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Tell me Why

Why the 'Why' is so important in adult


I learned a new word today: andragogy. The

worrying thing is that it turns out this is what I

do for a living; or at least it's related to it.

Andragogy is the word for a model of

instruction used for adults (as opposed to

pedagogy for children).

You can all now pretend you knew that


One of the most important aspects of

andragogy is that it recognises that adults

need a reason for their learning. They like to

solve problems and for their learning to be

self-directed. As children we went to school

and learned because that's what kids do. If

any of us had thought to ask an adult why we

had to go to learn something the answer

would have been a terse, 'Because I said so.'

And that would have been that.

Time for a quick story: My dad was the head

of the high school I went to. Yes, it was very

embarrassing. Like many of you, my highschool years were dominated by the prospect

of end-of-school exams; but they were also

marked by recurring arguments with my dad.

Arguments about the reams of homework that

seemed to get me nowhere, the mandatory

subjects that I would never use again and the

frustrating lack of information about things that

might actually be helpful in life; such as

politics and current affairs, day-to-day living

and managing personal finances.

At the time, although it was often dispiriting,

and I blamed myself for not being 'clever

enough' to take it all in, I still questioned how

much use what I was learning was all going to

be. When I was told I had to spend weeks

taking a series of horribly difficult exams my

response was 'Why?' (Actually, it might have

been 'Whyyyyyyyyyy??') It occurs to me now

that we take our final exams, technically, as

adults. The pedagogical model is already out

of date.

As adults we're not usually called students

anymore; we're 'learners'. This is part of

recognising that we're not at school anymore,

and 'Because I said so' isn't going to cut it.

We need a good reason to sit down and


So how can we, as learning designers, meet

this need?


Rosie Scott

Senior Learning Designer

Learning Pool


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