Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Understanding Pedagogy, Andragogy and Heutagogy

As our semester comes to a close, I am reminded of the types of learners that flock to our campus and some who are preparing for graduation. I think about how we prepare the individuals to take on their next stages of development; either to ensure they have the skills to land an entry-level career, or advance in the career for which they are already working.

The land grant mission of our University is to serve the residents of the District of Columbia who are often, working adults. Students enroll in courses and programs to increase their knowledge and advance their skills and abilities to get better jobs, gain access to new careers and provide better lives for the families and communities that they come from. As such, how might we best reach adult learners and reach-out to more who may not be able to pursue a traditional college education?

I propose that online and hybrid courses are but one way to meet the growing demands of an educated workforce and the constituency of working adults seeking advanced credentials. In order to ensure we put forward our best practices in serving our constituents in the online or hybrid environment, we might reflect on the conceptual understandings of teaching and learning. Let us begin with pedagogy, andragogy and heutagogy.

Pedagogy typically refers to how the instructor facilitates the learning (the process) where the focus is on what the instructor does (how they design activities and content) as opposed to what the participants do or what they bring to the learning environment - teacher centered (Beich, 2008).

Andragogy is best understood as an adult learning concept popularized by Malcolm Knowles. It is based upon understanding the motivations behind learning. It is noteworthy to point out that the focus is upon the student and their intrinsic desire to create knowledge and an understanding that the instructor facilitates students’ self actualization of their full potential.

Andragogy includes:

  • Problem centered rather than content centered pedagogy.
  • The consideration of learner experiences (prior knowledge).
  • Experiential learning and reflection.
  • A partnership between the learner and the instructor.
  • Self-directed focus and authenticity.
  • A need to know why one needs to learn something (full disclosure).

In the 1950s European scholars looked for ways to distinguish passive learning from active learning. They settled upon the term andragogy as a way to refer to learning that was engaged and student centered. Malcolm Knowles made distinctions that andragogy focused upon adult education whereas pedagogy related to the education of children. While some make these distinctions, others may not; moreover, some may consider that the two concepts are inter-linked and part of the progressive educational model or the continuum of active-based or experiential education found at all stages of formal and informal learning.



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Heutagogy promotes the concept of self-determined holistic learning through critical reflection. The approach facilitates a flexible modality where the instructor shares resources and learners help design the course or path of learning (Hase and Kenyon (2001). Heutagogy involves encouraging learners to become deeply reflective while developing their capabilities. Reflection focuses upon helping the learner understand how experiences affect their values, beliefs, goals, habits, conceptual frameworks, and previously held ideals and to contemplate ways in which the learner might expand their self efficacy in these areas. Argyris and Schon (1996) called this double-loop learning. Like andragogy, it too is student centered and involves reflection to stimulate meaning.

What is the relevance of heutagogy to online learning? Online learning is in a unique position to expand the heutagogical approach, as well as stimulate additional research into heutagogy. As we embrace the full conceptual range of epistemology and acknowledge that age alone cannot determine cognitive maturity or motivation to learn, we find that the online learning environment is a flexible modality to facilitate self-directed and self-determined learning. Online course design is a natural fit to construct activities that are authentic and lend themselves to self-directed learning.

By understanding our students, instructors might redesign courses to build a sustainable community whereby students develop the skills necessary to explore their values, the values of the community and ultimately the values of society at large as they progress from module to module in an online course.

With its learner-centered design, Web 2.0 offers an environment that supports a heutagogical approach that supports the development of learner-generated content, learner self-directedness in information discovery and learner engagement in defining their learning path.

The asynchronous nature of online learning offers many affordances and allows for reflective thinking since the students have time to respond to peers and to form questions of their own as they struggle with problems. Parameters can be set by the instructor while students can determine the scope and creativity of the projects, activities, or papers based on their own particular needs for relevance, time concerns, need to know, past experiences, and readiness to learn.



Argyris, C and Schon, D. (1996) Organisational Learning II, Addison-Wesley, Reading.

Beich, E. (2008). ASTD Handbook for Workplace Learning Professionals. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

Blaschke, Lisa Marie. (2012). Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A Review of Heutagogical Practice and Self-Determined Learning. < http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1076/2087 >.

Hase, Stewart and Chris Kenyon (2001). From Andragogy to Heutagogy. < http://www.psy.gla.ac.uk/~steve/pr/Heutagogy.html >

JEberle, Jane., and Marcus Childress. (2007).Heutagogy: It Isn’t Your Mother’s Pedagogy Any More. National Social Science Association http://www.nssa.us/journals/2007-28-1/2007-28-1-04.htm

Knowles, M. (1973). The adult learner: A neglected species. Houston: Gulf.

Knowles, M. (1970). The modern practice of adult education: Andragogy versus pedagogy. New York: Association Press.

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