Malcolm S. Knowles: Four Major Historical Social Movements that Influenced Him and He influenced as He became an Adult Educator

John Henschke


Using a qualitative approach, this research provided thematic analysis and description of the context of Knowles' times. This study set out to rewrite history to complement Knowles' autobiography, The Making of an Adult Educator. The research questions included: What took place when Knowles and Savicevic met in 1966? How did Knowles decide to make use of the term andragogy to name his theory of adult learning in 1967 and 1968? What discourse followed Knowles' introduction of his theory? What social movements in the U.S. occurred during Knowles' times? Denzin's (1989) model of a fully triangulated biographical investigation, consisting of a case history, a case study, a life story, a personal experience story, an oral history, and a personal history was used, allowing the subject to also participate in interpretation. Sartre's progressive-regressive method, according to Denzin (1989) provided the framework for interpretation. The event chosen for this framework was the period of 1966-1969 when Knowles learned of the term andragogy from Savicevic and introduced his theory of adult learning after developing it for two decades. Knowles introduced andragogy in a 1967 speech and a related 1968 publication. The spelling was corrected to andragogy in 1968. Knowles, a pioneer and leader in the field of adult education in the U.S., created social change itself by making use of the term andragogy as he saw fit. The social movements which provided context of Knowles' times included: the humanistic adult education movement, the human services movement, the group dynamics movement, and the human resource development movement. Though Knowles had an eclectic philosophy of adult learning, humanism, a common theme through the movements, is central to the assumptions included in his theory. From the humanistic movement. Knowles gained consistency i philosophy. From human services, he recognized the need to be practical in his approach with adult learners. From the group dynamics movement, he became more authentic in his style. From the human resource development movement, he used action research to share the application of andragogy with others.