Andragogical Principles and Adult Learners in the Teaching of English
for Specic Purposes (ESP)
Randall Esteban Blanco Navarro Manuel Antonio Navarro Godínez Milady Liseth Esquivel Ibarra
InterSedes, Revista electrónica de las sedes regionales de la Universidad de Costa Rica,
ISSN 2215-2458, Volumen XXV, Número 51, Enero-Junio, 2024.
10.15517/isucr.v25i51 | |
A: Certain particularities should be considered for the teachers of English for Specic Purposes
(ESP) when they instruct adult learnes is in light of adult learning theories that ESP practitioners could
strategically devise lessons for adult learners. rough the years, English language teachers of diverse
students may have disregarded the age factor. Minors and adults internalize knowledge and develop
language skills at dierent paces regardless of similar teaching conditions. is bibliographic review
aims at discussing andragogical principles and ways of approaching and tailoring adult English language
learners during the instructional or curriculum design in ESP contexts. A brief comparison of pedagogy
and andragogy yields some insightful dierences between teaching minors and instructing adults. It
is commendable for ESP practitioners to consider that adult learners respond dierently to academic
endeavors and require curricular accommodations to eectively learn this target language. us,
devising lesson plans and classroom instruction for adult language learners compel scrutiny of some
andragogy principles, and this paper summarized some of the latest research ndings to tackle English
language instruction for this population.
R: Este artículo se enfoca en algunas particularidades que docentes de inglés con Propósitos
Especícos (IPE) debería considerar mientras instruyen estudiantes adultos. Las personas docentes de
IPE pueden estratégicamente diseñar lecciones para discentes adultos a la luz de teorías de aprendizaje en
adultos. A través de los años, las personas docentes de inglés que atienden diversos estudiantes podrían
haber ignorado el factor de la edad. Personas menores de edad y adultos internalizan el conocimiento
y desarrollan habilidades lingüísticas a ritmos distintos a pesar de condiciones de enseñanza similares.
Esta revisión bibliográca tiene como objetivo discutir principios andragógicos y maneras de abordar
y adaptar a estudiantes del inglés adultos durante el diseño instruccional o curricular en contextos
IPE. Una breve comparación entre la pedagogía y la andragogía arroja algunas diferencias perspicaces
entre enseñar a menores e instruir a adultos. Es recomendable que las personas docentes de inglés para
propósitos especícos consideren que el alumnado adulto responde diferente a los esfuerzos académicos
y requieren adecuaciones para aprender este lenguaje meta efectivamente. Así pues, tanto la elaboración
del plan de lección como la instrucción para el alumnado adulto requieren de un escrutinio cuidadoso de
los principios andragógicos y los más recientes resultados de investigaciones resumidos en este artículo
para abordar la instrucción del inglés para esta población.
Universidad de Costa Rica. Golto
Universidad de Costa Rica.
San Isidro del General, Pérez Zeledón
Universidad de Costa Rica.
Publicado por la Editorial Sede del Pacíco, Universidad de Costa Rica
P : Inglés con Propósitos Especícos, Andragogía, aprendiz adulto, enseñanza del inglés,
diseño instruccional, modelo ABBIE, aprendizaje experiencial, aprendizaje auto direccionado
K: English for Specic Purposes, Andragogy, adult learner, English language teaching,
instructional design, ADDIE model, experiential learning, self-directed learning
Principios Andragógicos y Aprendices Adultos en la Enseñanza del Inglés con Propósitos
Especícos (ipe)
Recibido: 9-5-23 | Aceptado: 5-7-23
C  (APA): Blanco Navarro, R., Navarro Godínez, M.A., Esquivel Ibarra, M.L. (2024). Andragogical principles
and adult learners within the teaching of english for specic purposes (ESP). InterSedes, 25 (51), 1-30 . DOI 10.15517/
InterSedes, ISSN 2215-2458, Volumen 25, Número 51,
Enero-Junio, 2024, (Artículo).
Most theoretical considerations for teaching English as a Foreign
Language (EFL) or as a Second Language (ESL) have been oriented
to young children and adolescents. As a result, English language
(EL) teachers who attempt to follow the methodological tenets
of English for Specic Purposes (ESP) may have been devising
their lesson plans, techniques, activities, and didactic materials
for diverse learners, but with limited considerations about the way
adults learn. Notwithstanding, there is no single approach for ESP
practitioners to teach adults beyond tertiary levels; e existence
of adult learning principles could guide EL instructors into the
teaching context for their English students over twenty-ve years
old. Although not conclusive, this bibliographic review oers ESP
professionals some principles that they might consider with adult
English language learners.
