Darrell A. Dromgoole, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Scott Cummings, Associate Department Head and Program Leader; Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
During the course of a week, it is doubtful that most us did not place an order for goods or services, look up an address, researched topics for an educational program or looked up a recent research topic. This all was done online in a virtual and global knowledge environment (Sobrero, 2008). While some Extension educators once believed that online or eLearning was less effective due to the lack of personal interaction between the Extension educator and clientele -we now know that a growing number of clientele we are currently serving and that we could potentially, influence may actually prefer online learning (Dromgoole & Boleman, 2001). The world that Extension educators operate in today is a more connected than ever before and it is paramount that Extension educators develop new and creative educational intervention methods. According to the 2019 Pew Research Internet/Broadband Fact Sheet, 90% of American adults utilize the internet (Pew Research Center, 2019). There is an increasing interest in self-directed learning (Freeman, Adams, & Cummins, 2016). Millennials now fully engaged in today’s workforce and Gen Z just walked began to emerge in the workforce. These individuals want more collaborative learning environments and self-directed learning paths. In a recent Linkin study (2919) 43 % of Generation Z and 42% of Millennials reported they wanted completely self-directed and independent learning. In addition, 74% of all employees indicated that they wanted to learn during spare time at work (Linkin, 2019).
Extension educators today are challenged with developing lifelong learners who can function effectively in a global knowledge environment. Traditionally utilized teaching theories and strategies are no longer completely effective in preparing clientele to address the complex issues they are currently facing and a more self-directed and self-determined approach may be necessary , one where the clientele reflects upon what is learned and determine how is can be applied to their specific situation (Blaschke, 2012). Online learning or technology assisted learning has created a need for considering new educational approaches and the application of different educational theories (Blaschke, 2012).
The concept of heutagogy or self-directed learning offers certain principles and practices that could be considered as a response to the development new generation web applications that has moved from static HTML pages to a more interactive web experience (Blaschke, 2012). A heutagogical learning environment emphasizes both the development of clientele competencies as well as development of the clientele’s capability and capacity to learn (Blaschke, 2012). A renewed interest in heutagogy has also been generated as a result of the prevalence of social media that complements and supports this learning approach (Blaschke,2012). Heutagogy has been called a “net-centric” theory that takes advantage of the key elements of the Internet; it is also a educational approach that could be applied to emerging technologies in distance education, as well as serve as a framework for digital age teaching and learning (Blaschke, 2012).
Heutagogy is of special interest to distance education, which shares with heutagogy certain key attributes, such as learner autonomy and self-directedness, and has educational roots in adult teaching and learning. Self-determined learning, characteristic of distance education formats such as contract learning and prior learning assessment, is also an attribute of distance education (Blaschke, 2012). Heutagogy has the potential to become a theory of distance education, in part due to the ways in which heutagogy further extends the adult teaching approaches and also due to the elements it offers when applied to emerging technologies in distance education (Blaschke, 2012).
Knowles (1975) defined andragogy in the 1970’s as specific to adult education and characterized by learner control and self-responsibility in learning, learner definition of learning objectives in relation to their relevance to the learner, a problem-solving approach to learning, self-directedness in how to learn, intrinsic learner motivation, and incorporation of the learner experience. In an adult educational methodology to teaching and learning, clientele are actively involved in identifying their needs and in determining how those needs will be met (Blaschke, 2012). A key attribute of andragogy is self-directed learning, defined by Knowles (1975) as:
a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes (p. 18).
The goals of self-directed learning include helping learners develop the capacity for self-direction, supporting transformational learning that is consistent with the PIE Change Model. Within transformational learning, learning occurs along a self-directed path; as they obtain knowledge and reflects on how this knowledge can be applied to their specific situation, the clientele’s perspective is adjusted and transformative learning can occur (Blaschke, 2012).
The role of the Extension educator in an andragogical approach is that of a mentor, with the Extension educator supporting the clientele in developing the capacity to become more self-directed in his or her learning (Blaschke, 2012). The Extension educator demonstrates to clientele how to find information, relates information to the clientele’s experience, and emphasizes problem-solving within real-world situations (Blaschke, 2012). Extension educators establish objectives and curriculum based on clientele input and direct clientele along the learning pathway, while the responsibility for learning lies with the clientele (Blaschke, 2012).
Heutagogy (based on the Greek word for “self”) is defined as the study of self-determined learning (Blaschke, 2012). Heutagogy applies a comprehensive approach to developing clientele’s capabilities, with learning as an active and proactive process, and learners having ownership in their learning (Blaschke, 2012). As in an andragogical approach, in heutagogy the Extension educator also facilitates the learning process by providing guidance and resources, but fully relinquishes ownership of the learning path and process to the learner, who negotiates learning and determines what will be learned and how it will be learned (Blaschke, 2012).
