June 6th 2014
eutagogy 101 (text for slide1)
• Heutagogy probably started at Southern Cross University in
Australia. Chris Kenyon and Stewart Hase were responsible for a
new postgraduate course and wanted to break away from the
traditional teaching model.
• Chris gave the students permission to choose, within limits, their
topics and methods of learning, and Stewart found a way to get this
approach accepted by the academic board. Because the results of
the approach were very successful, Chris and Stewart subsequently
wrote about the approach and termed it heutagogy, or self-
• While H started as being an approach to learning at postgraduate
level, its methodology is applicable at all levels of learning. And
while the word ‘teacher’ is used in this presentation, this includes,
lecturers, professors, tutors etc – anyone who is in contact with
eutagogy 101 (slide2 - text)
• Approach. For hundreds maybe thousands of years, we have known
that teaching is an honourable profession, and that the teacher’s role is
to transfer his or her knowledge & skills into the minds and bodies of
those being taught. Teachers are an integral part of every society,
whether western or eastern, developed or primitive.
• But as the world changes, we need to make a break with tradition and
look again at how people learn. Heutagogy is based on the principles
that learners themselves are often in the best position to determine
what they want to learn, and perhaps how they should learn. At its
core is the fact that while learning may be partially gained from a
teacher, other people (friends, colleagues, experts) and other sources
(the internet) can provide information and ideas that constitute
Board of Studies …
eutagogy 101 (slide3 text)
• Getting approval to adopt a heutagogical approach will
vary from organisation to organisation, and also on the
learning level at which it is used. 15 years ago the
approach was new and possibly seen as heretical.
Today, there is an awareness of H in many institutions
of learning in several countries.
• Nevertheless, in some institutions formal approval for
the approach may be needed. So, for example if the
Vice Chancellor agrees, the dean agrees and the board
of studies agrees, then H can be approved for use. In
other contexts, H may be adopted simply as an
appropriate way of developing learning.
eutagogy 101 (slide4 text)
• So, the role of the teacher, becomes one of
facilitating learning, rather than providing
• The teacher does not say “listen and learn”,
but says “I can help” .
• The teacher as facilitator becomes more
involved in the learning that takes place.
eutagogy 101 (slide5 text)
• Let’s look at some of the fundamentals of
adopting a H approach to learning. And this is in
the context of a formal education environment of
a school or university.
• Firstly, the topic chosen for learning must be
relevant to the approved course of learning. In
this case, developing an understanding of the
works of Jane Austen is probably not relevant to
learning about modern history of the Middle
eutagogy 101 (slide6 text)
• Secondly, the area or topic of learning should be
within the capabilities of the learner. For
example, we don’t expect a very young person to
understand the complexities of DNA
• However, our work has shown that it is
sometimes easy to underestimate the ability of
learners. Choosing a topic that will provide a
considerable challenge can have surprisingly good
outcomes: I’ll come to this point shortly.
eutagogy 101 (slide7 text)
• Thirdly, the chosen topic of learning must be
achievable within the time that is available for
study. For example, if a learner commits
themselves to 15 hours a week, for a semester is
that enough time to satisfactorily complete an
• Our experience has been that learners often
spend two or three times the required amount of
time to undertake an assignment, but, that they
are happy to do so, simply because they are
learning what they are interested in.
eutagogy 101 (slide8 text)
• Agreement. Please note that we do not expect learners or
facilitators to wear business suits. The handshake is the
important thing. So, at the start of an assignment, the
learner and the facilitator will agree on:
• The topic
• The time allowed for completion of an assignment.
• The frequency of reviews (when progress will be checked
and any necessary guidance provided)
• +And Assessment. How will the assignment be assessed? A
paper, a report, a presentation, an academic submission?
• We have found that having a written agreement which
details all this information helps both learners and
facilitators keep track of what is required.
eutagogy 101 (slide9 text)
• Review. The learner’s progress is reviewed as often as both
parties consider it to be desirable. A learner who has not
been exposed to the H principles may benefit from a review
every three to four weeks, an experienced learner may
benefit from a review every month or so. Obviously, the
frequency of reviews also depends on the amount of time
available for the whole assignment.
• A review will look at progress, consider any changes that
may be beneficial, and make sure that an assignment is on
track for successful completion.
• And a review can be conducted via the internet, using
Skype for example. It may even be conducted a
synchronously, if that is the most practical approach if
learner and facilitator are in very different time zones.
eutagogy 101 (slide10 text)
• Assessment How is the assignment assessed? Has the
learner reached the required standard?
• Naturally, it is important that the method of assessment is
established and agreed upon at the start of an assignment.
• Obviously there are no exams when an H approach is used
for learning. The most common methods of assessment
are papers, written reports or submissions to journals, and
presentations. Presentations can be made to a group of
fellow learners. However, in some cases, we have found
that the learners have undertaken work that is valuable,
informative or innovative, and they have been asked to give
a presentation to academic staff.
• Detailed feedback to the learner on the assessment is
considered as an integral part of the assessment process
eutagogy 101 (slide11 text)
• Learner Benefits.