ESP has been gaining more attention in Costa Rica (Blanco-
Navarro, 2021; Chevez, 2009; Córdoba-Cubillo & Navas-Brenes,
2012; Quesada-Pacheco et al., 2020; Yeraldín et al., 2015), but an
overview of the ESP literature signals that practitioners could be
disregarding their learners’ age and what it means to study this
target language at an older stage. Even though adult language
learners already hold jobs as doctors, engineers, accountants,
secretaries, and others, Purwati et al. (2022) suggested EFL
teachers follow a set of adult learning principles. In their attempt
to handle professional registers or jargon in the target language
(Evans, 2004), adult language learners could encounter learning
diculties, anxiety, frustration, and fears of failure or ridicule
(Castañeda, 2017). eir cognitive and aective needs vary
greatly due to the age factor (Araujo, 2018), and ESP practitioners
should address this issue under the herein tenets of adult learning
ESP practitioners seek to empower their students to
ccomplishing specic occupational or academic communicative
tasks (Basturkmen, 2010). rough a needs analysis, these
facilitators start uncovering communicative tasks, discourse
communities, the participants’ wants and needs, the stakeholders
expectations, and many more aspects that would shape the design
of an ESP course (Brown, 2016). Nonetheless, the age factor
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BLANCO ET AL. | Andragogical Principles and Adult Learners
deserves more attention in ESP settings where learners tend to
be older (Cozma, 2015) and in the need of handling professional
registers or jargon to gain involvement in target communities
(Evans, 2010). How andragogical principles could strategically suit
adult learners in ESP contexts pends exploration.
Younger students from tertiary education or graduate programs
may respond more eectively to pedagogical principles, but ESP
practitioners could have avoided exploring and implementing
adult learning theories among participants with ages over 25
(Bocanegra-Valle & Basturkmen, 2019). Clearly, this overlook of
adult learners reects what Kakoulli Constantinou and Papadima-
Sophocleous (2021) armed: “the eld of ESP Teacher Education
(TE) remains neglected” (p. 89). e age factor (Hashim & Othman,
2006) has played a key role in second language acquisition studies,
but its inuence on ESP adult learners lingers further investigation.
A narrowed perspective over adult learners may have prevailed
in ESP. In fact, Schwarzer (2009) suggested “look[ing] at adult
learners as whole persons rather than just ESL learners… as
parents, spouses, employees or business owners, neighbors,
churchgoers, and members of various communities” (p. 28). is
broader view of the adult learner embraces more personal factors
like family life and job responsibilities worth deserving more of
the ESP instructors’ attention. While arguing for this notion of
ESL adults as “whole learners, Schwarzer (2009) also pointed out
seven fundamentals to support a holistic approach: “constructivist
teaching, authentic learning, inquiry-based lessons, language
learning, a developmental process, alternative assessment, and
community of learners” (p. 28). Even though these key concepts
are highly applicable in ESP, they should be interpreted under the
main principles of adult education theories.
erefore, this paper aims at reviewing andragogical principles
and ways of tailoring adult language learners during instructional
or curriculum design in ESP contexts. As EL teachers attempt to
implement ESP tenets, their lesson plans and classes could most
likely resemble GE and English teaching methodologies that have
been developed with children and teenagers in mind, without fully
addressing adult language learners’ needs and expectations.
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Dening Adult Learners
Clarifying the concept of adultness represents a challenge.
e concept might be conceptualized lawfully or biologically, yet
turning into a grown up goes way beyond voting or reproducing.
e majority of short or long-time studies as to age in L2 acquisition
are far more oriented towards little kids, toddlers, and teens.
Despite the established concepts of a critical period and ultimate
attainment, Larsen-Freeman and Long (2014) armed that “a
good deal of controversy has been generated around whether the
age at which someone is rst exposed to a SL… aects acquisition
of that language in any way” (p. 274). Most SLA researchers hardly
ever clarify about the exact age and the prole of an adult learner.
Regardless of compiling age dierences in L2 acquisition, Saville-
Troike and Barto (2016) certainly abstained from dening an
accurate age for a learner to be regarded as an adult.
is bibliographic report verbalizes the diculty of dening the
concept of an adult learner, but the establishment of age categories
would oer some guidance. First, the United Nations conrmed in
the 1985 General Assembly that young adults range ages between
15 and 24 years. Such description mirrors Arnetts (2000) proposal
regarding the concept of emerging adults for people whose age
falls into that span. Second, Costa Rican citizens over 65 years are
declared senior citizens, so plenty of discussion is likely to happen
as to dening the age for a person to ocially be considered an
adult, both in and out SLA investigation. Tracing an age scope is
an estimate since the social notion of adultness involves aspects
related to economic autonomy, conjugality, parenting, and so forth
(SNTCWebinars, 2019). In this literature review, L2 adult learners
are those individuals whose ages range between 25 and 64 years
at the time of attending ESP lessons. eir exact age of onset of
acquisition (AoA) (Herschensohn, 2013) is omitted.
