Thursday, July 5, 2012

Training & Learning Theories: Pedagogy, Angragogy, Heutagogy

Basic theories of learning include Pedagogy (child and adolescent learning theories), Andragogy (adult learning theories including self-directed learning), and now Heutagogy (self-determined learning theories).

Andragogy includes learners who are actively involved in identifying their needs and how to meet those needs in which the educator takes the role of a tutor or a mentor (Blaschke, 2012).  The goals for andragogy include: "helping learners develop the capacity for self-direction, supporting transformation learning" (Blaschke, 2012, Andragogy).

The Andragogical model is based on six general assumptions:
  1. The need to know.
  2. The learner's self-concept.
  3. The role of the learners' experiences.
  4. Rediness to learn.
  5. Orientation to learning.
  6. Motivation (Knowles, Holton III, & Swanson, 2005, pp. 64-68).

Heutagogy is the study of self-determined learning in which the focus is person-centered (Davis, 2001) as opposed to teacher-centered or teacher-student centered. Heutagogy was coined in 2000 by Hase and Kenyon, acknowledging that "learners do immensely valuable work for themselves by filling in the gaps of their formal education through discovery and reflection" (Parslow, 2010, p. 121).  A heutagogical environment would focus on both the development of the learner as well as the development of the learners capability to learn and capacity to learn (Blaschke, 2012).

The educator in a heutagogical environment facilitates the learning process through guidance and by providing appropriate resources, much in the same manner as with andragogy. However, in heutagogy the educator relinquishes control/ownership of the learning path and process (Blaschke, 2012).  Here the learner determines their path and sets their own learning goals.

Heutagogy is influenced by Argyris' theory of double-loop learning. Schein (2010) described it best in his discussion on implicit assumptions: "To learn something new… requires us to resurrect, reexamine, and possibly change some of the more stable portions of our cognitive structure" (p. 28).

Compared to andragogy, self-directed learning requires the acquisition of both competencies and capabilities. Blaschke (2012) identified competencies as one's ability to acquire knowledge and skills, compared to capabilities that are the learner's self-efficacy on their ability to recall and use their new knowledge or skills. 

Heutagogy was termed and utilized to describe today's online learning environment where learning activities have moved away from the traditional classroom setting to a more asynchronous environment for both the instructor and the students. An equal and similar environment, that of training and development in the workplace, heutagogy principles could be found to be beneficial.  For example, focusing attention on both competencies and capabilities for training and development efforts could prove to be most successful. Additionally, Blaschke (2012) provided course design elements to support a hetagogical approach to training:
  • Learner-defined learning contracts
  • Flexible curriculum
  • Learner-directed questions
  • Flexible and negotiated assessment

As part of the reflection process (the 'reexamine' portion identified by Schein) Blaschke (2012) identified the following design elements to support reflective practice:
  • Learning Journals
  • Action Research
  • Formative and Summative Assessment
  • Collaborative Learning Environments

As informal and non-formal learning initiatives increase in the workplace with the aid of mobile technologies, these training functions could benefit from utilizing the general principles provided by heutagogy learning theories. 


Blaschke, L. M. (2012). Heutagogy and lifelong learning: A review of hetagogical practice and self-determined learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1). Retrieved from

Davis, L., & Stewart, H. (2001). The river of learning in the workplace. In Research to Reality: Putting VET Research to Work. Retrieved from ERIC.

Knowles, M. S., Holton III, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2005). The Adult Learner: The Definitive Classic in Adult Education and Human Resource Development. New York, NY: Elsevier.

Parslow, G. R. (2010). Multimedia in biochemistry and molecular biology education. Commentary: Heutagogy, the practice of self-learning. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 38(2), 121. doi: 10.1002/bmb.20394 

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