Thursday, 5 November 2015

My DBR Proposal


The feedback received from my ‘As a Teacher’ submission suggested the further exploration of the actual skill level of adult learners (both in ICT and meta-cognitively) when undertaking learning in a networked and global learning (NETGL) environment, and applying andragogy concepts to adult learners in this same environment. Adult learners are different to compulsory education learners as they have different and competing priorities, and are often involved because they are looking to expand their knowledge and their progression in their employment, or seeking a completely different perspective (Koller, 2012). Malcolm Knowles developed the term ‘andragogy’ to focus specifically on the task of educating adult learners and defines it as ‘the art and science of helping adults learn. It is based on students' self-directedness, experience, readiness to learn and problem centeredness’ (Knowles, 1990 as cited in Stillborne & Williams, 1996). Heutagogy is a concept that takes andragogy one step further; ‘Pedagogy and andragogy are teacher-directed whereas heutagogy is learner directed and self-organised. Heutagogy is concerned with understanding under what conditions self-determined learning takes place and, consistent with constructivist approaches to education, seeks to find ways to facilitate conditions where it might reasonably occur’ (Hase, Tay, & Goh, 2006). As heutagogy has been described as ‘net-centric’ (Blaschke, 2012), I will be exploring the concept of heutagogy through NETGL and its implications for transferring skills from one environment (such as learning permaculture through NETGL) to another (the workplace). I believe this to be relevant to current workplace conditions as ‘lifelong learning’ is promoted as continual learning past formal education and into adulthood. In order to cope in the 21st century, it is argued learners need creativity, collaboration, communication, critical/analytical thinking and ethics, action and accountability skills (Bruniges, 2012; Crockett, 2015).  With the abundance of information available on the internet and through social media, adult learners have the increased ability to transform this information into valuable knowledge and meaning. This increasing ability to filter and make meaning from information networked both locally and globally, poses questions for the long term viability of formal online education, training and development initiatives. Can learning be transferred from one situation to another? More importantly can this learning be adapted to different scenarios and situations? Would this only be viable in social/situated learning situations?

Organisations are complex, adaptive systems, responsive to the changing external environment, and organisations need to determine those capabilities an employee requires to work effectively within these systems, and how to develop these attributes in their employees (Hase, Tay & Goh, 2006). Hase, Tay and Goh (2006) argue that ‘linear, modernist approaches to training and development are insufficient’ and note there is a clear distinction between knowledge, skills and learning – ‘knowledge and skills can be acquired, however learning is far more complex than simple acquisition’.  What this research is attempting to do is to understand how adults engage with the process of learning (Jones, 2015), in order to tap into this process and develop it for organisation gain. Having a capable workforce means ‘people are more likely to be able to deal effectively with the turbulent environment in which they live by possessing an ‘all round’ capacity centred on self-efficacy, knowing how to learn, creativity, the ability to use competencies in novel as well as familiar situations and working with others’ (Hase & Kenyon, 2000). It is proposed that exposure to heutagogical learning experiences will help develop capability in the modern workplace (Hase, Tay & Goh, 2006).

      What questions would you like to answer through implementing and evaluating your planned application of NETGL?

Main Question:
How can using principles of heutagogy in an NETGL non-workplace environment enhance adult learners’ meta-cognitive skills and be transferable to a workplace environment to enhance capabilities, creativeness and innovation in an organisation?

  1. Does informal personal self-directed learning strategies transfer to new, creative, and innovative practices in the workplace?
  2. Can using blogs or participating in social media satisfy the ‘personal reflection’ criteria in heutagogy?
  3. What skills do adult learners need to participate in this type of learning?
  4. Should organisations promote this type of learning over traditional teacher-learner scenarios to develop workplace related skills in their employees?
  5. Can learning truly evolve into a heutagogical approach? What are the implications for teachers and educational institutions?

     Literature review

The process of learning for adults has changed from the formal schooling years of their earlier life. The world now is where

‘information is readily and easily accessible; where change is so rapid that traditional methods of training and education are totally inadequate; discipline based knowledge is inappropriate to prepare for living in modern communities and workplaces; learning is increasingly aligned with what we do; modern organisational structures require flexible learning practices; and there is a need for immediacy of learning.’ (Hase & Kenyon, 2000).

