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What are the differences between how a child learns and how an adult learns?

Child learning is built on the concept that children need to be fully guided on what they need to learn, how they will learn it and when it will be learned. “Pedagogy is the art and science of teaching children” (Knowles, 1984, p. 13).

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This type of learning promotes dependency of the learners on the teacher or instructor. The counterpart of pedagogy is “Andragogy” which is “the art and science of helping adults learn” (Knowles, 1984, p. 13). It is assumed that adults have capabilities to take responsibility for learning so that there is more independence from the teacher or instructor.

Curricula for child learning are very much controlled. They are age specific so that children depend much on what the teacher will teach; and it is expected that the teacher will provide all the answers. For adult learners, teachers do not have much control of the curriculum and they are not expected to provide answers but only to guide the adults to find the answers. It is expected that adults have basic knowledge and experience so that their kind of learning is more self-directed. Children are more subject-centered while adults are more performance-centered.

When children learn, they are guided by role models and substitute knowledge and experiences of others. Teachers tell them when situations are worth following and when situations are to be avoided. Adults learn by performing in their own environment and problem situations. Children’s learning is enhanced by rewards and punishments. To recognize their acquired learning and also to encourage them to learn more, they are provided with rewards like high grades; good feedback like very good, excellent and even gifts. Adults are more goal-oriented. Their readiness allows them to immediately apply their learning to achieve their goals.