From Andragogy to Heutagogy

In the past few weeks I’ve come to realise a very interesting discovery in the way people, including myself, learn when we have extra time on our hands.

The pandemic has forced many to stay indoors and consequently, brought upon us a huge opportunity to learn new knowledge, skills and change of behaviour.

Prior to this, I often talk about “Andragogy” – the adult learning theory which focuses on the shift from dependent learning to self-directed learning (Malcolm Knowles, 1975). Commonly associated with training due to the nature of the learners’ age (in comparison to “Pedagogy” or child learning theory often associated with learning in school), “Andragogy” had always been the go to reference when dealing with learners’ who are more matured in nature.

Key traits of adult learners’ include the ability to choose what they want to learn (self-directed), they learn because of the need to solve problems that they face (problem-centric) and the influence of background experience in the speed of their learning. This has so far been a great impact to designing and delivering training programmes for a majority of working adults’ competency building.

However, training as a form of ensuring learning occurs, still remains to be partly initiated by the employers rather than the individual employees themselves. The employees may have an interest to learn a new skill or knowledge in certain areas, but final say still lies within the decision of the top management. Hence, most training programmes are organised based on the needs of the business.

So, when does learning becomes truly 100% the decision of the individual?

This is where the lockdown duration has expedite “Heutagogy” – a learning theory which is based on “self-determined learning” (Hase and Kenyon, 2000).

We now live in the age where learning resources are abundance. Technology advancement has made the average worker to have at least a basic smartphone and an acceptable internet speed connection in their home. Pair that with time on their hands during lockdown or self-quarantine, and we have an ideal condition for “Heutagogy” to happen.

“Heutagogy” kicks things up a notch from “Andragogy” as self-determined learning means the responsibility of application is now driven by the individual themselves. In “Heutagogy”, the learners’ determination is driven from the desire to do something to achieve a desired goal. It doesn’t necessarily require a linear approach nor does it require a single source of instruction. Because the focus is on building a capability (ability to achieve desired outcome) the learner is the true driver of the learning process (autonomous).

Here’s a simple example of “Heutagogy” taking place. You want to start a personal website with a blog. Due to the restrictions, there are no training programmes that you can attend to learn this. Your next best option is to search for video tutorials on YouTube. You start with the most obvious question, “How to start a personal website with a blog?” This leads you on a scavenger hunt to find the right videos that addresses the issues that you face as you start building your website. At times, you may also divert into something that seems to be off topic like “How to remove backgrounds in my photos?” – but this happens because you needed nice picture for you blog profile. And at the end of it all, you now have a functional blog on the web. You are happy and now slightly capable of sharing that website building experience with others.

So, if you have learned something new by your own choice and free will during the duration of lockdown or self-quarantine, and now, after several weeks, have made it into something that you are capable of doing, then congratulations my friend, you too are a prime example of “Heutagogy” in action – an evidence that the “self-determined learning theory” is true.

Now the next question is, how does this change the training landscape for the time to come?

Feel free to leave your thoughts on the comment section below.