By Marisa Ruiz & Mary Chabaan

You’ve heard of pedagogy, but how familiar are you with heutagogy? With more faculty moving to the online, asynchronous modality, it’s a good time to review the three principal ‘’gogies’ and how characteristics of each contribute to quality course design practices.

Pedagogy, andragogy, and heutagogy are often presented as a continuum. As the learner matures, they transition from didactic pedagogy, to andragogy, and finally to heutagogy, where the mature learner is fully in control of their own learning, determining what they want to learn and assessing their own learning. In many cases, aspects of each may be present in a single course and can work together to create an optimal experience for learners.


  • Learner’s role: In didactic pedagogy, the learner is dependent on the instructor for information. The learner learns what the instructor wants them to learn.
  • Instructor’s role: The instructor is seen as the expert and provides feedback when the learner makes mistakes. The instructor chooses the topics and strategies and directs what, when, and how a subject is learned.
  • Impact on course design: Course design is linear with clear sequencing of instruction, moving from one topic to the next in the order that the instructor thinks makes the most sense. The focus may be on recalling facts or explaining ideas. Learning activities may include watching a lecture or reading an article and assessments may be automated.


  • Learner’s role: Andragogy is learner-centered and provides more independence. Having professional and life experience, these adult learners want their learning to be relevant.
  • Instructor’s role: The instructor serves as a facilitator or guide. The instructor creates learning experiences that are relevant and inclusive, and which promote inquiry, analysis, and decision-making. Substantive feedback along the way allows learners to refine their knowledge and skills.
  • Impact on course design: Course design includes explanation of why specific content is being taught and its connection to the real-world, activities that allow learners to collaborate and share personal experiences, opportunities for independent learning and agency, and involvement in providing instructor feedback.


  • Learner’s role: The learner is the agent of their own learning and determines how they will learn. The learner reflects on how they are learning and may adjust outcomes as discoveries are made. The learner determines their own activities and assessment, which often includes leaving the classroom and presenting to professionals in their field. Learning happens through personal experience with a focus on capability—which is the ability to apply gained skills to new and diverse situations.
  • Instructor’s role: The instructor sets outcomes and meets with the learner to offer guidance. Formative feedback is provided consistently, and mistakes are viewed as part of the learning process.
  • Impact on course design: Course design may be nonlinear and provide opportunities for exploration, creation, collaboration, connection, sharing, and reflection with the intention of creating self-determined, empowered learners.

A bit more on heutagogy…

As instructional designers, we hear consistent feedback around the topic of learner engagement. By leveraging aspects of heutagogy, we can activate learners’ intrinsic motivation by creating more self-determined learning experiences. For example, certain assessments that are problem-based or action-research oriented might be revised to allow for even greater learner agency. In this way, we deepen engagement by having learners take more responsibility. It may be impractical to apply pure heutagogy to online course design but placing learners in the driver’s seat speaks to the increasingly changing world we live in and supports their transition to professional life.

Marisa Ruiz is an Instructional Design Specialist at Arizona State University.


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