Andragogy: Formal vs. Informal Learning as an adult

Our course materials define learning environments as:
Formal: some institution or instructor sets the learning objectives
Informal: the learner sets the learning objectives
Non-formal: someone besides the learner and instructor (e.g. manager or mentor) sets the learning objectives
Our assignment was to describe and analyse one formal and one informal recent learning experience in light of Knowles’ theories of Andragogy.
Formal learning example
Recently I signed up for a day-long course in Vietnamese cooking at the local community school. I was feeling drained from work and felt like getting out of the house to learn something new. My family loves Vietnamese food and I always found it too intimidating to do what I usually do– google recipes for what I like to eat and try to make it myself.
The instructor started the day asking us to introduce ourselves and explain why we signed up for the course. Then she delivered a short PowerPoint presentation about Vietnam’s regions, how the cuisine varies regionally, and common ingredients. She explained the three dishes we would prepare that day and handed out recipes, and we put ourselves into groups. (I worked with two retired gentlemen and they were amazing!)
The instructor took us out to the kitchens and explained what all of the ingredients were. Then she told us to start with the pho broth and get started. That was pretty much the formal part of the instruction.
What ensued put me slightly in a panic, but with the brave help of my teammates, we “learned by doing.” The instructor floated along the teams to answer questions and make corrections. Somehow after several hours of following recipes and asking questions, we managed to produce a delicious lunch of pho, spring rolls, and Vietnamese pancakes. See the photo of our beautiful pho above. (By the way I finally heard a real Vietnamese person say it and it is pronounced sort of like, “feouh.”
This experience analysed in light of Knowles’ Theory of Andragogy:
Motivation: The instructor asked us to share why we had signed up for the course. Everyone’s reasons were really interesting, including a vegetarian couple who wanted to learn more exciting recipes.
Experience: The course catalogue did not state you needed significant experience and confidence in the kitchen to participate. However this was certainly the case.
Readiness and orientation: Only a few minutes were devoted to theory and the class was very hands-on. Although the students had basic cooking skills we essentially learned in real time with support from the instructor.
Informal learning example:
In 2015 I set a development goal with my manager (so I would be externally accountable) to prepare a study of theories and trends in performance management. The reason was there was more and more discussion about changing practices among HR professionals, particularly after Deloitte collaborated with Marcus Buckingham and published the results of their revamped process in the Harvard Business Review. In my role I was trying to present myself in a more strategic, business-advisory light, so having some deeper knowledge was important for me.
I started by asking one of my colleagues who headed up our thought leadership practice, whether she had any good scholarly articles I could start with. She sent me a few things to get me started. From there I decided which concepts were key to cover and developed an outline of my paper for future research.
In the european HR world, leaders seem to be shy of being a first-mover. Theories and new practices need testing and proving. My clients typically want case studies of other companies who have tried something. So I finished my paper off with several summarised case studies of companies who had transformed their processes and what were their results.
I submitted the paper to my manager and during our weekly catch-up call I reflected with her on the experience and takeaways. She challenged me to think about what I was going to do with it now that I had prepared it.
I used this paper as a springboard for presentations with my clients, client user groups, and internal training days. It was an enjoyable and valuable use of my time and helped position me as a thought leader in my organisation.
How this experience was in line with Knowles’ theories of Andragogy:
Need to Know and Motivation: I defined why I needed to know this material and why it was important to me professionally.
Self-concept: I had the self-esteem to believe I could structure my material completely independently and learn something relevant for my job.
Readiness to learn:  My manager did not support the authoring process at all except reading the finished product, asking me for reflections, and challenging me to use the work in other contexts.
Experience: The research resonated with me due to my own experience with performance reviews, both as the reviewee and the manager. I read the research with that lens in mind. Later in presentations I tried to bring the “outdatedness” of current practices to life emotionally.
Selected Principle of Andragogy from Pappas article:
Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life.
This principle resonates with me as a person who is a passionate learner in her free time as well as at work. I would incorporate this principle in learning design as a part of the “before, during, after” method one of my clients uses. (See Gutierrez article for a great summary and infographic.) Specifically I would ask the learner to spend time reflecting with their manager or coach on what they expect to take away from the learning and use it in their work later. After the training the learner should have a follow up session with the same person as an after-action review and plan for how the learner will practically integrate the new information into his or her work. Additionally I would provide (if appropriate) social learning communities for graduates of the course to interact with the instructor and with each other over time. Perhaps they would like to ask questions as they deepen their understanding and apply their learnings in their work. In my experience, asynchronous social support can be a powerful tool to help people in real-time.
Buckingham, M., & Goodall, A. (2015). Reinventing Performance Management. Harvard Business Review,(April). Retrieved November 24, 2017, from
Pappas, C. (2013, May 9). The Adult Learning Theory – Andragogy – of Malcolm Knowles. Retrieved from
Cites Knowles 1984 but there are two sources in the list from 1984, not sure which one.
Gutierrez, K. (2016, July 12). Before, During, and After Training: Improving Knowledge Transfer in Your Organization in 3 Stages. Retrieved from

