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Term of the Week: Heutagogy

What is it?

An approach that prepares students for life-long learning by developing autonomous, self-directed learning skills. Learners take an active role in deciding what to learn and how to learn.

Why is it important?

Designing effective learning environments for adults requires an understanding that adults learn differently than children. Heutagogical learning environments take advantage of these differences to give adult students the skills they need to teach themselves.

Why does a business professional need to know this?

Heutagogy is also referred to as self-determined learning and seeks for learners to develop a sense of autonomy over their own learning.

Think of learners as consumers of knowledge. Heutagogy empowers learners to consume knowledge on their own terms. Learners decide what to learn, when to learn, how fast, how much, with whom, and from whom.

Heutagogy encompasses and extends prior adult-focused learning strategies, such as learner-centered learning, andragogy, and others. A similar philosophy is expressed in the term autodidactic learner which implies a preference for learning without external incentives.

Traditional educational practices such as drills, lectures, and memorization weaken our propensity to learn. In the worst case, the love of learning can be extinguished. A business professional needs to recognize that the audience for a course or other training has probably experienced a lifetime of traditional education and may have lost interest in learning. A heutagogical learning environment that empowers learners can help rekindle curiosity and a love of learning, leading to more effective learning.


  • (Eberly 2013) Heutagogy: It Isn't Your Mother's Pedagogy Any More: Eberly, Jane, and Marcus Childress. National Social Science Journal 28 no. 1 (2007):28–32. While many educators refer to all teaching as pedagogy, this is a term that limits the scope of what teaching can and should be.

About Bill Pelz

Photo of Bill Pelz

Bill Pelz is professor of psychology and instructional designer for online learning at Herkimer College / SUNY. As the lead faculty trainer for the SUNY Learning Network from 1999 until 2010, Bill has facilitated the development of over 2500 online college courses. Awards include the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Sloan Consortium Award for Excellence in Online Teaching, and the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.

Term: Heutagogy