Adult Learning Theoretical Considerations
Research over the ways adults learn began over a hundred years
ago. Knowles et al. (2005) stated that Harry Overstreets publication,
e Mature Mind, in 1949 represents the earliest integrated
framework in adult learning. One of Knowles’ rst contributions
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BLANCO ET AL. | Andragogical Principles and Adult Learners
entitled Informal Adult Education in 1950 highlighted that adults
would welcome informality and exibility while studying. en,
the term andragogy was introduced by Dusan Savicevic in 1967,
and just a year later Knowles published Andragogy, Not Pedagogy.
e study of the unique characteristics of adult learners has gone
steady progress for several decades, but their repercussion in ESP
deserves more attention.
Much controversy has risen over the issue of whether andragogy
should be labeled as a theory of adult education or not. e fact is
that this term has been employed to refer to the teaching adults as
to their preferences and encouragement to internalize knowledge.
In sharp contrast, andragogy’s tenets dier notoriously from
pedagogy. Knowles et al. (2005) explained that the andragogical
model is grounded in six didactic notions: the need to know,
the learners’ self-concept, the role of the learners’ experiences,
readiness to learn, orientation to learning, and motivation (pp. 64-
68). Indeed, the implications of these characteristics of andragogy
in EFL were already analyzed by Purwati et al. (2022), for adult EL
learners need an adaptable teaching-learning environment guided
by self-direction whereby relating personal experiences with new
pieces of knowledge. How to implement, adjust, or reconsider
andragogical principles in ESP remains relatively unexplored.
ese postulates of andragogy vary as to the tenets addressed
to children or adolescents whereby conventional pedagogy is
claimed. Hägg and Kurczewska (2019) recommended that a dual
notion of both pedagogy and andragogy be required for novice
adult learners whose ages range from 18 to 29, as determined by
Arnett (2000). However, this paper focuses on adult learners (25
to 64 years old) because Bocianu and Radler (2018) highlighted
the importance of making the dierence between pedagogy and
andragogy in the instruction process for adult education in general
and ESP in our case… to meet both their needs and those of
national and international labour markets (p. 70)”. A comparison
of pedagogy and andragogy led Knowles et al. (2005) to emphasize
dierences in terms of eight process elements. By reviewing these
dierences, ESP practitioners would comprehend the importance
of restraining from pedagogical and teacher-centered mindsets
when working with adults. Younger learners ponder very little about
tracing instructional objectives, contributing to lesson planning,
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targeting specic language needs, or becoming passive recipients
of what knowledgeable teachers signal as worthy of learning. On
the other hand, adult learners resent not being involved in those
processes and encountering formal, authoritarian, and teacher-
centered class environments.
Table 1:
C  P  A L T
Particularity Pedagogy Andragogy Instructional
Departure A stablished
Conducting a
needs analysis
Conducting a
needs analysis
e adults
Either forward
or backward
Learner’s role Passive as a
recipient of
Active, oen
Active, oen
Active, oen
duties outside
Very few to
Many (full or
part-time job,
marriage, etc.)
Many as an
active worker
Not applicable
Source: Own elaboration
One of the main dierences between pedagogy and andragogy
is what triggers the process of instructional or curriculum design:
the diagnosis of needs. In andragogy and ESP contexts, a Needs
Analysis (NA) oen takes place before curriculum design and
classroom instruction, and the adult learners and their stakeholders
play an active role in determining what their needs are. Whereas
pedagogy places the entire responsibility of diagnosing needs on
the teacher, andragogy and ESP welcome the involvement of adults
in assessing their needs, arranging the curriculum, negotiating the
objectives, consulting with subject matter experts (SMEs) (Ghafar,
2022) or specialists (Woodrow, 2018), collaboratively overcoming
in-class subject knowledge dilemmas (ISKDs) (Anthony, 2018),
among other issues. ESP holds a quite close learner-instructor
anity named shared expertise since “learners are likely to
have more experience than the teacher in the specic area being
targeted” (Hall, 2012). Such shared knowledge allows ESP scholar
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BLANCO ET AL. | Andragogical Principles and Adult Learners
instructors to conquer burdens during language instruction
(Bocanegra-Valle & Basturkmen, 2019, p. 137).