Andragogy Summarised: The infographic

It’s a lot of text but I don’t have statistics to go on. I hope the images illustrate the points effectively.


Finlay, J. (2010, May 17). Andragogy (Adult Learning). Retrieved from

Pappas, C. (2013, May 9). The Adult Learning Theory – Andragogy – of Malcolm Knowles. Retrieved from
Cites Knowles 1984 but there are two sources in the list from 1984, not sure which one.

Fink, D. (2010, November 1). American Academy of Neurology Recommendation. Retrieved from

Several: (n.d.). Retrieved from, all licensed under Creative Commons


Multimedia Instruction in the Culinary Arts

For this week’s coursework I chose to watch a 30-minute instructional video, the second one in a series. Chef Jonathan Collins teaches the fundamentals of French cuisine and demonstrates how to use several products from Cuisinart.

Analysed with the perspective of the Meyer and Moreno 2003 reading:


Segmenting: breaks the 30-minute episode into four clear parts, which are first communicated in the video title.

Signaling: Each part is announced with a signal at the beginning. The recipe of what he just prepared appears. You need to pause and take a screenshot because it only appears for a few seconds. There is no talking when the screenshots appear but the music continues.

Off-loading and Synchronising: The chef talks in a conversational style whilst he is demonstrating the technique– close-up camera to the slicing but there is still a voiceover.

Pre-training: Chef Collinss reviews the julienne and bruniose cuts from Episode 1 whilst dicing red pepper and mango.

Analysed with the perspective of the Mayer and Moreno 2000 reading:

Split-attention principle: no text appears during the demonstration and chef narration. Sometimes you see this in videos used as a way to reinforce the principle being taught, but according to Meyer and Moreno it produces additional cognitive load.


Coherence principle (Meyer and Moreno, 2000): There is accompanying music looping during the chef’s demos which is irritating and distracting. This adds cognitive load as I try to listen to what the chef is saying.

Recommendations for improvement:

  • Provide a link or attached reference summarising the concepts for the viewer, as well as the recipes.
  • Comments are disabled for the video. It would be interesting if YouTube had additional comment types available only to logged-in users, where they could ask questions or interact with each other. This would move the instructional design also more in the Connectivism direction.


Cuisinart Canada, & Collins, J. (2017, November 22). Cuisinart Culinary School, Cuisinart Canada Episode 2: Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs and Spices. Retrieved November 21, 2017, from

Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning. EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST, 38(1), 43-52. Retrieved November 16, 2017, from

Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (2000). A learner-centered approach to multimedia explanations: Deriving instructional design principles from cognitive theory. Interactive Multimedia Electronic Journal of Computer Enhanced Learning. Retrieved November 22,2017, from

