Andragogy 2.0: Emerging Theories











Pushing the boundaries of education theory – A hurricane at our backs

How are teaching and learning theories evolving to take into account the opportunities and advances in social media and “Web 2.0”?

Andragogy, as a theory of adult learning, has been around since the 1980s, extending the notion of pedagogy to an adult learning context (Malcolm Knowles, discussed in a chapter I wrote on online learning theory).  I have been thinking about what a “2.0” conceptualizing of andragogy might look like, given the incursions of user-generated content into both live and online learning contexts. Two recent models – paragogy and heutagogy – have captured my attention as useful extensions of Knowles’ adult learning theory. These models may well constitute a kind of “Androgogy 2.0.”

Both paragogy and heutagogy present a model of learning that is (1) decentred, (2) non-linear, (3) peer-led and (4) self-determined. These characteristics map onto social media applications and the democratization of knowledge and information. Paragogical and heutagogical approaches also extend traditional adult learning frameworks through their emphasis on meta learning, or learning how to learn.

A new model for health care education is needed at this time for a number of reasons:

The explosion of evidence-based information in health care means that “just in time” learning may be more helpful and important than “just in case” learning.

Patient access to – and use of – internet-based health information means that providers need to understand how to access, assess, critique, and translate credible sources of information.

The new generation of learners are already “hyper-learners” (i.e. non-linear in their approach to accessing and processing information), and are accustomed to generating as well as consuming content.

Power dynamics in the classroom are already shifting towards learner-as-consumer, with all of the attendant opportunities and pitfalls that we are seeing. On one hand, learning is volitional, so it makes intuitive sense that learners should be autonomous and self-determining. Shifting the power dynamics in the classroom in favour of the learner can facilitate many-to-many communication and crowdsourcing. On the other hand, our educational structures and institutions are not set up to accommodate radically student-centred approaches, and as faculty we can find ourselves caught in the middle.

So what are the practical implications for clinical education? I have been experimenting with student-centred assignments and activities, as well as peer evaluation and use of social media, and the going is not always easy. The preconditions of psychological safety and willingness to risk are key, and I find that these strategies take considerably more of my time in coaching and reassuring. However based on students’ feedback, there is a depth and richness to the learning that goes beyond instructor-centric approaches.

In any case, when it comes to radically student-centred approaches to 21st Century health care education, “We’re not walking into a headwind, we have a hurricane at our backs.”


View a presentation on the topic of “Andragogy 2.0: Introducing emerging frameworks for teaching and learning: Paragogy and Heutagogy” on Slideshare



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