Needs of Analysis in ESP and Adult Education
EFL classroom environments in K-12 or tertiary education are
adhered to a rigid standard course of study. However, a similarity
between andragogy and ESP is the concern over the diagnosis
of students’ needs that would shape the curriculum. In fact, the
eld of Instructional Design (ID) also addresses the participants
needs from the very beginning (Seel et al., 2017). When ESP
practitioners conduct an NA, they follow a backward-design
process or ecological approach to curriculum design (Richards,
2017) that clearly resembles both an andragogical principle and a
step in ID. Lindenman and Dewel (1926) armed,
In conventional education the student is required to adjust
himself to an established curriculum; in adult education
the curriculum is built around the students’ needs and
interests. Every adult person nds himself in specic
situations with respect to his work, his recreation, his family
life, his community life, and other situations which call for
adjustments. (as cited in Knowles et al., 2020, p. 37)
While conducting the NA, ESP practitioners would gather as
many insights as possible about the participants and their language
e NA is also a strategic occasion to discover other details
about the adult learners, their motivations, life experiences,
agendas, academic backgrounds, etcetera (Anthony, 2018; Brown,
2016; Woodrow, 2018). Even with this initial consideration of the
participants’ needs, wants, lacks, and target communicative tasks,
the following stages of instructional design and implementation
can defy ESP teachers who fail to acknowledge andragogical
principles with their adult learners. us, the NA should also be
conducted with a set of theoretical considerations on how pedagogy
diers from andragogy to embrace the dimension of principles in
Macalister and Nations (2019) model of language curriculum.
eir model accounts for needs analysis, environmental analysis,
and principles as outer circles that inuence the inner sphere
traditionally viewed as the language syllabus.
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When ESP teachers carry out a NA, design a highly tailored
course, and approach the beginning of classroom instruction,
they may encounter the following challenges. First, precise need
identication varies while conducting a NA in an adult education
context, for needs could be labeled as latent, manifest, intrinsic,
and extrinsic. Second, some ESP practitioners may inaccurately
regard some needs as “urgent” (Guerid & Mami, 2017, p. 775). As
a third challenge, Sava (2012) warms on “determining the right
dimension of a need in a given context” (p. 17) because contextual
factors do inuence what is perceived as a need. A fourth peculiarity
is that “ESP language classes are usually mixed-level classes, where
some students might be le behind” (Benmassoud & Bouchara,
2021, p. 177). Fih, other individual dierences (Brown & Lee,
2015) ought to shape the strategic stages of an NA, instructional
or curriculum design, and lesson planning (Damayanti, 2020). A
sixth challenge is that the expectations about instructional tasks
and course arrangements dier among participants with dierent
ages greatly (Cozma, 2015). Indeed, a thoughtful NA could be
the main departure to embrace adult learning principles in ESP
despite the numerous challenges to conduct it.
Although andragogical principles may have already been
implemented in ESP through a NA, further educational research
is needed on how andragogy can explicitly nurture the ESP eld.
Indeed, the age factor in Second Language Acquisition (Saville-
Troike & Barto, 2016) could lead to diverse research initiatives in
ESP. anks to an NA, adult learning and andragogy principles
are implemented in ESP contexts by placing participants’ needs
as top priorities in a model of language curriculum (Macalister &
Nations, 2019). However, this literature review indicates that clear
guidelines on how to conduct an NA in ESP with a full reference
to adult learning principles are pending.
More Elaboration on Adult Learning Principles
Andragogical tenets also dier from the pedagogical model in
terms of how learning occurs and what the students’ and teachers
roles are. ESP practitioners seem to have followed unconsciously
andragogical principles by considering participants’ needs and
motivations, but further scrutiny is needed to gain insights on
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BLANCO ET AL. | Andragogical Principles and Adult Learners
how adult learners respond and make progress in their L2 skills
(Manangsa et al., 2020) while independently handling their
employment, nances, marriage, parenting, and studying all
at once. Although ESP diers from GE because of the careful
consideration of students’ needs and motivations to “determine the
curriculum” (Kakoulli Constantinou & Papadima-Sophocleous,
2021, p. 94), a full consideration of adult learning principles implies
more than an NA. For instance, Holton et al. (2008) paraphrased
the six assumptions or principles of andragogy into the following
1) “Adults need to know why they need to learn something before
learning it”.
ESP practitioners should expect their adult learners to
question or doubt whether the instructional activities are worth
doing. Unless clear explanations are oered about the relevance
of their EL teachers’ assignments and tasks, adults may remain
unmotivated or disinterested in their ESP class because they “need
to understand the rationale for each activity” (Jense, 2001, p. 406).
Taking time and precaution to clarify lesson plans and mediation
procedures would increase adults’ understanding of the reasons
behind such arrangements, and this accommodation is likely to
address this rst andragogical principle.
2) “e self-concept of adults is heavily dependent upon a move
toward self-direction”.
