Are we really engaging our learners, or are they here for the doors it may open?

I have posted late, and for that I apologize. It appears my self directed learning has led me to enroll in  a post masters certificate at Emory which is kicking my posterior in terms of time, commitment, and assimilation of new information in order to expand my NP scope of practice from age 12 instead of age 55. Thus to employ this learner centered heutagogy model, I needed these courses to essentially  open “practice” doors to finally pay off student loans, to meet CCNE requirements, and to complete this post masters degree in a fiscally conservative manner. Are my reasons for this pedagogy, or andogogy or heutagogy learner centered or externally driven. Would I have chosen to put myself through these past two semesters unless an external push compelled me to do so? All questions that I pose do not appear to be clearly answered with the current assumptions underlying the articles.

I’m not sure as an educator I can personally develop a lifelong learner unless that learner is somewhat intrinsically motivated.  Even though my original motivation is extrinsic, my desire to be an accomplished professional is the intrinsic push whether it is teaching (thus this course) or practice ( the post masters course). Perhaps it is expanding the map of the learner’s world that truly aids learning and facilitated life long learners.

I do believe nursing education, especially the clinical education and application component has celebrated this huetagogy more than our peer educators as we can more easily incorporate this model into our assessments, design and instructional methods.  For example, Integrating art history into today’s culture takes much more planning than developing a case study of  unwed teen mother with neonatal  genetic complications, no prenatal care, presence of a sexual transmitted disease, and no source of spousal, paternal or financial support.  Asking what ethical, social, financial, physiologic and emotional components of this case truly can implement flexibility, learner direction and assessment. In my leadership course for fall, we can even examine institutional sources of support, societal influences, policy decisions and system failures that could have resulted in such outcomes from health care–in the present, past and future.

Preparing our students for the workplace is common practice. Modeling engagement, autonomy, creative problem solving and decisions that are relevant to my nursing students whether at the undergraduate level or graduate level is a given. Making sure the sustainability of continuing to learn, to grow and develop may not be in my hands.



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  1. Hi Phyllis, I’m glad you challenged this -gogy; I understand its strengths and how it might benefit a particular demographic of learners, but I am not one of them. I completely buy into andragogy in the sense that adult learners come to the class with personal experiences to enhance their learning, higher motivation (as you have explained for yourself), and that we must recognize this in our adult learners. This heutogogy, as explained by Blaschke in her article “Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A review of Heutagogical Practices and Self-Determined Learning” (2012), however, seems better suited for MOOCs and coursera-type courses, and learning that is self-paced for personal low-stakes interest. In other words, in this course, I need to know what I don’t know and what to know — I rely on experts to direct me and share with me, and provide feedback and comments based on their expertise. Additionally, there is no way I would move at this pace if I were self-directed (I am also in the middle of another online course for a Master’s Certificate – kick posterior kind of experience!), nor would I know the dimensions of what I could do with the information unless directed by an expert. This continuous learning is tremendously rewarding; additionally, I think without the external motivating factors, I’m not sure the level of commitment and energy I would put into it!
    Good luck with your certificate! And thanks for your post,

    • Ed Phillips on July 21, 2014 at 4:00 am
    • Reply

    Hi Phyllis,

    I also think that intrinsic motivation is important. And there is only so much a teacher can do to motivate if there is no desire on the part of students. When I taught undergraduates, I occasionally told my class that one of the worst mistakes they could make would be to bore their teacher! I wanted to late the class know that the classroom was an interactive experience–in which they made contributions that contributed centrally to the experience.

    I also think that motivation comes in all forms–sometimes our desire to avoid embarrassment is enough to get the ball rolling! Yet we hope that our students will eventually work because they genuinely love the material and want to know it.

    Finally we will want our students to love the learning they are experiencing on some basic level.

    Parker Palmer is the figure that helped me the most with that.



    • Erin Mooney on July 21, 2014 at 1:22 pm
    • Reply

    Hi Phyllis, I too could relate to what you wrote and agree that there is only so much we can control. When I was an English instructor, I taught ONLY freshman and sophomore required courses. Talk about lack of intrinsic motivation! The students were there only because they had to complete that requirement to graduate. It was challenging to engage them, but as I’ve said already, if I were in that situation today, I would do things very very differently based on what I’ve learned over the years and think I would be more successful.

    Sure there are some students who just want to get a nursing degree because it’s pretty much a guaranteed job today. There are always people like that. But one hopes there are many who want to be in nursing for intrinsic reasons. Those of you teaching graduate students should consider yourselves lucky, as students seeking the more advanced degrees are most intrinsically (I would assume) motivated because the challenges to learn (and efforts necessary) are greater. Why would you put yourself through all that if you didn’t really care?

  2. Many things are beyond our control as instructors, but I believe that most instructors do not give in before the class starts. Whatever learners’ motivations for signing up for the class, they may not exit the class feeling the same way. Are we going to motivate EVERY learner? Absolutely not, but engaging online experiences can turn most around.

    An interesting study by Hartnett, St. George, and Dron (2011) found that intrinsically motivated learners do not “represent the whole picture.” Rather, there are other factors like learning environment design, identified regulation, and extrinsic motivators. In addition, they also identify ways instructors can influence motivation:
    -identify purpose and value of tasks and how those relate to learner goals
    -offer choices that are meaningful and interesting to the learner
    -open and ongoing communications with learners

    Harnett, M., St. George, A., & Dron, J. (2011). “Examining Motivation in Online Distance Learning Environments: Complex, Multifaceted, and Situation-Dependent.” IRRODL 12(6).

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