Malcolm Shepherd Knowles


Was born in 1913 and died in 1997, a time which he made great contribution to adult education as a researcher and made multiple works and wrote on the topic of adult education. He came from a stable family with which the father was a veterinarian who helped him become more confident and develop his mind as an independent thinker, he would let him figure out his way

Malcolm Shepherd Knowles

first and then the dad would offer his view which developed his independent mind. On the other side he talked of the mum developing him as a tender and loving person who helped him focus in helping people achieve their long sought goals. This is exhibited throughout his life inform of his career and literature as YMCA leader to his role as an adult education researcher.


Throughout his life Knowles concentrated in social sciences and behavioural sciences fields which he did lots of research and synthesis, this helped him to be among the most identified and quoted adult education specialist of his time.

Just as indicated the bulk of his life, which was around fifty years, was dedicated to ways of understanding and refining adult education, it is during this time of his life that he polished the principles of adult learning; these principles are now what are referred to as andragogy.

Andragogy is what is the prime of Knowles work this had to do with establishing distinct ways of carrying out adult education; this was prompted by the fact that earlier education for the adult group was carried out the same way the children’s education was carried out (pedagogy). This failed in many aspects on Knowles view as the reason and motive of adults being in school differed greatly with the particular reasons where the kids enrolled in schools.

For the kids it is mainly from the parents obligations to have their kids enrol in an education system and it is them that mostly make choices on the kind of courses that these kids enrol in. For the adults they will mostly enrol due to their long researched need for education and will only do those courses they find appropriate to further their areas of specialisation or help them in carrying out certain duties they find important in their lives. Such were the bases of Knowles research; he committed to come up with principles to guide a system that would fit the above stated requirements.

Malcolm Shepherd Knowles

These principles included the following five, thought the fifth one has been argued not to be Knowles’s but that it was added later, the other controversial thing about these is whether they should be referred to as principles, assertions or simply assumptions.

Experience, this stipulates that as one grows older they form a base of knowledge which is essential in his education process.

– Self concept, the assertion under this state that as one’s life progresses hey stop being dependent and they start being more self propelling.

– Orientation to learning, As an individual grows older they become more oriented to handling existing problems as opposed to deferring their requirements this has the effect of making these individuals more oriented to education chances, increasing orientation to learning.

– Readiness to learn, as one becomes old he realizes the importance o education and this develops his need for education.

– Motivation to learn, this becomes internal as one matures.

These are said to be the basics behind which Knowles’s developed his andragogy formulations and though criticisms has been existent ever since formulation of these theories they still stand as the basics for the adult education systems.


Smith, M (2002).Malcolm Knowles, informal adult education, self direction and andragogy: http:

Malcolm Shepherd Knowles


: Retrieved, October, 6, 2009.