Heutagogy Community of Practice

Advancing the Theory and Practice of Self-Determined Learning

Self-Determined Learner Profile: Meet Penny Webb!

With this post, we begin a series of learner profiles exploring how heutagogy is perceived and experienced by learners themselves. We wanted to hear from learners who consider themselves to exhibit the qualities of a heutagogical learner and/or who are learning in a heutagogical environment — in other words, those who are self-determined learners. These profiles are informal collections and reflections of the theory and practice of heutagogy from learners’ perspectives (in other words, it’s not formal research). Nonetheless, we hope the profiles will shed some light on how learners are experiencing self-determined learning. Stay tuned for more!

Learner Profile: Penny Webb

Penny Webb

1) Tell us about yourself and your learning context. (What are you learning and why? Are you in a formal or informal educational program? What brings you to where you are, as a learner, now?)
I am a mature student – almost 56. After deciding that I did not need a degree, I have changed my mind as over the last couple of years as I have found myself engaging with higher level professionals, experts within the early years field and government here in the UK (all because of my passion for children and their well-being – and finding myself a ‘soapbox’.)
My day job is as a registered childminder caring for other people’s children in my own home (mainly under 5’s). I am also a foster carer, a volunteer for many early years organisations, and a ‘small time’ blogger; plus I am grandmother to 10 children ranging in age from 16 years to 3 months.
I am undertaking a top up degree in ‘Integrated working with children and families’  which will give me a BA Hons once completed. Due to my very busy and complicated life, normal study mode of attending lectures was not suitable for me, and it was by chance through a discussion on Linkedin that I found out about the Flexible Distributed Learning route being offer by Worcester University for the first time this year. I was late enrolling,  but joined my peer group on the introductory day that was face-to-face.
As part of the pre-course work we had to do a bit of research and write a short assignment on heutagogy as this would be our method of learning. All very new to me – but I was hooked!
2) What about your learning context reflects the ideas of heutagogy as you understand them?
My learning is mainly done under my own direction. Yes there are things suggested on the online learning environment (called Blackboard) but when to engage, how to engage, how to extend is my decision. If I want to achieve my degree I need to be self-directed and self-motivated – and to understand that there is more than one way to reach this goal. There are of course some tasks that must be completed – such as a literature review, the dissertation, and some end of module assignments (and criteria to be met). However, there are no face-to-face lectures every week, no peers with which to engage face-to-face – just a time-lapse virtual environment – and no control over the amount of engagement by others.
3) What qualities or characteristics as a learner do you need to bring to your learning given this context?
My qualities are I always expect myself to do my best – not to be perfect but to do my best. I am self motivated. I prefer to find my own way to do things – and not to be told (finding out I am dyslexic helps explain why I find some standard methods hard). I do things in my own time frame – and do not cope well, if told ‘do this now’ as I have to think about things and process them, and ensure I understand the task. My time management is fine tuned – and I set my self targets., which I meet even if have to put in extra time. I learn best my doing, by hands-on trail and error.
4)  What are the challenges of this kind of learning approach for learners?
It can be easy to fall behind, it can be hard to get help when you need it, you may feel that your way of doing things is the long route.  It can be hard to compare progress with others – or even to have the same goals – so therefore finding a ‘measure of success’ before the goal / end is reached can be hard. If you are not self-motivated you may give up easily. And if you are over-ambitious, you may push yourself too hard or have unrealistic expectations and then ‘burn out’ of and be disappointed with your results / progress to goals.
5) What are the benefits of this kind of learning approach for learners?
Doing it mainly your way – the way that works best for you. Being able to extend in the direction most appropriate for you. Setting your own goal – or at very least targets on the way to a pre-determined goal (such as gaining a degree). With some subjects there is not a right or wrong – just a different way of getting there. It is in your own time frame, and you can adapt to meet your own learning needs.
6) What recommendations do you have for other learners who are engaging in this kind of learning context or approach?
Read up first – whether for yourself or for someone else that you are responsible for (such as a young person). If you are an adult, this sort of learning may not be right for you if you are used to being directed and given lots of guidance on the when and how of studying. Be realistic, monitor your own progress, and if you are not able to motivate yourself, find a ‘buddy’ to help motivate you when times are hard. Check that you understand the expectations and that you are happy with them. On my course, some had not thought about the time commitment needed to meet criteria of being on the online learning environment. Some had not engaged and were waiting to be directed in what to do next.
7) Other comments or ideas?
I am really interested in this way of learning and finding out more, both as a learner myself, but also as a leader of an early years setting. While doing my pre-course research and reading, I realised that although I have a pedagogy (which at this stage in my own knowledge development I think is my ethos and practice), I also enable the children to self-direct a lot of their own play / learning. So I am interested in implementing heutagogy rather than pedagogy within my setting. It is because of my interest and my initial thoughts during my pre-course work that my dissertation is based on the question “Is there a place for heutagogy within the pedagogy of early years settings?”
Thanks to Penny for sharing her perspectives on heutagogy!
Let us know if you have a learner perspective to share!

One comment on “Self-Determined Learner Profile: Meet Penny Webb!

  1. Stewart Hase
    February 15, 2015

    Great story Penny. Some commentators about heutagogy mistakenly think that it only applies to adult learners. Not sure where this idea came from unless it is in higher education that we started to use the methods. But, children, before going to school, are excellent learners in the heutagogical sense-in fact it is there that we can learn most about how humans learn.

    So, you idea of applying heutagogy to children makes perfect sense. Some schools are using heutagogy as a model and of course Steiner and Montessori have been using it for years although it wasn’t given the label then.

    Thanks for your contribution Penny.

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