It’s not the unfriendly classroom, it’s the expectations

Great perspectives on heutagogical practice in learning and teaching by Bob Dick posted in the Heutagogy Community of Practice.

Heutagogy Community of Practice

by Bob Dick 

I’ve decided that classrooms are not friendly to learning.

I don’t think that it’s always the classroom as such.  Yes, there are tiered classrooms with fixed furniture.  They are inherently unfriendly.  Many other classrooms, though, can be arranged in ways that are congenial.  And useful learning can be stimulated even in unfriendly classrooms.

As I see it, much of the problem is that the learners bring “classroom attitudes” into the classroom with them.  I think the attitudes are more important, in the end, than the actual classroom layout.

There was a time when I was a full time academic with responsibility for several courses.  Before each class, if possible, I’d reconfigure the classroom.  I’d stack the desks at the back of the room.  I’d arrange the chairs, space permitting, into a large circle.  My intention was for the layout to proclaim that this wasn’t a lecture.


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Thinking About Heutagogy

Me thinking about thinking about heutagogy with a few others who are also thinking about it. It’s nice to think, together.

Heutagogy Community of Practice

A few people have been thinking about heutagogy or heutagogical practices recently here in WordPress land, so let’s repost a few of these ideas here for everyone to read:

What do you think about when you think about heutagogy? Please share!

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Heutagogy Highlights – Conference in Prague, March 2013

Heutagogy Community of Practice

Heutagogy: Reconceptualising Learning for the 21st Century – Stewart Hase

Since its inception in 2000, heutagogy or self-determined learning, has been discussed and applied in a number of different settings across the globe. This keynote address explores the fundamentals of heutagogy and its theoretical underpinnings. We will also examine a long overdue reconceptualization of learning based on advances in neuroscience and how this fits within heutagogy. Finally we will review recent applications. Consistent with the principles of heutagogy the session will be interactive involving a live Twitter feed and group discussion. To gain maximum benefit participants are requested to read about heutagogy by accessing the various papers and commentary that can be found on the web and particularly the heutagogy community of practice at Participants can also contact Stewart at

Learning for Life: Preparing Students for the Complexities of the Workplace Today and Tomorrow–…

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The Sky Is The Limit: MOOCs For Credit Or Learning?

Pam Tate from CAEL recently published this editorial in InsideHigherEd: The right path to MOOC credit?

Here are some essential questions she posed:

Are course evaluations and testing really the best or only way to deal with this new era of learning? What about experiential learning? If someone has college-level learning from their life experience is it invalid unless they take a course?

Tate proposes that  course-by-course  assessment may not be the best way to go, and that individual learning assessment via a portfolio may be a better approach. I couldn’t agree more, but I suspect our reasons are slightly different. My reason is about learning.

In the Heutagogy Community of Practice right now, we’re having a great conversation about the differences between learning, and between knowledge and skills acquisition. I think this is key to consider in the MOOC conversation, too. What kinds of learning are we interested in promoting in higher education? Surface, strategic, or deep? And then how do we design learning experiences to support the kinds of learning we really want?

Personally, I think the sky is the limit when we are talking about opening up access, in the way that MOOCs might, to learning. So why wouldn’t we go all the way?

The Sky is the Limit, photo by Harriet L. Schwartz with permission

The Sky is the Limit, photo by Harriet L. Schwartz with permission

MOOCs (specifically xMOOCs ) still seem to be all about delivering knowledge and skills acquisition; furthermore, now the hot topic is finding ways to “measure and credit” that learning (surface and strategic learning, but probably not deep learning), and ACE is doing it with the good old 20th century final exam. (Twelve steps forward for learning; 20 steps backwards for assessment!)

There’s a place for all three kinds of learning in our lives, of course, but if we leave deep learning development out of higher education, I think we miss a great collective opportunity, one that’s actually necessary for our modern global and technological society. As I often hear my colleague saying, I’m in higher education because ultimately I want to promote world peace. We can get closer to that via deep learning approaches. And deep learning approaches call for a different kind of assessment to support them.

This is why I’d much rather see a PLA portfolio-type process (reflect and integrate; learn and unlearn and relearn; articulate; clarify; analyze; identify significance; identify dissonance; MAKE MEANING!!! — these are key PLA verbs) for MOOC learning assessments than a final exam. A PLA-type process can deepen students’ learning  — can help learners construct knowledge and apply it to new situations, versus take it in and spit it out. In this way, assessment of learning  (prior or new, regardless of source) can serve to both measure and credit learning (assessment OF learning), but more importantly, to deepen learning and promote ongoing learning (assessment AS and FOR learning).

The sky is the limit when we are talking about opening up access to learning via MOOCs and other open resources. Why would we even think of stopping at the bottom rung?

Our Talismen

See that frog up there? That one riding a bike? That one riding a bike WITHOUT A HELMET MAMA!?!?!

This is what my husband posted to his Facebook profile about that frog:

This is not a toy. This is not the coveted “froggie rides a bike” toy. No, this is a talisman armed with more juju than that balsa wood thing that nearly derailed the Brady’s Hawaiian vacation. In absence, it can bring an entire morning to a halt, reschedule conference calls, and alter commute patterns. In presence, it provokes toothy smiles, infinite variations on engine noises, table manners, and a healthy, well-balanced appetite. This is not a toy and it cannot be lost ever again.

It is critical that we differentiate this toy from this book, which sometimes is the only thing between us and nap time:

It is also critical that we differentiate this toy, and this book, from this character, the green one on the left, perched on top of the Big Boy Bed:

That character — also known as “Froggie” — goes a lot of places with us, such as school, swimming lessons, and the Big Store:


Pronunciation: \ˈta-ləs-mən, -ləz-\
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural tal·is·mans
Etymology: French talisman or Spanish talismán or Italian talismano; all from Arabic ṭilsam, from Middle Greek telesma, from Greek, consecration, from telein to initiate into the mysteries, complete, from telos end — more at telos
Date: 1638

1 : an object held to act as a charm to avert evil and bring good fortune
2 : something producing apparently magical or miraculous effects

In our house, we believe in talismen.  Sometimes, they are what help us get through a nap, a meal, or a seemingly simple trip to buy toilet paper.