The Rise of Agogies

Written by Kathryn Langford is a regional specialist lead (West and East Midlands) in English and Maths for the Education and Training Foundation as well as a teacher educator with Advanced Teacher Status (ATS).  

Covid-19 has only accelerated the trend towards learners teaching themselves, with heutagogy creating a more inclusive approach, 

Provision is widening in the further education (FE) sector, with increases in higher education qualifications, apprenticeships, T Levels and 14-16 learning. Alongside this is an increase in using technology as a source of knowledge and a delivery medium, with a greater reliance on learners ‘teaching’ themselves. This has increased exponentially with Covid-19, and the need for remote classes offered to thousands of learners. For many practitioners planning sessions, it might be refreshing to return to some basic principles of inclusive learning and pedagogical structures within lessons. 

So where do we stand in terms of ‘agogy’? Many will remember the television adverts of the 1980s with recognition given to Maureen Lipman’s ‘ology’. By those new to the profession, pedagogy is traditionally thought of as the science of teaching children. But the term means much more than this and there has been a debate about its application as it can refer to both the act of teaching and the discourse around teaching. 

Pedagogy includes “the performance of teaching together with the theories, beliefs, policies and controversies that inform and shape it”, as proposed by Alexander (2008: p3). Within FE, pedagogy is about the strategies and approaches used when teaching and, for young adults or those new to a subject or vocational area, this may include more teacher-led delivery and carefully scaffolded learning. Many English and maths students arrive at lessons with existing anxieties, reluctance and demotivation, and so will need this more nurturing approach to learning. 

Knowle’s 1970 theory of andragogy is linked to adults, assuming that these learners are more self-directed and active. Scales (2013: p106), however, identifies that within FE adults are not always willing or motivated as learners, limiting an andragogical approach. 

At the same time, 14-19 learners may be highly motivated and keen to be respected, so perhaps the focus should be on the treatment of learners and facilitation of learning, rather than their age, especially as the boundaries between compulsory and post-compulsory have ‘blurred’ since the raising of the participation age and young people remain in education or training until the age of 19. For maths and English students, teachers require ‘practice’ to take place outside of timetabled lessons, so self-directed learning can be an essential component of future success within GCSE resits. 



Introducing a new ‘gogy’, heutagogy, to many within the FE sector will I hope stimulate teachers to think about how they can increase learning using learners as their own teachers. Heutagogy, or self-determined learning, is scaffolded by pedagogy and andragogy and frequently facilitated by learning technologies.  

Hase and Kenyon (2001: p5) clarify their ideas about heutagogy as an approach “which recognises the need to be flexible in the learning where the teacher provides resources but the learner designs the actual course he or she might take by negotiating the learning. Thus, learners might read around critical issues or questions and determine what is of interest and relevance to them and then negotiate further reading and assessment tasks.” 


Canning’s levels of learning 

P33 Figure 1 516X584

In recent months, teachers will have transitioned from classes of collaborative, active and social learning to e-learning and interactive online lessons. A topic might be introduced and guided by the teacher, but the students will have to rely on their own motivation to complete their reading and research and then transfer this to feedback to their teacher and peers or integrate their work into assessment.  

For many, these will be strategies that they have had to acquire quickly, but in the future teachers and trainers will be able to plan around the development of these capabilities and heutagogical approaches. Heuristic learners are interested, questioning, inquisitive, analytical and studious – all things that teachers wish for in their students. 

We need to teach learners how to teach themselves, where they reflect upon what is learned, how it is learned and then relearn. The Times Higher Education website lists seven qualities that universities will look for in student applicants. These include: 

  • A positive attitude towards study 
  • An ability to think and work independently 
  • An ability to persevere and complete tasks 
  • An inquiring mind 

The Learning and Work Institute identifies “what employers want” and these include: 

  • Positive attitudes 
  • Self-management 
  • Communication and digital skills. 
  • Inclusive learning 

There is always debate around progressive and traditional teaching approaches. However, the movement from self-directed learning (andragogy) to greater self-determined learning (heutagogy) may also enable a more inclusive learning approach, that can be supported by mobile learning and monitored by technology.   

As shown in Figure 1, Canning (2010: p63) summarises how learners can develop along ‘levels’ of learning from Level 1 (engaging with pedagogy – teacher builds learner confidence) to Level 2 (cultivating andragogy – teacher supports shared meaning and understanding) and finally to Level 3 (realising heutagogy – teacher facilitates a desire to investigate own learning). 

In previous editions, inTuition has explored the question whether teaching is an art, craft or science (see issue 32, Summer 2018). By applying heutagogical principles, teachers will be able to ‘craft’ classes, planning independent activities for learners to complete and then work collaboratively, either in class or online. Akyildiz (2019) concludes that in the 21st century teachers should be supporting students to evolve towards greater self-determined learning, using innovative new approaches and methods.  

Digital technologies supporting this will empower both learners and teachers, with fast expansion of these approaches within FE. Maykut et al (2019) identify that course design, grounded in heutagogy, can identify student as student, student as teacher, teacher as teacher and teacher as student. 

As teachers in the lifelong learning sector embrace heutagogy, it’s time to leave behind 1980s ‘ologies’ and accept 2020s ‘agogies’.  


References and further reading 

  • Akyildiz S. (2019) Do 21st century teachers know about heutagogy or do they still adhere to traditional pedagogy and andragogy? International Journal of Progressive Education, 15(6): 151-169.  
  • Alexander R. (2008) Pedagogy, curriculum and culture. In: Hall K, Murphy P and Soler J (eds). Pedagogy and Practice: Culture and Identities. Milton Keynes: Open University Press. 
  • Blaschke L. (2012) Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A Review of Heutagogical Practice and Self-Determined Learning. 
  • Canning N. (2010) Playing with heutagogy: exploring strategies to empower mature learners in higher education. Journal of Further and Higher Education 34(1): 59-71. 
  • Hase S and Kenyon C. (2001) Moving from andragogy to heutagogy: implications for VET. Proceedings of Research to Reality: Putting VET Research to Work: Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association (AVETRA), Adelaide, SA, 28-30 March, AVETRA, Crows Nest, NSW.  
  • Maykut C, Wild C and May N. (2019). Heutagogy: enacting caring science practices. International Journal of Caring Sciences 12(1): 11-17. 
  • Scales P. (2013) Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector. 2nd edition. Maidenhead: Open University Press. 


Kathryn Langford is a regional specialist lead (West and East Midlands) in English and Maths for the Education and Training Foundation as well as a teacher educator with Advanced Teacher Status (ATS). She is also course leader for the Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training and member of the Teacher Development Unit at City College Norwich, Norfolk.