Saturday, March 1, 2014

What is Heutagogy?

I learned a new word just a few days ago: heutagogy. But before I explain what it means, I want to backtrack and explain how I learned about the idea of heutagogy.

My 10th grade students collaborating
My tenth grade students completed 20% time research projects during the fall semester. This was a change from the type of research they had completed in earlier classes in that I encouraged them to select topics they did not ordinarily have an opportunity to learn about in class, and we used at least (sometimes more) one full class day each week as a workshop day to research, read, interview, create, and revise their writing and their thinking. But it also meant that my students completed a lot of research in the fall. Not only did my students complete a 20% time project, but they also completed the more traditional research paper on an issue presented in a literary text that is currently mandated as part of our core curriculum. I sought permission from my principal to pilot this new approach to teaching research after completing a MOOC with A.J. Juliani this past summer. And as students completed their research, I was also starting my own, collecting examples of student work, watching how students engaged in the research process and used class time, reviewing the reflection blogs students posted about their process and what they were learning. Now that my students are established in their second semester classes, I have an opportunity to reflect on the process we engaged in and the skills students developed as they worked toward the completion of their self-selected and self-directed research. Having a bit of distance from the completion of their 20% time research project, I wonder what students will say about what and how they learned. Although I know why I feel such learning expereinces are valuable to their critical thinking and writing development, I need to hear from my students.

So this past week I had some information conversations with my former students. When I asked students what they thought about the 20% research project, four of the five students I spoke with responded that they like the opportunity to learn something that they usually did not get to study in school or that they liked being able to select their own topic without having to chose from a list. One of the students responded that he liked that he could learn in depth about a topic of his choice. Another student liked that she could choose the way in which she shared what she learned and with whom she shared it. So, the idea of choice has started to guide some of my initial research.

Graphic found on the NCSL's site
I started to look through some of the research on writing that I already had gathered. In trying to find published research on teachers doing 20%time/Genius Hour projects, I stumbled upon a recent blog post mentioned on Cybrary Man’s web resource for Genius Hour/ 20% Time. I was intrigued because he recently retitled this resource to included Self-Determined Learning. I have never heard of this before, although it seems evident. The blog post that prompted Cybrary Man’s page name change was a piece by the American School of Bombay Research and Development team and called for an end to Genius Hour and 20% Time Research projects. The reason? Such "projects" are relegating what many think of as the most meaningful work that we are doing in our classrooms to one hour or one class period a week, putting a box around this type of learning rather than thinking about what it means for our curriculums as a whole. I was intrigued by this idea. The post mentioned the work being done by Richard Ryans and Edward Deci on Self-Determined Learning (SDL). And within a few clicks and a quick perusal of Daniel Pink’s book Drive, I realized that I had already read a little bit of their work. Not only was Ryan and Deci’s work was mentioned in Drive, but their work is also being used to support a new movement - Heutagogy.

Click to view the larger size of Lindy McKeown Orwin's image at TeachThought
Heutagogy seems to have gotten its start in the 1970s by looking at what motivates adult learners, although initially this approach was called andragogy. Heutagogy is a evolution of some of that earlier research on what motivates learning, but heutagogy also includes an educational mandate. Instead of simply examining how people learn, heutagogy is also a focus on metacognition, getting students and teachers to think about how they learned what they learned. Hase and Kenyon are thought to be the originators of this approach, which they outline in a piece called “From Andragogy to Heutagogy”. This approach is also often called self-determined or self-driven learning. A quick search of #heutagogy on Twitter revealed that in the last month, more and more educators are starting to use this term and ideas of choice, autonomy, and mastery as they discuss successful learning and writing projects.

As I learn more about the tenets of heutagogy, I see this as being a framework for my research on my students' engagement in their 20% time research project.

I wonder if other educators are also using heutagogy in the development of their curriculum.  I would love to hear from you!



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