• V Sivasubramaniam

NOBODY CAN TEACH US, BUT WE CAN LEARN TO TEACH OURSELVES

Updated: Jun 4

It’s time to embrace Heutagogy!


You may be wondering “What is Heutagogy?”


Before talking about the concept, let me give you a preface for this post.


During the COVID19 pandemic, we saw every Tom-Dick-Harry hosting webinars. The street vendor (Paani-puri wala) was the only one who probably was in a hurry to get back to his home state. In this hurry, he did not think of going ‘online’ to host a webinar on how to make paani-puris or how to be a successful businessman selling pani-puris. He did not share how in his initial years, he lost everything but still had the motivation to achieve his goals. Today, he not only has the formula to make the Paani and the Puri but also the formula to succeed in this business. He also did not dole out gift boxes to the participants as others did, who joined his Paani Puri making course.


I have been seeing how organisations have behaved during the lockdown period some of them were unimpressive - taking the human interactive classroom training into a sudden online mode. A knee jerk reaction to keep the employees motivated and engaged but soon the webinar fatigue started setting in and the employee turned out to be like a rabbit caught in the headlight, just staring at the monitor. On the other hand, the webinar host felt happy that he had a huge audience eagerly listening to him.


I too conducted some webinar and found that just conducting or attending a webinar is not going to be a definite learning and development solution. I reiterate what I have been writing in my previous blogs, that the leaderships’ involvement is a must and they need to embed a self-determined learning culture.


They need to look at the larger canvas and the opportunity to rebuild the organisation to make them future fit. They need to build into them, the core purpose of learning and development. There is a huge opportunity lying in front of them, but they need to take charge.


Defining Heutagogy:


Heutagogy is nothing but the self-determined learning method that will carry us through the current crisis and lead us to the other side.


Recently, I read a book titled Self-Determined Learning” Heutagogy in action (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013) edited by two academics Stewart Hase and Chris Kenyon, who not only made a substantial contribution to the content but also drew together the views of several educators and practitioners to ‘explain and explore’ this mode of learning.


Heutagogy, or self-determined learning, redefines how we understand learning and provides some exciting opportunities for educators. It is a novel approach to educational practice, drawing on familiar concepts such as constructivism, capability, andragogy and complexity theory. Heutagogy is also supported by a substantial and growing body of neuroscience research.


Self-Determined Learning explores how Heutagogy was derived, and what this approach to learning involves, drawing on recent research and practical applications. The editors have drawn together contributions from educators and practitioners in different fields, illustrating how the approach has been used and the benefits its use has produced. The subjects discussed include the nature of learning, Heutagogy in the organisation, flexible curriculum, assessment, e-learning, reflective learning, action learning and research, and Heutagogy in professional practice settings.


The term ‘Heutagogy’ stands alongside the other learning models ‘Pedagogy’ and ‘Andragogy’. Pedagogy literally means ‘leading children.’ ‘Andragogy’ was a term coined to refer to the art/science of teaching adults. Malcolm Knowles and others theorized that the methods used to teach children are often not the most effective means of teaching adults. Essentially the ‘Pedagogical’ model is a teacher-centric model and the mode is broadcast learning (the teacher says, students listen) which is very suitable for children and ‘Andragogical’ model is a learner-centric model, suitable for adult learning with the teacher acting as a facilitator in a constructivist learning method. The teacher encourages the learner and he, in turn, interacts with his peers to gain clarity, moving forward. Russian psychologist Vygotsky recognised that learning was most effective when peers work together. He called this “The zone of proximal development” – a sense of being slightly out of your comfort zone but in no way scary or too big a challenge.

Image based on images by Lisa Marie Blaschke and N. Canning.

Heutagogy is different in the sense that it is a teacher and a learner all in one. This is ‘self-determined learning’ where everyone is both teacher and learner. For Example, I am driven by my inner sense to look for information to learn more, hence I am the learner and the teacher too.




In these times of disruption and working from home, this concept is more relevant than ever. After the WFH, it is clear that top-down management has no place in this new world. It destroys productivity and prevents individuals from becoming self-determined learners and performers.


The new type of learning should be work-centric based on their role, their everyday activities and fundamentally be about sharing work practices and solving workplace problems. The leader should always ensure that conditions are in place to allow such learnings.


The Leader should let them create a purpose for their existence in the organisation and build the learning requirements and drive it themselves and encourage such type of learnings. For this to be successful in the initial stages, you need to go for a blended learning model and then slowly transform it into a Heutagogical model.


To sum it up, the Heutagogical approach encourages individuals to find their own problems and questions to answer. Instead of simply completing the tasks assigned, these individuals seek out areas of uncertainty and complexity in their areas of work or their role. Leaders should help by providing context to individuals' learning and creating opportunities for them to explore. Each individual signs an individualized contract that defines what he will learn, what learning methods and activities he will use, and how his learning will be assessed.

( Source: Hase, Stewart, and Chris Kenyon. Self-Determined Learning: Heutagogy in Action. Bloomsbury Academic, 2015.)

#heutagogy #blendedlearning #selfdeterminedlearning #thenewlearningmodel #learninganddevelopment #hr #learningculture

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