Learning is now emphasised in the making of connections and the relationships between different people or aspects (Bell, Zenios & Parchoma, 2010 ) and encapsulates ‘informal, self-directed, vocational and/or interest-based learning’ (Carvalho & Goodyear, 2014, p. 139).  Even leadership, once discussed and developed as an ‘individual’ trait, is now moving towards the complex social nature of teams to ensure greater application and effectiveness in the workplace (McMillen, 2012). So much emphasis in the literature is now placed on ‘lifelong learning’ and the way adults must interact in the workplace, with little regard for how these skills are to be developed. The importance for organisations is harnessing the potential in the hidden informal social architecture of its people, such as informal learning, tacit knowledge and cooperation (Mueller, 1996 as cited in Thite, 2004), and the skill in developing employees’ individual continual learning and capacity building for their benefit and not that of management’s approval (Senge, 1990). Essentially, organisations are looking to create a learning organisation as defined by the seminal research of Senge (1990).   

The knowledge economy demands the emergence of a new set of capabilities, such as emotional intelligence, self-leadership, systems thinking, learning to learn, intuitive decision making, cross-cultural sensitivity, and capacity for change (Thite, 2004). A capability is characterised by learner confidence in their competency (the ability to acquire knowledge and skills) and take action to solve problems in both familiar and unfamiliar and changing settings (Blaschke, 2012). Capable people know how to learn, are self-reflective, communicative with team members, and creative, particularly in applying competencies in new and unfamiliar situations and positive values (Blaschke, 2012). Imel (2002) describes two different subsets of metacognition, self-management and self-assessment. Imel’s (2002) research indicates that those learners who are skilled in self-assessment are more aware of their abilities, and are therefore more strategic and perform better than those who are unaware. This supports additional research that indicates ‘individuals compensate for their limited knowledge of the interdependencies between their various tasks and for their uncertainty about the future by exchanging information – knowledge, advice, expertise and resources – with other problem-solvers within the same organisation’ (Watts, 2003, as cited in Siemens, 2006). Bell, Zenios & Parchoma (2010) identify networked learning as a social form of learning with emphasis on the connections and relationships formed between users. NETGL is essentially how individuals can ‘create, analyse and share knowledge’ (Kligyte, 2009, p.540), and make connections between the elements of these systems. A person’s identity, their knowledge and view of themselves or the way the learner is identified by others impacts the way they interact in a learning environment (Wallace, 2011, p. 15), however if this learning environment is moved to a networked and global environment, would this enable learners to adjust these perceptions and increase their interactions?

In order to utilise NETGL principles to their full effect, the practice of heutagogy will be explored as a possible insight to achieve capabilities in learners.  Heutagogy can be described as the self-determined form of learning, or knowing how to learn, and is a fundamental future skill for innovation in communities and workplaces (Hase & Kenyon, 2000). The difference between andragogy, and heutagogy is teacher centeredness versus learner centeredness; ‘In a heutagogical approach to teaching and learning, learners are highly autonomous and self-determined and emphasis is placed on development of learner capacity and capability with the goal of producing learners who are well-prepared for the complexities of today’s workplace’ (Blaschke, 2012, p.56). It is interesting to note here that development of meta-cognitive learning skills through double-loop learning is characteristic of heutagogy (Blaschke, 2012). It is argued that ‘we find our higher-level understanding through reflection and informal learning, where we engage with knowledge to make new understandings’ (Siemens, 2006, p.10) and this is not necessarily granted to learners through the ‘knowledge-in-containers’ (Siemens, 2006) aspect of formal education.  Relating this back to workplace learning, the learning is deeply connected to collaborations with colleagues and professional development is organised and realised by professionals through their own social networks and communities (De Laat & Schreurs, 2013).

Absent in the current literature is research into how the combination of a heutagogical educational approach and the use of NETGL can support development of learner competencies and capabilities. A self-determined learning approach together with social media can engage learners and extend learning by giving students independence in deciding how they will learn and allowing them to make new connections and develop networks of learning (Blaschke, 2012). However, NETGL is not simply being involved with social media applications, under social constructivist theory, learning occurs where there is active participation by the learner in a collaborative effort (Kligyte, 2009). What this research endeavours to discover is when learners are motivated to research their own interests and be able to apply their learning to practice and to their personal philosophy, will this influence a shift in thinking within themselves and those they work with. (Canning, 2010).

Draft principles

  • Initial NETGL learning not situated within workplace context
  • Social in nature
  • Establish initial baseline skill level

A plan for implementation

A proposal for this research is to simulate a NETGL environment with people selected from an organisation in order to learn a non-workplace related skill, such as permaculture, and see if the meta-cognition skills as described in the literature are transferable to a workplace setting in order to complete a common workplace task.

