From Pedagogy to Heutagogy

My thanks to Richard Whiteside from Active Language in Cadiz for drawing my attention a few weeks ago at the FECEI conference in Madrid to heutagogy.

Read on if you want to know about heutagogy and its ancestors pedagogy and andragogy and what it has to do with learner coaching.

The term pedagogy tends to be used in education to describe the study of teaching learners of all ages, though the Greek roots of the word refer to teaching children. In the late 1960s the term andragogy (teaching adults) gained some currency in the wake of the expansion of adult education in many parts of the world. As adults were doing a lot more formal learning, it made sense to differentiate the study of teaching adults and children.
In his andragogical model, Knowles made four basic assumptions about learners, all of which have some relationship to our notions about a learner’s ability, need, and desire to take responsibility for learning:
1. Their self-concept moves from dependency to independency or self-directedness.
2. They accumulate a reservoir of experiences that can be used as a basis on which to build learning.
3. Their readiness to learn becomes increasingly associated with the developmental tasks of social roles.
4. Their time and curricular perspectives change from postponed to immediacy of application and from subject-centeredness to performance-centeredness.
Andragogy has not really caught on as a word in ELT, though teachers will recognise the principles outlined in Knowles model.
Heutagogy, a term coined by Stewart Hase of Southern Cross University and Chris Kenyon in Australia, is the study of self-determined learning. The notion is in some ways an expansion and reinterpretation of andragogy.
Heutagogy places specific emphasis on learning how to learn, universal learning opportunities and true learner self-direction. So, for example, whereas andragogy focuses on the best ways for people to learn, heutagogy also includes the improvement of people’s actual learning skills themselves, learning how to learn as well as just learning a given subject. Whereas andragogy focusses on structured education, in heutagogy all learning contexts, both formal and informal, are considered.
The last point is perhaps the most crucial. For language learners, particularly English language learners, informal contexts for learning have mushroomed in the last 15 years with the arrival of the internet and e media. How learners manage and navigate these opportunities will determine how far they go with their English and how long it takes them to get there. As classroom teachers we still need a handle on how people learn in that context, but increasingly on how the classroom event fits into the wider picture of our learners language lives.
In the previous century we thought of self directed learning as something which applied to PhD students, very smart people beavering away independently on research and reading with some ocasional encouragement and direction from a supervisor. In this century this model will apply increasingly to learning of all kinds and to all ages and types of learner.
For teachers this will require a shift along the PAH continuum towads a more comprehensive consideration of how our learners achieve their goals, beyond our own interventions to facilitate learning in the classroom.
Heutagogy doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, I know, and we are not even sure how to pronounce it when it does, but maybe it’s time to put pedagogy to bed and have some grown up time with our students.
For more on this, Google heutagogy. There are also some good references on the Wikipedia page for heutagogy

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8 Responses to From Pedagogy to Heutagogy

  1. Pingback: Learner-centeredness: treating adults as adults. | ROSE BARD – Teaching Journal

  2. Stewart Hase says:

    Hi, this is a bit belated but I just came across your blog while researching our forthcoming book on heutagogy. We think that children are potent, capable learners until they go to school. Then the capacity to learn is largely kicked out of them as they are force fed information instead of being given the opportunity to continue to learn. Our education systems are based on antiquated models of teacher centric learning. We think that learning in the 21st century is different and there is a return to what we did so well as children. As Ackoff points out, we need to turn education on its head. We need to learn into the future.


    Stewart Hase

    • Hi Stewart,

      We’re very glad you found us, and what’s more, commented. Thank you. Perhaps you can explain how it’s pronounced ;o)

      Do let us know when your book is available, won’t you?


