Heutagogical partners rather than pedagogical passengers

In her chapter, Alica Rétiová, of Masaryk University tackles the issue of self-directed or heutagogical learning in an innovative study on introducing her students to ‘the intriguing world of social theories’ and ‘the fascinating realm that is academia’. Heutagogy is defined as the ability to direct one’s learning. According to Lisa Marie Blaschke and others,  heutagogical learning environments facilitate the development of independent learning, as well as the learner’s capability and capacity to learn.

Students experience differences in pedagogical, andragogical and finally heutagogical approaches to learning as they move through school, arrive at university and finally graduate as independent and problem-solving life-long learners. Alica points out quite rightly the difficulties students experience as they transition from the rather more sheltered world of school to the demands of learning independently at university.

Alica has clearly demonstrated a heutological learning environment in introducing peer feedback writing to her students. To assist her students in becoming self-directed learners, she introduced the writing of peer feedback on weekly position papers in order to develop her students’ capacity to take on responsibility for their own learning. She intended the exercise to develop their writing skills as well as assisting them to function independently in their learning. This, writing feedback on weekly position papers on the work of other students served a two-fold purpose – a) developing active self-governed learning, and b) key critical thinking and self-reflective skills.

In the first stage she gave detailed weekly feedback on the content, structure, language and style of position papers herself. Subsequently, she provided detailed instructions for the activity, asking them to consider the characteristics of providing constructive feedback. She distributed examples of feedback and asked them to discuss which examples represented constructive feedback and why. In the weeks following, students wrote feedback on each other’s position papers in peer triads. Each student wrote a weekly position paper by Friday midnight, and submitted feedback on the papers of the other two members of the triad by the Sunday before the Monday seminar session.

Students went on to write 100 words or more of both ‘feeding back’ and ‘feeding forward’. Feeding back required them to evaluate the quality of the text and feeding forward required them to provide recommendations for future improvement. Each seminar began with a short discussion on problems or areas of confusion related to the peer feedback assignment. The activity was intended as assessment for learning to write well and as assessment as learning’ since students made informed judgements about the quality of the work of they were assessing.

Alica found that the innovative approach of exchanging feedback with peers contributed positively to the improvement of writing skills, the development of critical thinking and collaborative skills, and her students’ confidence as independent learners. Interesting, her analysis revealed the feelings of self-doubt that some students experience in assessing others – something teachers can well understand.

This interesting, detailed and carefully thought out article is worth a closer read. The author has described and evidenced a teaching innovation could be tried out in a number of different disciplines to assist students as partners, rather than passengers, in the university-level learning and teaching process. The process of becoming an independent learner may be very challenging one for some students and feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy can impede effective learning. As Alica points out, becoming a heutagogical learner is essential in higher education and the development of this approach to learning should be addressed from the beginning in every course.

Charl Fregona, London Metropolitan University


Early Career Academics’ Reflection on Learning to Teach in Central Europe

SEDA is publishing an open access book online, with a chapter released on its website every fortnight.  Each time a chapter is released it will be accompanied by a blog post published on SEDA WordPress. The book is called Early Career Academics’ Reflections on Learning to Teach in Central Europe, edited by Gabriela Pleschová and Agnes Simon. This book contains case studies by participants of a new educational development programme who redesigned their course sessions to apply student-centred approaches, using innovative teaching methods and stimulate good learning.

1 thought on “Heutagogical partners rather than pedagogical passengers

  1. Pingback: Developing the Characteristics of Expertise in Teaching in Higher Education – Helen King

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