Being in control of their learning signals a main trait of adult
learners’ agency, and this has led to the establishment of the adult
learning principle of self-direction. Disregarding this principle
could hurt the participants’ sense of ownership and involvement
in the learning process. To surface and polish learning-to-learn
skills go hand in hand with adult self-direction because “these
skills include determining a personal need to know more, knowing
whom to ask or where to seek information, determining when
a need is met, and development of self-awareness of ones own
learning abilities” (Blumberg, 2009, p. 133). e participation of
the adults starts even in the NA, way prior classroom instruction.
Meriam et. al. (2006) indicated that “self-directing means that
adult students can [and must] participate in the diagnosis of their
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learning needs, the planning and implementation of the learning
experiences, and the evaluation of those experiences” (p. 85). Even
though ESP practitioners may not have realized it before, they
could have been unconsciously following the andragogy principle
of self-direction.
3) “Prior experiences of the learner provide a rich resource for
Adult learners should become the protagonists of the learning
process by contributing with their real-life experiences (Peterson
and Kolb, 2018). As a result, problem-solution and task-centered
methodologies suit adult learners who tend to be highly aware
of their communicative gaps “aer they experience a need in
their life situation” (Knowles et al., 2005, p. 294). When adults
realize the relevance and occupational applicability of what they
are experiencing in the ESP class and relate it to their prior life
experiences, they would invest more attention and studying time
because “interactions refer to the degree to which an experience
related to the goals of an individual. In experiential education,
students’ personal experiences come to the forefront” (Manolis et
al., 2013, p. 45). Isolated and job-detached instructional activities
lower adult motivation.
Feelings of acceptance and empowerment could emerge
among adult learners every time ESP practitioners draw on the
participants’ experiences. Quynh-Na (2007) agreed with focusing
on “a certain topic in daily lives, rather than focusing on language
skills” (p. 311). In this regard, Hashim and Othman (2006)
recommended incorporating learners’ daily routines and tasks into
content curricula, discussing core topics with learners, building
empathy, and leading ongoing assessment.
4) “Adults typically become ready to learn when they experience a
need to cope with a life situation or perform a task”.
Adult learners can spot their gaps and areas for improvement
while kids may not realize what contents and skills they need to
learn and develop. is adult learning trait allows these older
learners to focus on communicating their perceived needs and
studying mainly what they decide to prioritize, so “their readiness
to learn may be stimulated by helping them to assess the gaps
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BLANCO ET AL. | Andragogical Principles and Adult Learners
between where they are now and where they want or need to be
(Knowles, 2005, p. 294). A team partnership between the ESP
practitioner and the adult learner becomes strategic as long as they
understand and embrace the principle that the adult readiness
to learn redirects the teaching and learning process to certain
priorities set during the NA, but which undergo constant revision.
5) “Adults’ orientation to learning is life-centered, and they see
education as a process of developing increased competency levels to
achieve their full potential”.
Certainly, adult students’ learning contexts and situations
should be considered when devising ESP instruction. Anticipatedly,
Lyndenmman (1926) pointed that “adult orientation to learning
is life-centered, and adult learners are motivated to learn as they
experience needs and interests that learning will satisfy” (as cited
in Knowles et al., 2014, p. 40). Schwarzer (2009) recommended
establishing a “Community of Learners” to boost student
investment and commitment “when they feel welcome and part
of a caring learning community” (p. 26). Having adult learners
share their culture can make them feel at home based on their
participation in the classroom. is aids adult students to control
their didactic context.
On the contrary, Dufour et. al. (2010) stated that “the very essence
of a learning community is a focus on and a commitment to the
learning of each student” (p. 11). is integration-collaboration-
based perspective can create more signicant expertise within the
ESP curriculum, further enhancing the motivation and language
prociency of adult learners (Pontón & Fernández, 2014). Zeivots
(2016) portrayed “emotional highs as inner deep satisfaction
learner experiences when they have absorbed something
meaningful” (p. 368). Even in distance learning, ESP practitioners
can create digital niches and oer new chances for creating a sense
of togetherness. With respect to a contextualized-Chinese case,
Yao (2017) asserted that mixed learning environments can reduce
anxiety and promote self-dependence in adult learners.
6) “e motivation for adult learners is internal rather than external
For most adult learners, the likelihood of an employment
opportunity or salary raise triggers their motivation to learn
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or polish their English language skills. Within an instructional
environment, how adults feel and what they experience can also
boost learning as Dirkx (2001) explained:
Recognition and involvement of emotional experiences are
commonly used to engage learners in adult experiential lear-
ning. ese experiences are not only considered as crucial
for the learning process, but emotions always refer to the
self-being in the world, providing a means for developing
self-knowledge. Emotions are an integral part of how we in-
terpret and make sense of events in our lives. (as cited in
Zeivots 2016, p. 356)
Overlooking the role of emotions and motivations would harm
adult learning. Even when ESP practitioners face hectic agendas
conducting a NA, designing a syllabus, preparing instructional
materials, and other duties, adult motivation should be a guiding
principle. Besides current job opportunities and possible salary
raises, adults would also feel more motivated to learn once their
life and professional achievements gain attention and recognition
because “it is not experience, but experiencing that is the source of
learning… rough a Gestalt perspective, we accept that learning
and change can only occur when the individual perception and
meaning-making are interrupted” (Peterson & Kolb, 2018, p. 228).