  3. Thanks for your comments Sean and Dan
    I like your point, Sean , about discipline and effort. My understanding is that a coaching approach can help learners understand this better and, where their application or discipline is lacking, coaching can help to build it. Dan’s point about the difference between learning a language and other subjects is also very important. In maths there is no way forward without conscious understanding. With languages its mainly practice really, like going to the gym to get fitter. One of the biggest poroblems with language teaching still is that it is rooted in “pedagogy”, treated as a knowledge base to be explained by the teacher, rather than an aquired attribute (like fitness). Dan, I agree about technology affording learners opportunities to play with language. Encouraging students to play more often in English and becoming aware of the benefits is I think what the coach can help with.

  4. Sean says:

    Sorry to be blunt, but, this is rubbish. I spent too many years watching soi-disant ‘unschoolers’ cede to their ignorant little savages the ‘right’ to ‘choose’ to remain ignorant, known to them as ‘letting the child guide the learning’, to buy into this sort of claptrap.
    Worthwhile learning, that is, learning that leads to accomplishment and success and the attendant self satisfaction that it brings, is, with vanishingly few exceptions, the result of discipline and effort. There is no equivalence between learning to identify letters and a few sight words and learning the deliberate strategies needed to attack dioxymethylene protocatechuic aldehyde, as there is a vast gulf between 1, 2, 3, ‘many’ and applied integral calculus.
    As with most worthwhile trips, difficulty whets the appetite and a knowledgeable guide helps you plan better, travel farther, and see more than you could have alone. Without intelligent, capable teachers, as opposed to the bureaucratic placeholders that the degree mills churn out to inflict on our kids, entropy is inevitable and ignorance ascendent.

    • Hi Sean,

      Thanks for your response. I’m confused as to what you think is rubbish. Your reaction seems to be against unschooling, which I don’t think Duncan or I are advocating here. I can’t speak for Duncan, who wrote the post, but I believe that both formal classroom learning and informal learning have their place in child and adult education. Nevertheless, ELT is witnessing an increase in out-of-class learning with the advent of greater and more diverting forms of language practice via e-technologies and it seems important for teachers to be aware of these possibilities for their students.

      One big difference between applied integral calculus, chemistry and other academic subjects and English as a foreign language is that the methodology of hard graft studying grammar and vocabulary does not necessarily lead to self-satisfaction in learners. Many, but not all learners, find that using English rather than merely studying it helps much more in their acquisition of better speaking, listening, reading and writing skills. Unlike many formal subjects, and like many life skills (such as learning your mother tongue) the acquisition of a language is largely unconscious. A language is more a skill than an academic subject.

      However, as we get older, the theory goes that learning does gain a certain self-consciousness; adults need to think about their learning more (and naturally do). Also, they are able to manage their learning more autonomously, all of which is encompassed by the term heutagogy. My point was that perhaps the attraction of the new forms of learning may be that, in actual fact, they encourage a more unconscious and ‘playful’ form of language practice, which may be just what learners need to motivate them and encourage them after years of formal study. Motivation is a mystery; it can come from tackling difficult subjects and succeeding, as you say, but it also comes when you find yourself succeeding effortlessly.

      Thanks again, and keep ’em coming :o)

  5. Daniel says:

    Dan here. I do love a dose of new terminology! And this P(edagogy) A(ndragogy) H(eutagogy) continuum seems like a useful model of autonomy, from child-like dependence to grown up independence. However, I question your prediction, Duncan, that this is what’s happening with e-learning.
    If heutagogy includes all informal learning opportunities, I’d argue that children do this better than adults. They learn most of their important life skills (including literacy and numeracy) from the world outside the classroom and away from teachers and parents, albeit unconsciously. And this is my key point – independent learning can happen in a fully aware, metacognitive manner or it can be ‘metacognition-free’, child-like if you prefer. I wonder whether the apps and other new learning platforms will simply replace traditional inflexible and often ‘dull’ classroom-led homework – so more andragogic input, just more fun and flexible is all.
    So I don’t see that greater independence from the teacher necessarily leads to ‘true learner self-direction’. This feeling we have that learners need to be more aware of their learning might be misplaced. Learners don’t need to examine their navels, they just need to be taken out into the playground to be children again!

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