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Knowles’, Barr, and Keating’s Educational Program Planning Models

The success of any educational process depends on its planning. It is the plan that provides a framework for the educational process. Educators use various models when planning for educational programs. Most popular program planning models in use are Knowles’ and Barr and Keating’s models of planning. Though they may seem similar, these models differ in some aspects. The planning models are relevant to different situations for instance some are applicable to informal education while others are much suitable for the conventional way of teaching. This paper discusses the different situations under which the two planning models can be useful. The merits and demerits of these two models are also highlighted. The similarities and differences between these two models are also discussed in this paper.

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Introduced by Malcolm Knowles, Knowles Model spells out that program planning should be aimed at developing methodologies that will lead to a self-directing learning. That in planning, much emphasis should be on the adult learners’ interests (Knowles, 1990). In this model, Knowles asserted that informal programs should be incorporated in adult learning. The model also calls for integration of the learners’ experiences and environment conditions in planning. The informal programs according to Knowles are those programs not commonly associated with the established institutions of learning; high schools, colleges and universities. To Knowles, involvement of the adult learners in planning is indispensable (Kowalski, 1988).

Knowles’ model finds much application with most educationists. This is because it leads to the learners developing self initiative in learning which can lead to better learning of the individuals. As a result of its use of informal programs, this model is particularly useful in planning for informal education programs. However, it is disadvantageous in that it proposes over reliance on a single methodology of instruction which may not work well with all learners.

Barr and Keating model of the educational program planning was a construct of the WICHE (Western Interstate Commission of Higher Education) model. Barr and Keating recommended that three elements should be considered equally when planning (McClellan, Stringer & Barr, 2009). The elements as proposed by Barr and Keating are; learners, goals of the program and methods of intervention. This model advocates for the general practice of teaching the learners and not on self-directed learning methodologies. This model finds much application in the conventional method of teaching. It is largely applied in formal set-ups; schools, colleges and universities. To use this planning model, the teacher or the facilitator must carefully plan to cater for all the elements proposed by Barr and Keating.

Both models stress on the importance of involving the learners in the planning stage. Both models also emphasize on the importance of evaluation of the outcomes of the education programs. However, notable differences are observable between the two models. Knowles’ model proposes a self-directed learning in which the learners are just guided to study out of their own initiatives (Smith, 2002). On the contrary, Barr and Keating’s model focuses on direct teaching.

Knowles’ model advocates for self directed learning and use of informal education in adult teaching. Informal education refers to any learning experience organized out of formal settings of schools and colleges. The informal settings can be in churches and community functions that bring members of a community together. As such, the model calls for consideration of group activities during planning. To Knowles these settings form a rich source of information (Knowles & Knowles, 1955). On the contrary, Barr and Keating model presents a different approach to program planning. This model calls for direct teaching methods of instruction. It does not support the self-directed learning. Instead, the teacher is to play a key role in the learning experience. This model recommends the use of conventional methods of instruction and not on a single methodology as connoted by Knowles’ model.

Barr and Keating’s model recommend that three main factors be considered during planning; learners, purpose and method of delivery. In following this model, these elements are to be given equal consideration (McClellan, Stringer & Barr, 2009). However in Knowles’ model much emphasis is on the learners.

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Knowles, M. (1990). The adult learner: A neglected species. 4th edition. Houston: Gulf Publishing Co.

Knowles, M. S., & Knowles, H. F. (1955) How to Develop Better Leaders, New York: Association Press.

Kowalski, T. J. (1988). The Organization and Planning of Adult Education. New York: SUNY Press.

McClellan, G. S., Stringer, J., & Barr, M.J.(2009). The Handbook of Student affairs Administration. Hoboken: John Wiley and sons.

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

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StudyCorgi. (2021, December 15). Knowles’, Barr, and Keating’s Educational Program Planning Models.

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"Knowles’, Barr, and Keating’s Educational Program Planning Models." StudyCorgi, 15 Dec. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Knowles’, Barr, and Keating’s Educational Program Planning Models." December 15, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Knowles’, Barr, and Keating’s Educational Program Planning Models." December 15, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Knowles’, Barr, and Keating’s Educational Program Planning Models." December 15, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Knowles’, Barr, and Keating’s Educational Program Planning Models'. 15 December.

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