Heutagogy – the study of self-determined learning.

From Andragogy to Heutagogy


Education has traditionally been seen as a pedagogic relationship between the teacher and the learner. It was always the teacher who decided what the learner needed to know, and indeed, how the knowledge and skills should be taught. In the past thirty years or so there has been quite a revolution in education through research into how people learn, and resulting from that, further work on how teaching could and should be provided. While andragogy (Knowles, 1970) provided many useful approaches for improving educational methodology, and indeed has been accepted almost universally, it still has connotations of a teacher-learner relationship. It may be argued that the rapid rate of change in society, and the so-called information explosion, suggest that we should now be looking at an educational approach where it is the learner himself who determines what and how learning should take place. Heutagogy, the study of self-determined learning, may be viewed as a natural progression from earlier educational methodologies – in particular from capability development – and may well provide the optimal approach to learning in the twenty-first century.


(Hat tip to Dr. Angél Kytle)

Given that learning throughout most of our lives (about 80% – based on an assumed 85 yr. life span and 17 yrs. in formal schooling) is largely self-directed, wouldn’t it be wise to redesign the institution of “school” to encompass a much greater degree of self-directed learning? For both the young learners and the older ones.

Not only would it be practice better aligned with the game we seem to be constantly preparing for (think about the typical school mission statement and the use of the word “prepare”), but it would surely center learners in more empowered learning, more multidisciplinary learning, more relevant learning, more curiosity-driven and, therefore, deeper learning. Learning that is less graded but more authentically assessed. Learning that is more “real to life.”

Even more critical than any sense of “preparing,” though, to redesign school with a greater degree of self-directed learning would respect the blessing of the present. That education is not simply preparation for real life, but that school-based education IS real life for those in schools. (Hat tip to Dewey, of course.) And those in schools largely want to work on stuff that matters. School children are not apathetic by any stretch. They do tend to become more apathetic, though, when they increasingly confront a daily life as students that disenfranchises them from working on stuff that they know matters to the world and to them. And in ways that they know the real world organizes stuff that matters – not in overly segregated and often disconnected subject-area silos.

In a number of ways, the typical design of school is a significant interruption from the way that learning presents itself during the vast majority of our lives. School tends to be organized and structured according to efficiency of delivery and adult convenience for hyper-specialization. Yet, life more often demands that we strive for effectiveness and an embrace of the curiosity that pulls us into a thing. We wonder why “classroom management” is such a thriving business; yet we less often stop to wonder how we might get rid of the need for classroom management altogether. Heutagogy might very well mean the creative market destruction of classroom management. As we design into a system of citizen empowerment and engagement.

At the very least, it seems essential that those of us who care deeply about schooling and education should explore more deliberately this idea and inspiration of HEUTAGOGY.

So, choose to do so. Or choose not to. Direct and determine it thyself.

3 thoughts on “Heutagogy – the study of self-determined learning.

  1. Pingback: Heutagogy - the study of self-determined learni...

  2. Another great post. As a lover of words, I was panicky yesterday when you dropped the word “Heutagogy” in a Tweet and in a text (it must be important if you used it more than once!). A word I don’t know?! Alas, I figured it out late last night after a Google search or two, and stumbled upon some GREAT stuff. Check this one out: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1076/2087

    Thanks for introducing me to a new vocabulary word, partner!


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