Behaviourism-Toilet Training My Toddler

I was trying to think of an example of an animal-like behaviour which I had to teach to a human, i.e. there is a very clear idea of the desirable behaviour vs. non-desirable. As I have no pets, toilet training my son was the best scenario I could come up with. This started with an intense weekend crash-course. My husband and I planned to stay home and focus on the potty. My son was taken out of nappies during the day and wore regular underpants. At first we would sit him on the potty every half hour. If he went wee (desired behaviour and potentially unconditioned response if we got lucky), he would receive a chocolate-covered raisin (primary reward) and lots of praise and clapping (secondary reward). If he sat on the potty but did not go wee, he would still receive lots of praise and clapping, but no chocolate-covered raisin (still secondary reward). In between we tried to communicate what sensation he would have when he needed to go wee, so he would know in advance to sit on the potty. Gradually the idea was to replace the primary reward with the secondary reward. An additional aspect was that if the child wees in the regular underpants, s/he would find this wet pants sensation unpleasant (punishment) and would learn to stop weeing and go do it on the potty instead. The reward in that case would be nice dry underpants and of course, happy parents. If the child weed in the underpants, our guidebook said not to react too much (neutral operant) but change the pants and maybe talk about how much nicer it would be to do it in the potty properly next time. My son figured everything out with weeing on the first day, although of course he was initially unhappy that simply sitting on the potty did not produce a chocolate raisin. Number two took several weeks longer for him to work out. It seemed to be that he simply didn’t want to give up the convenience and comfort of using a nappy for this purpose. I recall one time when we were working on this part of the process and rather than use the potty, he found it intriguing to transfer the results of his efforts from his nappy to his his face, clothes, and arms. I did my best not to react at all (neutral operant, although I’m quite sure I raised my eyebrows to the middle of my scalp) and deposited him immediately in the shower. We kept up the primary reward for number two for quite some time and I believe in desperation, even raised the reward from one to several chocolate raisins.

Some families got into the complexities of awarding stickers as well, but my son didn’t have the attention span for that.

I am not sure whether there is any other better method to use in this scenario rather than a Behaviourist approach. If we lived in a society where children ran around bare-bottomed until they were older, perhaps more sophisticated methods would be applicable. It gets results rather quickly, and more quickly the older the child is. In terms of downsides the first one is that the child needs to be old enough to understand what’s going on. This means s/he may not be cognitively ready until the age of two or older (Crockett, 2014) whereas perhaps 100 years ago parents would have started this process as soon as one year. The second disadvantage I mentioned: everyone in the family had to be very focused and consistent on this activity for a few weeks. I also had to brief my son’s caretakers on what to do when I was out. When considering some more historical, parent-centric methods of potty training like administering punishing enemas, laxatives, physical punishment or shame to the child (Crockett, 2014), this delayed Behaviorist method seems to be the most loving and appropriate.


For behaviourist concepts described in post: McLeod, S. (2015). Skinner – Operant Conditioning. Retrieved from

Crockett, Z. (2014, September 16). The Evolution of Potty Training. Retrieved November 01, 2017, from

For the image: Best potties: Which is the best potty for toilet training? (2017, July 18). Retrieved November 6, 2017, from



Cognitivism vs. Constructivism Venn Diagram

Here is this week’s offering. I can see we are using some of Bruner’s and Bandura’s concepts in our course in these ways:

  • The learning theories build on each other and we are encouraged to compare them.
  • Creating visual deliverables encourages us to structure the information in a different way.
  • We provide perspective and feedback to our classmates to assist them in their learning.

Example learning scenarios for each theory:

(Social) Constructivism: The Harvard Business School case study teaching method is facilitated by the professor. Students prepare for the session by reading a real business scenario and reflecting on some of the questions. The professor prepares the group discussion, which designed to allow the group to deepen understanding and build their knowledge on each other’s reflections. Part of the students’ grade is based on the quality of their participation in the discussion. (See the source below from the Christensen Center for Teaching and Learning for a comprehensive overview of the method.)