Rather than uttering the adults weaknesses and setbacks with L2,
the ESP practitioners should draw on these andragogy principles,
foster self-direction, and guard what adults experience and how
they feel along the learning processes.
Self-Directed Learning and Experiential Learning
Aer listing some andragogical principles, this bibliographic
review now briey addresses two learning theories that would oer
ESP practitioners a better understanding of adult learning: self-
directed learning and experiential learning. First, self-direction
is fundamental in adult education because “self-directed learning
entails individuals taking initiative and responsibility for their
own learning” (Loeng, 2020, p. 2). If adults became self-driven in
their studies, their growth and progress would have higher chances
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BLANCO ET AL. | Andragogical Principles and Adult Learners
to be notorious and meaningful. One of the main dierences
between pedagogy and andragogy is the learners’ role, for younger
students oen remain more passive and dependent upon their
teachers. Adult students could be far more independent, while
young learners rely on their target language instructor “to take
full responsibility for making the decisions about what is to be
learned” (Knowles et al., 2005, p. 61). is fact reects the adults
deep sense of self-direction despite “a number of factors aecting
the propensity and ability to self-direct” (Loeng, 2020, p. 10). Self-
directed learning is a key goal in ESP settings where the EL teachers
are mainly facilitators. Self-directed learning is intrinsically linked
to the second principle of andragogy.
Second, what adults experience and how they feel during
mediation determine the extent to which meaningful learning
occurs. us, ESP teachers should be meticulous when designing
instruction, selecting learning tasks, and devising adult-oriented
lesson plans. Experiential learning became “a stand-alone
theory referring to a particular relationship between cognitive
and emotional processes, action-reection cycles, and ideas of
personal transformation” (Seaman et al., p. 15). Out of the six
propositions listed by Kolbe and Kolbe (2005) about experiential
learning, three key implications in ESP include the focus on the
process instead of the outcomes, learning as relearning, and an
adaptation to the world (p. 194). erefore, adults could fulll their
specic communicative needs in the target language if their ESP
teachers enrich the learning experiences, include the participants’
previous life situations, acknowledge their diverse learning styles,
target specic needs, and oer problem-solving tasks. Within EFL
settings, Purwati et al. (2022) claimed that “teachers should explore
and understand adults’ experiences as this information plays
an essential role in assisting adult learners to meet their needs
(p.3). In short, motivation towards language learning in the ESP
niche may be further enhanced if adult learners adopt a dynamic
position when introspecting and sharing their life experiences and
professional expertise.
Self-directed learning, experiential learning, and andragogy
incorporate various recurring steps, and ESP practitioners should
follow these cyclical processes. Knowles et al. (2005) stated that an
andragogical practice involves the following procedures
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preparing the learners, considering the physical and psycho-
logical climate setting, involving the learners in planning for
their learning, involving their learners in diagnosing their
own needs for learning, involving the learners in formula-
ting their own learning objectives, involving the learners in
designing learning plans, helping the learners to carry out
their learning plans, and involving the learners in evaluating
their own learning outcomes. (p. 295)
In such manner, ESP instructors ought to consider grown-
up learners’ life adventures, preferences, and necessities. Such
elements certainly center on devising, assessing, and evaluating the
ESP curriculum and lesson plans through interdisciplinarity and
collaboration since both teachers, adult learners, and SMEs openly
contribute to the instructional design and lesson planning. In fact,
this cooperative work is fundamental in ESP because the parties
can discuss mediation activities, elaborate on didactic material,
promote a productive classroom environment, and evaluate the
entire process while “construct[ing] social roles and identities in
relation to one another through active participation in particular
communities of practice” (Warriner, 2010, p. 23). In that regard,
ESP practitioners, ESP customer populations, and SMEs display
a clear example of what an andragogical process looks like when
they collaborate as a community of learners.
