The Heuristic Strategy of Empowered Learning

*Author: Vikas Agarwal, Master Facilitator, DOOR International B.V.

Date: 28.10.2021

"The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as long as we live."

- Mortimer Adler


In a rapidly changing world where information is readily available at our fingertips, the trainer and facilitators are no longer considered as the sole provider of subject matter expertise.

The trainer and facilitator’s role has shifted to becoming a more strategic partner in helping increase the overall learning capabilities of their learners and making them empowered, autonomous and self-determined.



The Plot

“How will the leaders learn it without my intervention?”

“Oh, that participant was annoying. He kept asking questions.”

“Oh, these students don’t have good English language proficiency. How will they understand this content?”

Well, these could be sound-bytes of concern for a facilitator, but many a times they are not. They could be our own insecurities, frustrations or even biases we subconsciously carry with us into our learning experiences we attempt to create for our learners. All facilitators come with the right intention; however, I believe that it is important as facilitators we need to say that I have a positive intent for your growth and display that in our mindset and actions.



The Inspiration

It was somewhere in the January of 2011 and I had just bought a copy of "The 5th Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization" by Peter Senge (trust me buying books was an expensive affair, but worth the investment). When I finished reading this book, I felt like probably someone who had met the Lord in person. That is the effect this book had on me.

It probably is the first ever book which in my view today tried to state that we have Sales Organizations, Service Organizations and then we have the ones and the only ones who tend to survive all odds of businesses which are Learning Organizations. This article has been my insights and attempt to create a learning mindset and culture with my clients while nurturing one for myself.



The Transition

Learning environments over the past decade have moved from being highly pedagogical to andragogical spaces to now being more heutagogical. While pedagogy is teacher-led learning and andragogy is self-directed learning, heutagogy takes an approach that is different from the two. The heutagogical approach encourages learners to find their own problems and questions to answer. So how do you move from the facilitator being the source of knowledge to the learner becoming the source and instrument of knowledge and discovery?

This shift requires moving from andragogy to a Heuristic process of learning. Heuriskein is the Greek verb to discover and underlies the origin of the word heuristic that is defined as a method of teaching by allowing learners to discover for themselves.

Heutagogy arose from the work of Stewart Hase and Chris Kenyon in From Andragogy to Heutagogy (2000).



The Differences

Over the last three decades that I have been training, coaching, and facilitating varied groups, I have seen transitions through my journey like training moving to Learning & Development, training transitioning from being a cost center to a value driver and training professionals moving from individual’s holding superior knowledge to humility towards learning. Along with the transition in the value of the learning domain, here are some of the areas of transitions I have mapped in my journey about the shift in the training philosophies.

I would recommend that you read through them, reflect on them and pick three of these which you would like to customize for your role as a Helping or Learning Professional – which I would eventually aspire to call A Human Capital Developer (more on it, in my future write-ups).




My Personal Conclusion

I am in no way saying Andragogy is of no value and I know how prevalent and insightful it has been over the last years. However, I firmly believe Heuristics has a highly empowering and profound effect in the journey of self-exploration. While Andragogy is practical, Heuristic is transformational.

Let me know your views and I’d love to imbibe them in my next article.



Reflection Questions

  1. Your top three insights from this article what helps you design more adult empowering learning experiences.
  2. Using the power and process of empathy, what are some of the unspoken needs you now think need more anticipation and focus as a trainer / coach?
I never teach my pupils; I only provide the conditions in which they can learn.
 Theoretical Physicist
Albert Einstein
Theoretical Physicist

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