 Cognitivism: My son’s teaching team has recently introduced the Singapore Maths method for teaching arithmetic. They openly state in the orientation materials that the method is based on Bruner’s work, among other leading Western researchers. They sent the parents a lengthy orientation document and the method is significantly different to what I experienced as a child. These concepts stuck out for me:

  • Parents need to encourage self-esteem in the children and emphasise that anyone can learn math. It’s not just a natural gift some people have and others don’t.
  • If one child is picking up the concepts quickly, it’s no longer appropriate to allow him/her to simply move ahead to the next one and leave the rest of the class behind. Instead, the teacher has to challenge the student to explain how he/she arrived at the answer, and think of other possible ways to solve the problem. Then the student has to coach his/her classmates who may not be getting it as quickly. In this way the advanced student deepens his/her understanding and provides additional support to the other children.
  • Students are encouraged to draw arithmetic concepts with shapes as part of solving the problem, not simply rely on symbols. This is based on Bruner’s Concrete Pictorial Aspect method and helps make the concept less abstract. (See the Maths No Problem for a complete description of the method.)

Sources for Concepts:

McLeod, S. A. (2007). Multi Store Model of Memory – Atkinson and Shiffrin, 1968. Retrieved from

McLeod, S. A. (2014). Lev Vygotsky. Retrieved from

Smith, M.K. (2002) ‘Jerome S. Bruner and the process of education’, the encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from

McLeod, S. A. (2016). Bandura – Social Learning Theory. Retrieved from

Christensen Center for Teaching and Learning. (n.d.). Teaching By the Case Method. Retrieved November 10, 2017, from

Maths No Problem. (n.d.). What is Singapore Maths. Retrieved November 18, 2017, from What is Singapore Maths. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2017, from

Sources for images:

Palmer, A. (1942). Carpenter at work on Douglas Dam, Tennessee (TVA). Retrieved from

Photographer Unknown. A Man Helps a Woman as She Takes a Flying Leap. Retrieved from

Photographer Unknown. Top Ten Innovations in Construction: Modular Construction. Retrieved from

Photographer Unknown. Breakthrough Autism: Success Stories. Retrieved from



This week’s assignment was to create an infographic summarising the most important points of the research around Constructivism.

Thus many hours of teaching myself Canva ensue. Why God, why…this sort of fiddling with text and graphics simply is not my favourite way to be creative. Also to me it’s not easy to illustrate these learning and development theories with pictures. I have done my best given the pictures in my head when I think about each concept.

Anyway here it is and I hope it’s 1. accurate and 2. gets the point across.


Learning through the ages

That 70s Girl

Photo: not me in the 70’s but pretty close! I wore those turtlenecks and crocheted vests. I had that Dorothy Hamill haircut after the 1978 Winter Olympics! I had streamers on my bike handles!

This is a Week 1 assignment for my LDT100x Instructional Design and Technology: Learning Theories course on edX. We are required to describe three learning experiences during our lives.

  1. Elementary school: I remember teaching myself long division. I was self-sufficient and ahead of the rest of the class, so the teacher explained the basic principles and assigned me loads of problems to go practise on my own. I literally did arithmetic problems over and over on paper until I learned the skill. I understand the method we used back then is considered to complicated for kids now and they learn shortcuts…but long division is one of those skills you just have to learn in life!
  2. High school: Switch to 4th year French. We needed to memorise the verb etre (to be) in about 20 different tenses and often our homework would be simply to conjugate the damn verb for all subjects and all cases on a piece of paper. Then we would review it in class on the blackboards together. This is a very necessary, yet boring skill required to speak proper French.
  3. As an adult, I’ve had to learn several software systems like the one I work with today. In my most recent learning experience, the training I did was all online. It was a combination of structured e-learning courses, recorded “deep dive” descriptions of each feature, and finally a “scavenger hunt” to encourage experimentation and building functionality in the system. I could submit questions to the instructor, as well as join a call to ask questions. The hunts were my favourite parts of the training. I needed to learn this skill to do my job, which is helping clients configure a good user experience in our system. This hopefully helps them achieve their business goals, which I also work with clients to help them define.