• The first benefit of the approach is that the learner is
completely interested in the topic they have chosen. One of
the guarantees of success is to have a learner who chooses
what they themselves want to learn.
• Secondly, they are learning when they are ready to learn, not
simply when a topic is presented in a lecture or tutorial.
• Thirdly, experience so far indicates that learners who have
used this approach develop an increased capability for
learning. Incidentally, they also develop a desire for further
eutagogy 101 (slide12 text)
• Facilitator benefits
• The facilitator usually gains further knowledge within his or her
particular area of interest. Learners seem to have a knack of finding
the most recent and most interesting information, much of which
may be new to the facilitator.
• The facilitator will develop skills in something akin to project
management, when they schedule reviews for learners and the final
assessment program. They will also develop skills in assessing
performance outside the simple examination methods.
• Finally the facilitator will develop an ability to relate one on one
with learners. Depending on individual personalities, this may be
viewed with various degrees of enthusiasm. My experience has
been very positive, and learners who I have worked with, up to 15
years ago, are still in contact with me from around the world.
eutagogy 101 (slide13 text)
• What are the challenges to adopting H? Change!
• At different levels, we humans like the security and the
comfort of living and working in a stable environment.
We have a basic need for stability. Hence, there is
always some resistance to change.
• How often do you hear “We have always done it this
way” or “Why should we change?”
• However, if the positive benefits of adopting H can
be appreciated by those involved in learning, then a
change can be seen as desirable rather than as
something to be resisted.
eutagogy 101 (slide14 text)
• Do we see ourselves on a pedestal?
• Are we the possessors of all knowledge? Is it our role to pour our
knowledge into the minds of students? Will adopting H mean that
we lose our status? Or do we have colleagues who see themselves
as being ‘experts’ on their topics?
• If we see H in this light, then naturally we will feel threatened and
hence resist its introduction.
• We used to joke 20 years ago, that we needed our children to
program our VCR because we couldn’t do it. Nobody uses VCRs any
more; technology advances. Now there are more and more
software to assist our work. Quite surprisingly, many of us resist
the latest technologies. People say “I don’t need Twitter” or “What
is viber?”. We need to convince our colleagues that technology is
not to be feared, but to be adopted as our aid.
eutagogy 101 (slide15 text)
• Not universal? There are criticisms that the H
approach is not universal and can not be applied
to all learning situations. So what is the point in
adopting the approach? Well, we have already
identified the various benefits to both learners
and to facilitators. Those benefits are important
for both learners and facilitators.
• Do we say that Aspirin will not cure every
headache, so we should not use Aspirin? Of
course not: the argument that H is not universally
applicable is simply not a valid argument.
eutagogy 101 (slide16 text)
• Other challenges? Many cultures, particularly those in Asia, require
respect for older people particularly those in a position of authority.
Teachers at all levels are shown great respect. It is not permissible
to ask questions of teachers, merely to respond to questions asked
by the teacher.
• When I looked after an international college with hundreds of
students from Asian countries, apart from mediating culture shock,
one of our biggest challenges was introducing students to an
heuristic approach to learning, something that was the opposite of
what they had accepted for their previous 18 to 20 years.
• In a similar way, many of our old established centres of education
rely on the high status of their teaching staff who are imbued with
the tradition of pouring the contents of their encyclopaedic brains
into the waiting minds of youngsters. Changing what is a traditional
view, and hence is held with strong conviction, is a challenge.
eutagogy 101 (slide17 text)
• Why can H be so successful? 15 years ago we thought
that it was probably caused by the emotions caused by
self-empowerment and achievement. Now we know a
bit more about the immediate effects of dopamine and
serotonin, but researchers are constantly discovering
more and more about longer term results of these
• In the same way that we once ‘knew’ that nerve
impulses crossed synapses through a simple chemical,
now we know that a range of chemicals is involved..
And it seems probable that there are more factors
involved in neuroplasticity and learning. The more we
learn, the more there is to learn
eutagogy 101 (slide18 text)
• Advances in neuroplasticity have shown us two things
that are very relevant to understanding why H can be
• Firstly, new learning increases the neural pathways or
networks in the brain. In this way, more and more
connections are made. It seems that this provides the
increased capability in learners. Not only have learners
who have acquired their learning through H become
enthusiastic about learning more, they have also
become more capable learners – they know how to
eutagogy 101 (slide19 text)
• Secondly the H approach, increases brain size! No, not
really. What the approach does do, is increase the
number of areas in the brain that are active both
during learning and as a result of increased learning.
• As yet, we do not know how this occurs, but research
shows that the more areas of the brain that are in use,
the more capable a person becomes.
• Our knowledge of brain development and usage is
constantly increasing: eventually we hope that the link
between H and brain capability will be established.
eutagogy 101 (slide20 text)
• Some people see this as a continuum, perhaps as
a continuum of the development of ideas on
education. That appears to be eminently self-
• But could it be that H is not seen as part of a
continuum, but something which stands on its
own? It is, unlike P and A, about learning,
rather than about teaching.
• If there is a continuum, how does this help us
understand the value of H?
Talk given by
June 6th 2014