Two groups would be selected from the same organisation. Each group would be a cross section of employee age, gender, occupation, education level attained, and management level within the organisation.

There will be a four phrase approach.

Phase 1 – This phase will involve all applicants completing a preferred learning inventory to establish their preferred learning styles. This is included to focus the individual participants on their own preferred learning style and a be basis from which a self-determined path of learning will follow in Phase 2.

Phase 2 - The first task will be learning set skills related to permaculture. One group would learn permaculture together online as a networked group, and the other group would learn about permaculture individually, but still within a networked online environment. All individuals will be asked to perform a self-reflection on the learning process for this task.
The role of the educator in this instance is to facilitate the process of learning at the request of the groups or individuals. At the end of this task, both groups will be asked to complete a short questionnaire containing questions relating to perceived learning skills and how the learner decided what skills/knowledge need to be pursued and learnt from the exercise.

Phase 3 - The second task involves both groups completing an identical workplace task that is timed and assessed. In this task, the groups are to collaborate on an identical client pitch to a potential new client to the business. The groups will present the sales pitch to senior staff within the organisation.

Phase 4 – The final task will involve the researcher interviewing individual participants two weeks after the completion of the Phase 3 task. The interviewer will gather information on the participants perceived application of new skills, their reflection of the learning process and their perceived learned skills during the process.

It is hypothesised that group 2 will cover a greater depth of subject material, group 1 will display greater social cohesion, and perform the task to a higher standard and in a shorter amount of time, because of the collaboration efforts and existing relationships built upon from the first task.

The assessment of the results will come from the quantitative data of surveys and specific inventories, and qualitative data, on answers to interview questions and analysis of self-reflections.

What do I still need to learn?

  • Base skill level of adult participants
  • Design a task that has transferable skills
  • How to measure the interconnectedness of NETGL


Bell, A., Zenios, M., & Parchoma, G. (2010). Undergraduate experiences of coping with networked learning: Difficulties now, possibilities for the future. In L. Dirckinck‐Holmfeld, V. Hodgson, C. Jones, M. de Laat, D. McConnell, & T. Ryberg (Eds.), 7th International Conference on Networked Learning 2010 (pp. 904–911).
Blaschke, L. (2012). Heutagogy and Lifelong learning: A review of heutagogical practice and self-determined learning. The International Review of research in open and distance learning, 13 (1), 56 – 71.
Bruniges, M. (2012). 21st Century skills for Australian Students, 21st Century skills Forum, Tokyo Jan 14 November 2012. Retrieved from
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.
Carvalho, L. & Goodyear, P (Eds.). (2001). The Architecture of Productive Learning Networks. London: Routledge.
Crockett, R. (2015, Jan 9). The critical 21st Century skills every student needs and why. Retrieved from
De Laat, M, & Schreurs, B. (2013). Visualising informal professional development networks: Building a case for learning analytics in the workplace. American Behavioural Scientist, 57 (10), 1421 – 1438.
Hase, S., & Kenyon, C. (2000). From Andragogy to Heutagogy. Retrieved from
Hase, S, Tay, B. H., and Goh, E. (2006). Developing learner capability through action research: from pedagogy to heutagogy in the workplace. Paper presented at the Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association Conference, Wollongong, April.

Imel, S. (2002). Metacognitive Skills for Adult learning. ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational education. Retrieved from
Jones, D. (2015, September 09). Requirements, solutions, design and who should decide [web blog]
Koller, D. (2012, June). What we are learning from online education [video file]. Video posted to
Kligyte, G. (2009). Threshold concept: A lens for examining networked learning. In Proceedings of the Ascilite 2009 Conference (pp. 540–542). Auckland, NZ.
Senge, P.M. (1990). The Leader’s New Work: Building Learning Organisations. Sloan Management Review, 7-23.
Siemens, G. (2006). Knowing Knowledge. Retrieved from
Stillborne, L. & Williams, L. (1996). Meeting the needs of Adult learners in developing courses for the internet. Retrieved from
Thite, M. (2004). Strategic positioning of HRM in knowledge-based organizations. The Learning Organization, 11 (1), p.28 – 44.

Wallace, R. (2011). Social Partnerships in Learning: Connecting to the Learner Identities of disenfranchised regional learners. In R. Catts, I. Falk & R. Wallace (eds) Vocational Learning: Innovative Theory and practice. Springer: London.

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