a researcher, and am making my teaching practice the subject of my research. However, I don’t get paid to research. It is purely to improve my teaching practice, and engage my mind.

    I don’t know how it is your brain can cope with so many thoughts and reflections, but I enjoy being able to benefit from them.

    Dr. Jennifer Mitchell, University of Melbourne.

  • Jseph Amooti KASOZI wrote:

    Dr. Mitchell
    I landed on your site by mistake. I am a student of pre-service teacher education and would like to entrench aspects of andragogy in teacher preparation. Your argument about the misuse of the term “pedagogy” has been my constant struggle to convince collegues that it often misused. I would love to follow your developing a term that fits learning by young adults “Aldagogy” sounds interesting. Currently I am reserching theon the entrenchment of andragogical principles in teacher prepatation. My target is to develop a module/course to expose teacher educators to these principles. Your arguments therefore are appropriate to my research.
    By the way, although I have been a teacher educator since 1991, no one has taken interest in my little research for teaching since reaech is not prioritised in my job description.

    Currently I am a registerd PhD student at the University of Fort Hare and would love to continue this sharing and dialogue. I am on Facebook and personal e-mail is as indicated.

    I am a resident of Botswana working at a College of Educationas a Deputy Principal responsible for Academics.
    Defenitely “ALDAGOGY” has a future. A low me to join the discussion.

    Joseph Amooti Kasozi (Mr.)

  • From a more outside perspective, why don’t educators at all levels focus more on showing evidence that they do know how to effectively teach vs. spewing words like pedagogy and androgogy and aldagogy or whatever into their philosophies of teaching. Give me some real meat using real words that the average citizen who you are teaching or whose children you are teaching can understand. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Big words don’t make you smart smart concepts carried out in meaningful and productive ways do.

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