Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (School of Education)

Schools and Centres


First Supervisor

Professor Kevin Watson

Second Supervisor

Doctor Linda Bellen


Adult learning is very broadly viewed in the literature. The wide-ranging gamut of views, include those that interpret adult learning not dissimilarly to child learning, all the way through to theorists that propose a separate set of considerations for adult learners. When it comes to learning, pedagogy was traditionally associated with child learners and andragogy was born from the need to find a separate niche for the adult learner. As such, pedagogy and andragogy may be positioned opposite to one another—as one pertains to the needs; characteristics; and, behaviours of the child, and the other of the adult learner. These chronological apportionments of pedagogy and andragogy do not properly address the influence of context on the learner. Context is multifaceted, and includes internal elements such as feelings; thoughts; and, behaviours—which are, the learner’s very nature. Further to this, context for the adult learner is external, and encompasses elements such as the learning environment; educators; and, work-place pressures and requirements. Understanding the contextual forces on adult learning, calls into question whether all adult learners function within an andragogical framework.

A qualitative case study approach was used in the setting of teacher professional learning for primary science education in NSW, Australia, to garner a deeper understanding of adult learning. Participants, both teacher educators and teacher learners, provided insights into their learning journey. This study selected two external influences on the adult learner in this setting; the introduction of the NESA K–6 Science and Technology Syllabus (2012), which was the primary science education curriculum for NSW; and, the technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) framework. In NSW, NESA is the independent statutory authority responsible for curriculum, assessment, teaching standards and school settings. Alongside the two external influences, the internal influence of teacher self-efficacy was used to better understand the adult learner. Teacher participant voice from interview gave rise to findings that illuminated the plasticity of the adult learner, moving between pedagogical and andragogical learner traits at various points in their learning journey, as well as transitioning in expertise. Adult learners were most successful in this study’s learning context when there was interplay between their internal learner forces (ILFs), their nature; and, external learner forces (ELFs), the nurture or environment. These findings may have potential for transferability to analogous professional learning contexts of the adult learner.

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