Last week I spoke at the opening night of RELEARN2020, a learning innovation festival from the team at Learnlife Barcelona. It was a tremendous event with many of those that I admire in our sector speaking, stimulating, and sparking global conversations.

Whilst there’s something to be said for speaking on opening night, the video of my presentation was shared across the globe hundreds of times, something I had not anticipated and so because of this I have decided it was worthy of a follow up article. 

The session was titled “Has Pedagogy had its day?”. A title to provoke, as was the order of the day, a title to spark conversation and discussion.

First a little of my background: my introduction to pedagogy was way back in the nineties whilst enrolled in a teaching degree. Four career changes later I wound up back in education where I’ve now been for a total of seventeen years. My real experience however is not with pedagogy but with heutagogy. I am a qualified vocational & training educator and I spent six years teaching in the Higher Education sector. What I saw there and the work we achieved moving a suite of post graduate courses online (this was 15 years ago now) has had a significant impact on the work I later led in the K-12 sector. Working alongside the curriculum experts (our educators) and instructional designers we moved the whole of senior years curriculum online (for a blended mode of delivery) that launched in 2017.

Now I’m never one to follow the crowd, and in education there are so many frameworks, methodologies, and pedagogies that I’ve purposefully never aligned myself to just one. I prefer to pick and choose, incorporating and melding them into the best of breed for my client, the school, the students, and the educators I work with and support.

I don’t think anyone can deny however that the model most dominant in K-12 settings is pedagogy (over heutagogy & andragogy). In my presentation I explained why I think heutagogy is worthy of consideration in K-12, particularly in the middle to senior years. If we are serious about dismantling the constructs of the current paradigm, we need to consider all options and heutagogy has much to offer. 

In the recently released World Economic Forum Future Jobs 2020 Report they note that the skills gap we face in the lead up to 2025 (scarily not that far off) includes critical thinking and analysis, problem-solving and self-management. This places Heutagogy in the lead as the delivery model that can support the acquisition and development of these very skills. Heutagogy (also known as self-determined learning) is a student-centered instructional strategy that emphasises the development of autonomy, capacity, and capability. The goal of heutagogy is to teach lifelong learning and to produce learners who are well equipped to manage the complexities of today’s workplace, and as best we can tomorrow’s workplace too.

One comment I’ve heard over and over from educators this year was that senior students would in fact be far better prepared this year for tertiary studies than ever before due to their experience of remote learning through this period of school closures. What’s frustrating about this is why wasn’t this considered before now, wasn’t it obvious that there was a huge disconnect between secondary and tertiary education models? Perhaps like the current situation we find ourselves in, everyone agrees that there must be change but few have the courage to act.

In 2014 I returned from the ISTE conference in the US and informed my fellow executives that in the US, across the majority of states back then, it had become mandatory for students to complete a minimum of one online unit in preparation for further studies. We knew, when preparing to launch our blended model in 2017, that our students would be far better prepared than most for tertiary studies, the world of work and indeed lifelong learning. It was a move that made many educators feel uneasy however it was an ‘opt in’ model so that those who were looking for a challenge would have that opportunity and be provided support and upskilling in instructional design and Heutagogical practices. As it turned out the educators and students found themselves in a fortunate position this year as they were far better prepared for the challenges they faced this year as schools here in Melbourne closed, many for 140+ days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The students who were in that first cohort to move online in 2017 were only weeks into their final year (Year 12/VCE) when schools closed but with three years of preparation the feedback was that they felt they had all the skills and tools they needed to feel confident, be effective and finish strong. 

Prior to COVID, many schools were pursuing initiatives that would help them improve the student learning experience and drive better outcomes, as they had begun to realise that by helping teachers build expertise with online spaces and digital tools, they can better achieve their goals. 

The aim of my presentation was to highlight that as schools moved to remote learning, and particularly those who managed to deliver online learning true to its definition of providing both asynchronous and synchronous learning, we had naturally seen a drift towards heutagogy occurring, right down to the primary years. 

Academic Exchange Quarterly ISSN 1096-1453 Volume 23, Issue 1 Spring 2019

It is the courageous leaders that will take the lead now, ensuring they don’t let this rare opportunity to rethink schooling go to waste, playing the long term, strategic game to carve a unique niche in the marketplace that will secure their enrolments long into the future.  

I remain passionate about the technological tools and the underpinning architecture to support student learning and I’m driven by my own poor experience of schooling. My focus is always on the students, their needs, and how we can empower them to take responsibility for their learning. I want to ensure that every child leaves school prepared to solve the problems they will face in the future head on which is what makes heutagogy so appealing.

I concluded my presentation with a quote attributed to Winston Churchill:

 “Never let a good crisis go to waste”

By using this quote, I meant that TODAY, we as school leaders and educators, have an amazing opportunity to do things differently. Educators across the globe have shown outstanding resilience and flexibility, pushing their practice even further towards Heutagogy during what was a highly stressful year for many. Now as we stop to draw breath and turn our attention to 2021, we must remember to take full advantage of the current environment. We need to reflect and focus on what worked for, and empowered, students and incorporate those successes into regular daily practice. 

The video has now been uploaded to my own website and you can view it below:

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