Heutagogy: Self-Determined Learning

(McAuliffe, Hargreaves, Winter, & Chadwick, 2008, p. 4)

Heutagogy, a learning theory developed in 2000 by Stewart Hase of Southern Cross University and Chris Kenyon in Australia, is the study of self-determined learning. Heutagogy expands upon the self-directed learning practices of andragogy by having learners take an active role in developing their own learning skills to meet their needs (Chapnick & Meloy, 2005; McAuliffe, Hargreaves, Winter, & Chadwick, 2008). Therefore, the instructor acts as a tutor or mentor, but unlike in andragogy, the student chooses the learning path by reflecting upon his or her strengths and weaknesses, and exploring new strategies that fit his or her learning style. This process of self-reflection allows for double-loop learning, as illustrated in Figure 1, where the learner assesses the effectiveness of the problem solving process by considering alternative resources (Smith, 2001) and his or her actions and beliefs (Blaschke, 2012).

Figure 1: Double-Loop Learning

Adapted from “Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A Review of Heutagogical Practice and Self-Determined Learning,” by L. M. Blaschke, 2012, The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1), p. 59.

Through double-loop learning, learners develop the competency or ability to attain the necessary skills to accomplish their educational goals, and the capability or confidence to construct and follow through on their own learning plan. Consequently, a capable self-determined learner exhibits self-efficacy, sound communication and teamwork skills, creativity, and a positive attitude (Blaschke, 2012).

In addition, heutagogy involves a non-linear design and learning approach by having instructors allow their students to develop their own curriculum and assessment criteria (Blaschke, 2012). Table 1 helps to summarize the differences between andragogy and heutagogy.

Table 1: Heutagogy as a Continuum of Andragogy

Adapted from “Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A Review of Heutagogical Practice and Self-Determined Learning,” by L. M. Blaschke, 2012, The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1), p. 61.

How Heutagogy is Conducive to Distance Education, Web 2.0, and Social Media

Distance Education requires and promotes autonomy, a characteristic central to heutagogical teaching and learning. Students are usually mature and possess life experiences that can help them develop their own learning skills and learning plan to achieve their objectives, and negotiate assessment strategies with their instructor (Blaschke, 2012).

Web 2.0 encourages interaction, reflection, collaboration, and information sharing, as well as autonomy. As a result, students can continue to learn independently or collaboratively at their own pace, and demonstrate their learning in a multitude of ways in a multimedia-rich environment. Thus, Web 2.0 allows for flexible curricula and assessment strategies (Blaschke, 2012).

Social Media provides a means to showcase and create learner-generated content, and promotes active engagement in the learning process through collaboration and self-reflection by engaging in double-loop learning. For example, Junco, Heiberger, and Loken (2010, as cited in Blaschke, 2012) found that students who used Twitter were more actively engaged in their learning by considering multiple solutions to problems, which resulted in higher Grade Point Averages (GPA’s). Junco et al. (2010, as cited in Blaschke, 2012) also revealed that the use of Twitter increased student-student and student-instructor interaction, as well as promoted active learning.

Instructors employing a heutagogical approach to teaching may recommend to their students using learning journals for self reflection purposes, and pursuing action research to gain real world experience that is relevant in the workplace (Blaschke, 2012).

Heutagogy in Practice

Higher education has been somewhat reluctant to implement and embrace heutagogy because of the minimal role that the instructor plays in the learning process, and the control the learner has over assessment procedures, which complicates accreditation (Blaschke, 2012; McAuliffe et al., 2008). However, educators in nursing, education, and engineering are taking a closer look at heutagogy as a viable way to learn given the need of their students to be autonomous and lifelong learners who can readily adapt to the challenges inherent to their professions (Blaschke, 2012).

Furthermore, due to the amount of information that needs to be learned and the importance of grades in achieving academic credentials at the university level, many students still seem to prefer pedagogical (teacher-centred) and andragogical (learner-centred) learning where the instructor plays an active role in knowledge attainment (Blaschke, 2012). However, given the growth of online learning, social media, and Web 2.0, assessment and accreditation procedures may evolve sooner than later to allow students at all levels to pursue a more heutagogical, self-determined style of learning.


Blaschke, L. M. (2012). Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A Review of Heutagogical Practice and Self-Determined Learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1), 56-71. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1076/2113

Chapnick, S., & Meloy, J. (2005). From Andragogy to Heutagogy. In Renaissance eLearning: Creating Dramatic and Unconventional Learning Experiences (pp. 36–37). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley and Sons.

McAuliffe, M., Hargreaves, D., Winter, A., & Chadwick, G. (2008). Does Pedagogy Still Rule? Proceedings of the 19th Annual Conference of Australasian Association for Engineer Education, Central Queensland University, Yeppoon, Australia. Retrieved from http://aaee.com.au/conferences/papers/2008/aaee08_submission_T2A1.pdf

Smith, M. K. (2001). Chris Argyris: theories of action, double-loop learning and organizational learning. The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/thinkers/argyris.htm


4 responses to “Heutagogy: Self-Determined Learning

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