Advancing the Theory and Practice of Self-Determined Learning
by Duncan Gotobed
I’ve been a trainer for over 14 years and pride myself on taking a learner-centric approach when designing and delivering management and leadership training. Not that different to my fellow trainers. We all want to make the participants’ experience in the training room meaningful and motivate them to apply their skills back in the workplace. However, over the last few months I have become more conscious that I could do more to encourage a shared sense of responsibility for learning in the training room. Until a few days ago I wasn’t sure how and then I discovered ‘Heutagogy’.
The approach, which is all about learner-determined learning, struck a chord with me and challenged me to think how I could make my training truly learning centric. I decided to give it a go with a group of experienced senior managers in a session straight after lunch on a cold, wet Monday afternoon.
With over 20 expectant faces looking at me, I pointed to the post-its they had completed at the beginning of the day, the ones that highlighted their wish to develop their understanding of how to influence up, down and across their organisation. After a little input on Caldini’s weapons of influence I headed up three flipcharts with ‘How can we influence…’ followed by one of the stakeholder groups they had highlighted. I then asked for a volunteer to host each discussion and asked the group to self-select the discussion they would contribute to.
There was a knot in my stomach as I released control of the session to learners and the participants began to get up and move to their self-selected discussion. However, I’m glad I trusted my instincts. The energy and quality of the discussion was unbelievable, with a whole raft of ideas being generated by the three groups.
Participants made connections between what they had learnt in the morning with the challenges they were discussing in the activity. Furthermore, the activity enabled me to highlight the fact that everyone had experienced a range of weapons during a very positive discussion e.g. gravitating to particular people, accepting ideas because their peers supported them, or giving greater weight to the input of more experienced colleagues, etc.
On reflection, using a Heutagogy approach in the training room seems so obvious given my experience of using action-learning sets. The main challenge is to design an activity in real-time that directly links to the participants learning objectives and the course themes. The more I use the approach, the easier it will get.
Duncan Gotobed helps managers achieve their goals more quickly through designing and delivering learner centred training. He has a keen interest in using a heutagogy approach in the training room and is happy to share and exchange ideas on how to do this firstname.lastname@example.org