A key concept in heutagogy is that of double-loop learning and self-reflection (Blaschke, 2012). In double-loop learning, learners consider the problem and the resulting action and outcomes, in addition to reflecting upon the problem-solving process and how it influences the learner’s own beliefs and actions (Figure 1). Double-loop learning occurs when learners question and test their personal values and assumptions as being central to enhancing learning how to learn (Blaschke, 2012).
Figure 1. Double-loop learning ((Blaschke, 2012).
In self-determined learning, it is important that clientele obtain both competencies and capabilities (Blaschke, 2012). Competency can be thought of as proven ability in acquiring knowledge and skills, while capability is characterized by clientele’s confidence in his or her competency and, as a result, the ability “to take appropriate and effective action to formulate and solve problems in both familiar and unfamiliar and changing settings” (Blaschke, 2012) (Blaschke, 2012). Capable clientele exhibit the following traits (Blaschke, 2012):
When clientele are competent, they demonstrate the acquisition of knowledge and skills; skills can be replicated and knowledge retrieved (Blaschke, 2012). When clientele are capable, skills and knowledge can be reproduced in unfamiliar situations (Blaschke, 2012). Capability is then the extension of clientele’s own competence, and without competency there cannot be capability (Blaschke, 2012) . Through the process of double-looping, learners become more aware of their preferred learning style and can easily adapt new learning situations to their learning styles, thus making them more capable learners (Blaschke, 2012). With its dual focus on competencies and capability, heutagogy enables Extension educators to better address the needs of adult learners in complex and changing environments (Blaschke, 2012).
The heutagogical approach can be viewed as a progression from pedagogy to andragogy to heutagogy, with learners likewise progressing in maturity and autonomy (Blaschke, 2012, Figure 2). More mature clientele require less Extension educator control and course structure and can be more self-directed in their learning, while less mature clientele require more Extension educator guidance and course scaffolding (Blaschke, 2012). Cognitive development of clientele, a requirement for critical reflection and dialogue to occur, could also be integrated into this pyramid, with cognitive development progressing in parallel with knowledge and autonomy (Blaschke, 2012).
Figure 2. Progression from pedagogy to andragogy then to heutagogy (Blaschke, 2012).
With its basis in andragogy, heutagogy further extends the andragogical approach and can be understood as a continuum of andragogy (Table 1). In andragogy, curriculum, questions, discussions, and assessment are designed by the Extension educator according to the clientele needs; in heutagogy, the learner sets the learning course, designing and developing the roadmap for learning (Blaschke, 2012). Heutagogy emphasizes development of capabilities in addition to competencies (andragogy). Table 1 provides an overview of traits that help demonstrate ways in which heutagogy builds upon and extends andragogy (Blaschke, 2012).
Table 1. Heutagogy as a Continuum of Andragogy (Blaschke, 2012).
What can be derived from this comparison is that heutagogy is an approach originating in andragogy and can be considered an expansion of the existing concept (Blaschke, 2012).
Distance education in Extension is in a unique position for creating learning environments for supporting a heutagogical teaching and learning approach (Blaschke, 2012). Specific characteristics of distance education that align themselves with heutagogy include (Blaschke, 2012):
New generation web applications and social media has played an important role in initiating new dialogue about heutagogy in Extension education. New generation web design supports a heutagogical approach by allowing clientele to direct and determine their learning path and by enabling them to take an active rather than passive role in their individual learning experiences. Key elements of social media – connectivity with others, information discovery and sharing (individually and as a group), and personal collection and adaptation of information as required – are also elements that support self-determined learning activities (Blaschke, 2012). In addition, new generation web applications encourages interaction, reflection in dialogue, collaboration, and information sharing, as well as promotes autonomy and supports creation of learner-generated content (Blaschke, 2012).
Recent research also indicates that the use of social media can support self-determined learning (Blaschke, 2012).
These examples illustrate how social media has the potential to support elements of a heutagogical approach, such as creation of learner-generated content, active engagement in the learning process and with instructors and other learners, group collaboration, and reflective practice through double-loop learning (Blaschke, 2012). Research in these application in Extension education are somewhat limited, however research in other fields indicate the effectiveness of these tools in an Extension educational strategy have merit.
When designing a self-determined learner experience, certain considerations should be made (Blaschke, 2012). A heutagogical approach to learning and teaching is characterized first and foremost by learner-centered in terms of both learner-generated contexts and content (Blaschke, 2012). Course design elements that support learner-centeredness in a heutagogical approach are presented below (Blaschke, 2012).
