Embracing Training and Development Through Self-Determined Learning

Sophia Tsang
Head of People

We all need to aim to become lifelong learners to thrive in this global knowledge economy. We are tasked to have the capability to use our knowledge and skills effectively and creatively in new situations solving complex technical, social, and environmental problems in this ever-evolving and complex world. That’s why we need a more self-directed and self-determined learning approach.

The different types of learning

In the training and development world, there are three types of learning:

  • Pedagogy: children’s learning
  • Andragogy: adult’s learning
  • Heutagogy: self-directed learning

As a child, you’re more dependent and the educator’s role is more directive. Educators need to provide a variety of learning styles to engage learners. As an adult, you may have already grasped a certain sense of independence and autonomy, and thus the role of an educator is more of a collaborator.

However, with the self-determined learning model, the learner and educator are interdependent, creating a synergy of understanding and trust where the goal of the educator is to equip the learner with the creativity to design their learning journey. The learner gets to reflect on what they learned and how they learned it, and the educator teaches them how to teach themselves.

We call that self-determined learning, or the scientific term, heutagogy.

Lisa Marie Blaschke from Oldenburg University and University of Maryland University College share that this learning environment develops capable learners by emphasizing both the development of learner competencies as well as the development of the learner’s capability and capacity to learn. This approach believes learners are competent and exhibit the following traits:

  • Self-efficacy in knowing how to learn and continuously reflect on the learning process
  • Communication and teamwork skills like working with others and being openly communicative
  • Creativity, particularly in applying competencies to new and unfamiliar situations and being adaptable and flexible
  • Positive values the learner embodies, such as independence, reliability, and dependability

Furthermore, our access to a breadth of knowledge through the internet, such as e-learning materials, YouTube’s master classes, research papers, etc., is a great complement to the heutagogy approach.

In the context of a tech company, a Manager, mentor, or Team Lead would pose a technical problem that a client (or multiple clients) run into. The Manager, mentor, or Team Lead has effectively set up an opportunity to explore a topic. Now, it’s up to the Developer to pursue a solution. This approach provides the Developer with determining what they want to learn and how they want to learn.

Self-determined learning in motion

At Indellient, our VP of Software, David Found, runs several initiatives to align with different learning styles and growth paths to be as efficient as possible when considering professional development. One such initiative is our Innovation Incubator, led by Kulwinder Billen, a Software Development Manager.

The Innovation Incubator is a unique approach to expanding skills for individuals while providing direct value to the individual, a team, a client, or the entire organization. While working in any environment, challenges will arise. We see these as opportunities to gather a list of unique problems and ideas to branch off from.

Using this list, as well as random ideas that are also valid to be added, we explore the best approach to solve them by identifying key outcomes. Is it to learn a new language? Is it to truly solve the problem? Is it to test the feasibility of an unknown? Is it to try to fill a different role within a project than your current one? Depending on the outcome you desire, the approach may be different. But we also leverage the core concept of heutagogy as a method to ensure motivation and drive for success. This is a key value-add in the selection process for any given project.

A project under the Innovation Incubator can look a lot different than a standard, enterprise project; however, it promotes an expanded reach and lens through which you can look at projects in the future, ultimately achieving a better solution.

– David Found, VP of Software


I hope that this blog post has given you a better understanding of the value of a lifelong learner through self-determined learning and perhaps you can apply it in your workplace. By focusing on your own goals and interests and taking control of your learning journey, you can make real progress and achieve the growth you’ve been seeking. Through this journey, you may end up picking up both hard and soft skills. Just see where it takes you.

So, don’t be afraid to take the reins and start exploring new areas of interest, seeking out new challenges, and embracing your unique path to growth. With a little bit of self-determination and a willingness to try new things, you can make real progress and achieve your goals.

In my next blog, I’ll share some insights into why horizontal development is as important as vertical development.


  • (Hase & Kenyon, 2000; Kenyon & Hase, 2010; Gardner et al,. 2007)
  • Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A review of Heutagogical Practice and Self-Determined Learning, January 2012 – EJ979639.pdf (ed.gov)

Indellient is a Software Development Company that specializes in Data AnalyticsCloud Services, and DevOps Services.

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About The Author

Sophia Tsang

Sophia works as the Head of People for the HR department at Indellient Inc. where she uses the skills of strategic planning, coaching/mentoring as well as people development and employee engagement. Sophia brings over 15 years of HR experience, working for high-growth tech companies in the GTA, emphasizing the importance of creating an empathetic learning organization and fostering a people-centric work environment. Throughout Sophia's career, she has gathered a plethora of experience, working as a People and Culture Manager for Limelight Software, an HR & Leadership Development Advisor for a non-profit-organization, as well as the Head of People for Tjene Corp. However, nothing beats Sophia's essential role as a mother of three very active and curious kids and the joy of "growing" them to become curious, empathetic, and trusted human beings.