Self-determined learning

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In the abstract of ‘From Andragogy to Heutagogy’ December 2000, Stewart Hase and Chris Kenyon, from Southern Cross University ( state:

“In something of a landmark for education Knowles (1970) suggested an important change in the way in which educational experiences for adults should be designed. The approach, known as andragogy, contrasts quite sharply with pedagogy which is the teaching of children. This paper suggests there is benefit in moving from andragogy towards truly self-determined learning. The concept of truly self-determined learning, called heutagogy, builds on humanistic theory and approaches to learning described in the 1950s. It is suggested that heutagogy is appropriate to the needs of learners in the twenty-first century, particularly in the development of individual capability. A number of implications of heutagogy for higher education and vocational education are discussed.”

So what are the key differences between andragogy and heutagogy? Wikipedia ( puts it succinctly:

“Heutagogy places specific emphasis on learning how to learn, double loop learning, universal learning opportunities, a non-linear process, and true learner self-direction. So, for example, whereas andragogy focuses on the best ways for people to learn, heutagogy also requires that educational initiatives include the improvement of people’s actual learning skills themselves, learning how to learn as well as just learning a given subject itself. Similarly, whereas andragogy focusses on structured education, in heutagogy all learning contexts, both formal and informal, are considered.”(Samantha Chapnick and Jimm Meloy (2005). ‘From Andragogy to Heutagogy’. Renaissance elearning: creating dramatic and unconventional learning experiences. Essential resources for training and HR professionals. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 36–37. ISBN 0787971472.)

Whether we consider this proposal in the more formal educational arena or the growing informal environment, it raises a number of practical implementation questions:

  • What will help start the heutagogical revolution?
  • How will formal education adapt to accept this seemingly less academic approach to learning?
  • Why would business accept this approach to learning?
  • Where will people record their self-determined learning to proof of learning to employers?
  • Who will accredit self-determined learning?
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Heutagogical Learning

Is this the way forward?

Read a summary of heutagogy here:

Or the full version of the original paper here:

Have a read and next week we will tell you our thoughts.

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Formal versus informal learning, part 2 of 2

The term “informal learning” suggests a number of key characteristics, such as:

  • Un structured or semi structured
  • It is often centered around the practical, problem solving or situational need of the learner
  • It can happen anywhere, at home or work, through the learner’s daily interactions and relationships. It can happen in anyway, through books, support materials, communities of learning, coaching, centres of excellence or self study programs

Although informal learning is growing in stature, society does not generally hold it in as high regard as formal learning. Somehow learning discovered by oneself is seen as less valuable. Perhaps this is because it has not been tested to a particular standard, such as more formal learning leading to a qualification generally are.

However, is this true? Informal learning is often more practically relevant to the learner, applied and tested in real world situations, than formal academic learning is.

In today’s business world what is useful is not so much what you know, as the ability to find it out, in a timely manner, problem solve the solution and adapt what you have found and apply the relevant knowledge, skills and attitudes to your particular situation correctly.

So the core skill becomes learning to learn rather than anything else.

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Formal versus informal learning, part 1 of 2

The term formal learning suggests a number of key characteristics, such as: 

  • Structure, objectives and a curriculum
  • It is centered around the teacher-student relationship
  • And it is intentional, in that the learning leads to a formal qualification of some description

However formal learning is also very much linked to the process of education, where society decides which knowledge, skills and values it wants the next generation to know. There is a sense perhaps that it is about the past and what past generations have learnt and thought valuable to know.

Many societies continue to hold formal learning in high regard, especially where the professions are concerned, for example doctors and lawyers.

This is despite the questionable relevance in today’s business world of not only some of the classical degrees, such as English and Art, but also some other degrees. Here’s a sample of the ‘others’ for you:

  • Sports Ministry at Campbell University’s School of Theology in Kentucky, USA
  • A Masters in Digital Games at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK
  • Tae Kwon Do Masters Degree at Kyung Hee University in South Korea
  • Mississippi State University in the USA offers a degree course in Floral Management
  • A Doctorate in Philosophy of UFOlogy at Melbourne University, Australia
  • And our favourite, a degree in parapsychology at Coventry University

Irrespective of the topic, we are moved to ask, what does a degree get you, apart from knowledge of the finer points of debt management.

Does it prepare you for your working life in any way? Or does it simply give you a possible in for your first interview?

Admittedly this is as much a problem of universities as it is of businesses.

On a more personal level however many people, both young and old want to be able to say they have reached a certain level or ability in a particular topic, hence the appeal of the Open University in the UK.

To be continued…

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Where do you learn?

There seems to a certain assumption, that our adult learning life goes something like this:

  • We learn facts at School and how to regurgitate them, in particular at exam time
  • We then go to College to either further our education or potentially to pick up some vocationally based skills
  • Or / and we might be lucky enough to go to University to pick up further detailed knowledge about a particular topic and how to discuss the pros and cons of said topic
  • Either after college or university, or simply as an extension of it, we may to decide to pursue some professional qualifications in our chosen field
  • At work we will attend the mandatory training sessions on common topics

Anything other than that, and we may have been generous with what you have been able to do out of the above list, is down to us.

However is that true? Do we simply stagnate? Or do we all carry on learning, but in different ways, perhaps more informal ways?

Have your say and participate in the poll below:

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