Another equally important characteristic of heutagogy is that of reflective practice, a critical learning skill associated with knowing how to learn (Blaschke, 2012). Heutagogy’s holistic approach takes into account the learner’s prior learning experiences and the way in which these influence how she or he learns; by considering these past experiences and the learner’s current experience and reflecting upon these, the learner moves into a growth process that has the potential to lead to transformative learning (Blaschke, 2012). The following course design elements can be incorporated to support reflective practice.
Collaborative learning is also a critical component of heutagogy (Blaschke, 2012). When learning collaboratively, learners work together in a collaborative space to create shared meaning and to reflect and think about how they learned and how to apply it in practice (Blaschke, 2012). Team-based approaches are recommended by creating communities of practice, where the focus of learning is primarily on the learning process and how learners learn (Blaschke, 2012). Knowledge sharing should be strongly encouraged and can be achieved by encouraging learners to share resources and information (Blaschke, 2012).
To implement a self-determined learning environment, Extension educators need to alter their teaching approach, primarily by placing value on learner self-direction of the learning process (Blaschke, 2012). Such a shift would require minimal change within distance education environments as distance education teaching methods support self-directed learning and the Extension educator role is already one of a facilitator (Blaschke, 2012). Extension educators not only must change their approach to teaching and learning, but also ensure that they explain this type of learning to their clientele (Blaschke, 2012). As in a distance learning environment, clientele also need to understand that a heutagogical learning environment is quite different from the traditional learning experience (Blaschke, 2012). Ongoing guidance and feedback, as well as sharing of resources, support clientele during their self-directed learning experience (Blaschke, 2012).
Since its beginnings in Australia in 2000, heutagogy has been presented as an extension of pedagogy and andragogy, but has received limited attention from Extension scholars. However within Texas A&M AgriLife Extension our Extension educators have implemented a heutagogical educational approach with the Preparing Students for 21st Century Careers through Student Directed Research program. While this program is not delivered at a distance it utilizes distance education as a teaching strategy. The P-20 system of education enhances student’s transition starting on prekindergarten to college. It is a model for student success by developing collaborative, sustainable and replicable model for breaking the generational poverty cycle though higher education, and supplying critical agricultural STEM workforce shortage areas that will be critical to meeting the daunting challenge of providing food and fiber for 9 billion people on the planet by 2050.
For the past six years Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has partnered with Roscoe Collegiate Independent School District in preparing youth through academic achievement, working with students from 3rd to 12th grade to provide experimental learning experiences for youth to build science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) mastery. Extension has been providing leadership in the development of student directed, research projects (Project Based Learning through 4-H) in the area of agriculture and natural resources to address real-world issues through real-world solutions. These hands-on projects are purposeful in connecting program content to career opportunities. Elementary and middle-school research projects are designed by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service faculty and add value to classroom instruction. The high school research projects are capstone projects conducted on an individual basis that are monitored by Extension.
This heutagogical approach enables 4-H members/students to progress from pedagogy to andragogy to heutagogy, with learners progressing in maturity and autonomy. The more mature 4-H members/students require less educator control and course structure and can be more self-directed in their learning, while less mature 4-H members/students require more educator guidance and course scaffolding. This approach also allows 4-H members/students to take ownership in the learning process which is characteristic of a heutagogical educational approach.
A retrospective post evaluation of 4-H members/students to determine if they are ready to pursue a career in STEM is reported in figure 3:
Figure 3. Preparedness of 4-H members/students at Roscoe Collegiate Independent School District for STEM careers.
These 4-H members/students embrace the following concepts that are consistent with a Heutalogical educational approach;
By incorporating heutagogical practice, Extension educators have the opportunity to better prepare clientele to address the complex issues faced today and in the future. Distance education has a particular correspondence with the heutagogical approach, due to distance education’s inherent characteristics of requiring and promoting clientele autonomy, its traditional focus on developing individualized learning pathways, and its evolutionary and synergetic relationship with technology – all characteristics shared with heutagogy theory (Blaschke, 2012).
Blaske, 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). Available at: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1076/2113.
Blaschke, L.M., & Brindley, J. (2011). Establishing a foundation for reflective practice: Acase study of learning journal use. European Journal of Open, Distance, and E-Learning (EURODL), Special Issue Retrieved from http://www.eurodl.org/materials/special/2011/Blaschke_Brindley.pdf.
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Freeman, A., Adams S., & Cummins, M. (2016). NMC Technology Outlook for Cooperative Extension 2016-2021: A Horizon Project Sector Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.
Knowles, M. (1975). Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers. United States of America: Cambridge Adult Education.
LinkedIn. (February 27, 2019). Share of learners who want fully self-directed and independent learning in the United States in 2019, by generation [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved October 14, 2019, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/988933/workplace-learning-independent-learning-united-states-generation/