Instructional Design (ID): Devising Lessons for
Both andragogy and ID contain tenets that are compatible
with ESP. ID also favors a needs analysis before designing any
instructional or curriculum proposal (Seel et al., 2017). For example,
some researchers have already explored the implementation
of the ADDIE model in diverse ESP elds and contexts such as
aeronautical English training in Korea (Park & Human, 2020)
and business college courses in Indonesia (Iswati, 2019). Although
ID embraces several models, Molenda (2015) concluded that there
is “a tendency to accept the ADDIE term as an umbrella term
within ID (p. 41). e ve processes this acronym stands for are the
following: [needs] analysis, design, development, implementation,
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BLANCO ET AL. | Andragogical Principles and Adult Learners
and evaluation. e ADDIE model clearly suits ESP projects with
adults because practitioners oen follow these ve processes.
e ID of ESP courses should appeal to the adult participants
skills, motivations, behaviors, and “[language learning] strategies
to plan instruction that can contribute to task operationalization
within their daily life duties (Hashim et al., 2018, p. 40). However,
a challenge ESP practitioners may encounter is that “adult learners
come to the English lesson with lots of expectations about the
learning procedures, and in the case these expectations are
not accomplished, they may become critical towards the new
environment of instruction” (Cozma, 2015, p. 1211). is type of
student rejection must be avoided at all costs because adults are
prone to drop out and stop attending classes.
Adult learning
in English for
Specic Purposes
Design (ID)
& e ADDIE
Table 2:
F S A L
Source: Own elaboration
is bibliographic review has identied four elds that ESP
practitioners can draw from while catering adult learners. ESP
settings tend to be adult-oriented, so ESP instructors should deeply
regard andragogy, experiential learning, instructional design,
and self-directed learning in the work with adult. Clearly, other
teaching methodologies and principles can be added to this list.
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Other Cognition, Aection, Attitude and Behavior
is last section of the bibliographic review explores some
dierences among toddlers, teenagers, and adults that Cozma
(2015) sorted them into three groups: cognitive, attitudinal, and
behavioral characteristics. Park and Reuter-Lorenz (2009) and
Reuter-Lorenz and Cappell (2008) recommended the scaolding
theory of aging and cognition as “a process present across the
lifespan that involves the use and development of complementary,
alternative neural circuits to achieve a particular cognitive goal
(as cited in Castañeda, 2017, p. 318). Both attitude and cognition
matters are clearly linked and overlapped which makes the STAC
method have a strong inuence on adult learners’ motivation and
predisposition to learn. Leuner and Gould (2010) advised how
structural ductility makes modications in the brain with the pass
of time and recalled that as people age, their capacity to produce
new brain cells decreases. is means that ESP teachers need to
regard such brain distinctions between young and old learners in
their teaching situations.
Adult learners most likely restart English classes to fulll the
emerging professional requirements and employment options.
Because younger learners are also applying for such jobs, older
applicants should polish their English skills. As a result, their
ESP instructors ought to acknowledge the “growing motivational,
personal or aective diculties that unemployed adult learners are
currently facing in the English subject when they decide to retake
their studies” (Castañeda, 2017, p. 136). Most adult learners seem
aware of the relevance of upgrading the communicative skills in
this foreign language as a way to meet the high expectations of
a competitive labor market. Certainly, the challenges go beyond
the educational contexts as Schwarzer (2009) warns that adults
motivation to learn ESL [ESP] also transforms and evolves with
the changes they face in their lives outside classroom” (p. 27). ere
is a clear connection between employment, learning English, and
adults’ personal lives.
Besides the challenge of learning English as technological
nomads, there are other demands that include accounting for
and handling personal issues. ese aspects clearly interfere and
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BLANCO ET AL. | Andragogical Principles and Adult Learners
make adult learners’ “study time fragmented” (Yao, 2019, p. 120).
Tarnopolsky (2016) proposes three assumptions to teach English
to adults: considering learner’s attitudes to the methods of teaching
English, limited intensiveness of the teaching/learning process,
and avoiding home tasks (pp. 10-12). ESP practitioners could plan
their lessons following these principles because adults have limited
time to study, so there should be fewer classroom and home tasks.
Mixed-level classroom settings tend to be the norm in ESP
instruction for adult learners (Benmassoud & Bouchara, 2021).
When adults embark again on formal English classes aer some
years, they could have either gained or lost speaking uency,
vocabulary domain, and language accuracy in L2. eir diverse
features go beyond language prociency and include learning
styles, paces, strategies, expectations, and previous experiences
(Quynh-Na, 2007), so several teaching adjustments should be
made, like oering instructional “materials [that] are adapted to
their language level” (Marcu, 2020, p. 309). Another consideration
to suit adult learners is that instructional exercises and tasks require
careful consideration of the diculty and “sequencing variables
(Malicka et al., 2019, p. 78). Indeed, Kurbanova and Ataeva (2020)
list some of these accommodations: “e methodological basis of
multilevel training [for adults] is individualization, a dierentiated
level of requirements, a high level of the proposed material, a
multilevel system for testing” (p. 721). A way to adjust teaching
materials and worksheets for students with multi-level prociency
levels includes “tiered tasks” (Bowler and Parminter, 2016, p. 59),
but adults may benet more from teamwork or projects in which
they are given a customized or tailored task “that is appropriate
for their [English prociency] level” (Quynh-Na, 2007, p. 311).
