Blending Heutagogy in traditional Adult learning


First there was Pedagogy, where the teacher directed the students on what to learn and how to learn. Then came Andragogy, where the teacher directed the students on what to learn, leaving the process to them. This is also popularly known as Self paced learning.

Heutagogy is about developing the capability of the student to decide what to learn, how to learn and use it effectively.

So what is “Capability”, which is becoming a buzz word for individuals and organizations?

Capability is defined as a self efficacy in understanding what to learn, how to learn, creativity, ability to use the learning in innovative ways and working effectively with others.

Moving beyond self paced and self directed learning, this was clearly differentiated by Argryis and Schon ( 1996) by explaining the “double loop” learning where the learner first challenges his theories in use, values, approach and applies new learning. Reflection and small experiences play a critical role in building understanding and readiness to move to new behavior.

So how do we bring this into a structured classroom for adults, which has a fundamental approach of driving learning in limited time ?  Though we cannot replicate Heutagogy fully in a predefined classroom format, we can spark a process which would be significantly more effective in demonstrating changed behavior and improving capability.

Some key points, based on Rogers ( 1951)  five hypotheses for “Student centered learning” are :

  1. Questions , Questions , Questions : Emphasize on Facilitating the learning rather than downloading information. Ask and elicit questions, stimulate thinking and encourage discussions.
  2. Relax and enjoy: A classroom setting  takes every participant back to childhood, with subconscious feelings of deadlines, pressure to learn and compete.  For an adult, learning is significantly diminished by a threat to perceived structure and maintenance of self.  A relaxed and enjoyable setting, laced with humour and genuine curiosity by the facilitator will move the learner into a comfortable space for better learning.
  3. What is in it for me: The mind opens to learning, if it sees a direct benefit to one’s present state by changing the “ way of doing things”.  Its critical to spend time on why the learning is very important for the student and would improve his life with immediate effect.
  4. How do I learn effectively ? : Facilitator needs to let the student move into “ his world” rather than push ideas from the Facilitators point of view, to help the student review own experiences and align the new learning more effectively. Encourage and respect differing points of view,  leave some arguments unresolved, and give time for reflections,  which can help the students to become more aware of the process of learning. This would improve their capability to learn, and help in eventually demonstrating changed behavior.

As learning becomes more critical, demanding and flexible in the new VUCA world, the traditional classroom training will need to go through a significant change to embrace the new challenges.

Coaching, as a practice brings in a strong approach to Heutagogy, as the Coach brings in rich skills of listening, rapport building and questioning, allowing the Client the flexibility to question his /her beliefs and “structure of self” and move in the most appropriate direction for self growth .

Any thoughts and ideas  on this point of view are welcome !

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