Onward Toward Heutagogy and Beyond!

I had to get on my game last week. My learning philosophies’ instructor tasked us with designing a 20-minute technology-based experiential learning activity last week, and I knew I had to be on my game. I knew right away; this would not be easy because this professor is herself a master instructional designer that would take no prisoners.

Question: What is the difference between pedagogy, andragogy, and heutagory?

On Adult Learning Theories

I learned about Merriam’s (2001) seminal theory of androgogy being as the “pillar of adult learning” while earning my master’s degree. Her message is crystal clear: adults learn differently. Therefore, instructional designs targeted toward adult learners must accommodate these assumptions: adults are capable of directing their learning; adults bring a life-time of experiences they leverage while learning; adults are usually seeking improved status when they decided to reenter structured learning environments;  adults like to apply what they learn immediately after mastering the knowledge; and adults are self-motivated for reasons they are not obligated to disclose (Merriam, 2001, p. 5).

In my doctoral program, I was pushed from Merriam’s theories of androgogy to Blaschke’s (2012) opinions on heutagogy, as the step past androgyny. Citing work by Kamenetz (2010) and Peters (2001), Blaschke explained a rapidly changing world and Web 2.0 intrusion into education made both pedagogical and andragogical approaches. She feels the elementary principles associated with these two approaches are insufficient to meet the demands of the 21st Century worker. Blaschke illustrated her point by mapping the distance from pedagogical (instructor-led) to androgogical (self-directed and cultivated) to heutagogical (self-determined autonomous) lifelong learners to show the progression of lifelong learner maturation (p. 60).

Synthesized, what these researchers are advising is that instructional designers that aspire to create content for online learning environments should design uniquely for distance learning. In other words, merely dropping existing hardcopy lesson plans and curriculum into online courses will not do. The inference is, regardless as to whether the content and context are for kindergartners or cosmologists, robust learning theories and philosophies must underpin online instructional designs. 

Learning Theory-Inspired Instructional Design Strategies

Knowing that my professor already knows this made it clear to me that the “smoke and mirrors” would not do. So, I rolled my shelves up and went to work.  I opted for an online multimedia Canvas class that introduced the targeted graduate student learner to the basics about research methods and their characteristics. In addition to the five assumptions of adult learning outlined by Merriam, I decided to throw in a little Habermas’ (2000) theories of learning and teaching as communicative acts (Warren & Wakefiled, 2012; Warren, 2012), with a touch of Gagne’s nine events of instruction (Krause, 2009), then topped the activity off with Mezirow’s (2000) theories on critical reflections.

Jennie’s Perspective

Critically reflecting on creating my technology-based experiential learning activity, I think I did pretty good. Blaschke wrote, “Distance education has a particular affinity to the heutagogical approach, due to distance education’s inherent characteristics of requiring and promoting learner autonomy …” (p. 67). I think my heutagogy-inspired multimedia experiential learning activity met the mark.

But, now I just hope my grade for that assignment grade matches my confidence.



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 Distributed Learning13(1), 56-71.

Habermas, J. (2000). On the pragmatics of communication. MIT press.

Kruse, K. (2009). Gagne’s nine events of instruction: An introduction. Retrieved the10.

Merriam, S. B. (2001). Andragogy and Self-Directed Learning: Pillars of Adult Learning Theory. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, (89), 3–13. Retrieved from http://libproxy.library.unt.edu:2066/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ625870&scope=site

Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning as Transformation: Critical Perspectives on a Theory in Progress. The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. Jossey-Bass Publishers, 350 Sansome Way, San Francisco, CA 94104.

Warren, E. T. S. J. (2012). Learning and teaching as communicative actions: Social media as educational tool. In using social media effectively in the classroom (pp. 112-128). Routledge.

Warren, S., & Wakefield, J. S. (2011). Learning and teaching as a communicative action.

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