Overcoming the challenge of multi-level and heterogenous classes
is part of the ESP teacher’s agenda.
A well-known fact is that adults learning a foreign language
may be irritated if they experience some kind of obstruction of
their aective lter (Krashen, 1982). ESP instructors are to devise
and develop lesson plans considering both aective and cognitive
elements that contribute to decrease the manifestations of stress
such as anxiety, fear, insecurity, or low self-esteem. Even in a mixed
learning environment, adult learners can tend to overcome their
fear of learning, develop autonomous learning skills, and develop
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the ability to choose individual learning strategies. To further
reduce these negative feelings, it is very important to consider
their learning style. Regarding experiential learning theory (ELT),
Kolb and Kolb (2005) state that “learning styles are inuenced by
personality type, educational specialization, career choice, and
current job roles and tasks” (p. 195). For this reason, instructors
who pay attention to the styles and characteristics of adult learners
will incorporate these aspects into their lesson plans.
As to language learning, working memory (WM) and short-
term phonological memory (PSTM) may help young students
to cognitively process information faster and become better
at pronunciation than adults (Mackey & Sachs, 2012, p. 709).
erefore, Araujo (2018) recommended that “novice adult
learners be encouraged not to do the following: write every
idea down before expressing it aloud and analyze every single
language component” (p. 66). Furthermore, this author advised
that language teachers avoid distressing their adult students with
content and information. Adult education can be more eective
when classroom activities encourage question-and-answer,
problem-nding, and problem-solving (Hashim & Othman 2006,
p. 11). Vocabulary memorization tasks and pronunciation drills
can quickly bore adults.
Nevertheless, various scholars argue that adult learners are
well-equipped to reach competitive levels of target language
mastery. Initially, Shevchenko (2015) concluded that “there
is no tough connection between age and success in acquiring a
foreign language intonation” (p. 612). Adult learners demand
more repetitive and slow learning” but tend to adopt more steady
knowledge (Castañeda, 2019, p. 319). Cozma (2015) explained
that adults are more cooperative learners despite their hectic job
and personal agendas. Last, Tripathy (2019) argued that there is
a “distaste of adult learners toward English sounds, but eective
ESP instruction would “boost their condence in carrying out
daily conversations” (p. 103). Despite their age and multiple
responsibilities, adults could still polish their English language
e obstacles adults face cannot block completely these
participants from learning this foreign language. Younger learners
benet from formal educational settings while adults have more
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BLANCO ET AL. | Andragogical Principles and Adult Learners
experience and skills within academic contexts. For this reason,
Herschensohn (2012) argued that:
Unlike naturalistic exposure, instructed exposure to an L2
does not show a clear advantage for earlier learners; there is
oen an advantage for a higher AoA, (Age of Onset of Ac-
quisition), for the older learner has more developed cogniti-
ve skills and academic strategies that furnish an advantage in
instructed language learning. (p. 323)
ESP teachers should understand that older students are
ahead of younger students in terms of previous instructional
experiences, higher cognition, self-direction, and studying habits
and techniques.
When adult learners make mistakes and even risk fossilization,
they tend to encounter emotional or cognitive diculties
reaching language accuracy. eir inaccuracy in L2 aects them
emotionally. Castañeda (2017) highlighted that “this limitation
leads to fears of ridicule when speaking in public and a sharp
decrease in condence and self-esteem, which aects the possible
satisfactory outcome of any communicative learning strategy” (p.
140). e way ESP practitioners oer adults feedback and work
on language accuracy could either harm or boost the emotional
well-being. Monitoring language production and accuracy can
serve as an informal assessment tool instead of traditional testing
(Macalister & Nation, 2020) that adults may feel more afraid or
uncomfortable. Recasts and other feedback techniques can be
employed to foster a safe and encouraging classroom atmosphere
in case reaching language accuracy has been established as a need
and a component of the ESP course.
Positive emotional experiences enhance experiential learning.
For instance, Zeivots (2016) studied how lived experiences of
emotional highs shape adult experiential learning. Among the
discoveries, it was determined as fundamental to oer adults
experiences to face the unknown, generate a sense of change,
guide them through rst-time experiences, lead to unexpected
discoveries, and embark adults into the never-ending journey
of learning. Certainly, these are valuable considerations that
ESP practitioners should examine at any ADDIE model stage.
Facing the unknown while learning a foreign language may
turn troublesome at rst, but proper guidance and planning can
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ensure adults unexpectedly discovering more insights into their
professional or occupational elds.
e emotional factor with adult learners deserves more
attention and co