This article aims to offer you a good understanding of what ‘pedagogy’ is (and how to say it!), why it’s important and how pedagogy has been evolving to take 21st-century skills and learning into account.

You’ll learn about the different aspects of pedagogy and four common forms of pedagogy: social, critical, culturally responsive and Socratic. Examples for each will provide greater insight into how you can apply different pedagogical teaching styles to your own classroom.

With tips on creating your own pedagogy, including taking into account how digital technology, online and collaborative work is changing teaching, you’ll understand why and how having a clear and concise pedagogy can support your curriculum. We’ll also touch on how new methods of teaching like flipped classrooms and blended learning can play into the pedagogical process.

Table of contents

1. What is pedagogy?
1.1. Why is pedagogy important?
1.2. How do you say ‘pedagogy’?
2. Different types of pedagogy
2.1. What is social pedagogy?
2.2. What is critical pedagogy?
2.3. What is culturally responsive pedagogy?
2.4. What is Socratic pedagogy?
3. Creating your own pedagogy
3.1. How can pedagogy support your curriculum?
3.2. How does pedagogy impact the learner?
4. How is pedagogy changing?
4.1. Online learning
4.2. Personalizing pedagogies
5. Conclusion
6. Further reading

1. What is pedagogy?

Pedagogy is often confused with curriculum. The latter defines what is being taught, while pedagogy actually refers to the method in how we teach—the theory and practice of educating. Pedagogy is the relationship between learning techniques and culture, and is determined based on an educator’s beliefs about how learning should, and does, take place. Pedagogy requires meaningful classroom interactions and respect between educators and learners. The goal is to help students build on prior learning and develop skills and attitudes and for educators to devise and present curriculum in a way that is relevant to students, aligning with their needs and cultures.

Shaped by the teacher’s own experiences, pedagogy must take into consideration the context in which learning takes place, and with whom. It isn’t about the materials used, but the process, and the strategy adopted to lead to the achievement of meaningful cognitive learning.

In a literal sense, the word pedagogy stems from the Greek word that effectively means “the art of teaching children.” More specifically, agogos means leader in Greek, and pedagogue refers to teacher. Paidagogos were slaves tasked with taking boys to school and back, teaching them manners and tutoring them.

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1.1. Why is pedagogy important?

Having a well thought-out pedagogy can improve the quality of your teaching and the way students learn, helping them gain a deeper grasp of fundamental material. Being mindful of the way you teach can help you better understand how help students achieve deeper learning. And it can, in turn, impact student perception, resulting in cooperative learning environments. The proper approach helps students move beyond simple forms of thinking as defined in the Bloom’s taxonomy pyramid, like basic memorization and comprehension, to complex learning processes like analysis, evaluation, and creation. Students can leverage their preferred learning styles with a teaching process that supports them, and the way they like to learn.

1.2. How do you say ‘pedagogy’?

Pedagogy is pronounced differently in various countries and by different people. The International Phonetic Alphabet pronunciation is ˈpɛdəˌɡoʊdʒi/ /ˈpɛdəˌɡɑdʒi/. In both the U.K. and U.S., it’s often pronounced “ped-a-gaug-gee” (as in “geese”) though some use the “j” sound and pronounce it “ped-a-go-jee” (as in “gee whiz.”)

Others still, particularly in the U.K., say “pe-de-gaw-jee,” with more of an “ugh” sound in the middle, and replacing the “go” sound with “gaw.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary suggests it should be “pe-de-go-je” (or ga).

2. Different aspects of pedagogy

2.1. What is social pedagogy?

Social pedagogy suggests that education is critical to a student’s social development and wellbeing, and thus must be understood broadly as a way to support a person’s growth throughout his/her entire life. Thus, social and educational questions must be considered as one, since students are, by nature, social beings. But they require education in order to communicate effectively as such.

The way social pedagogy is approached can vary in different countries, and based on different social and cultural traditions. In Germany, for example, educators typically view social pedagogy in the same vein as social work. In Norway, the emphasis is on working with children and young people.

An example of social pedagogy

An example of how social pedagogy could be used includes emphasizing the importance of things like compassion and being kind-hearted, and using dialogue to communicate lessons; studying concepts in the context of modern lifestyles; or looking at common issues within society that relate to our desires and needs to be social beings, such as social exclusion, its causes and consequences.

2.2. What is critical pedagogy?

To engage in critical pedagogy is to break down and deconstruct typical world views about topics and learning. It often involves more critical theories, and even radical philosophies. The goal is to continuously challenge students to question their own thoughts and ideas, beliefs, and practices, to think critically and gain a deeper understanding. Forget the dominant beliefs and paradigms – try and figure out things on your own, and in your own way.

The best known popular example of a critical pedagogical method is in the movie Dead Poets’ Society, where an English teacher challenges the typical methods of teaching, opting for unorthodox methods to inspire his students to live more freely and ‘seize the day.’

An example of critical pedagogy

Educators can adopt critical pedagogies by asking students to look for deep meaning and root causes of everything from religion to war and politics; or to explore and analyze relationships and issues of power within their own families. They might also look for underlying messages or biases in popular culture and mass media.

2.3. What is culturally responsive pedagogy?

In a culturally diverse society, three functional dimensions—institutional, personal, and instructional – are used together to recognize and respond to cultural differences among various students, and celebrate different approaches and methods of learning. To adopt such a style, an educator must be willing to accept to different needs of a multicultural classroom, and create an equally comfortable and enriching learning environment for all students.

This pedagogical method often relies on a student centered approach to teaching, whereby educators identify different cultural strengths of students, and nurture those to ensure that students have a positive sense of self, and can achieve their goals.

To apply culturally responsive pedagogy requires teachers to adapt their practices to accommodate the different cultural needs of students. It can also mean that an institution has to reform its school policies and procedures to encourage more community involvement.

An example of culturally responsive pedagogy

A culturally responsive approach should respect and encourage the sharing of different ethnicities, races, and beliefs, and be aware of the backgrounds of students. In a culinary course, that could mean including knowledge of cultural dishes in course work. In a political course, it might involve debates and analyses of different political topics, approaching them from different cultural angles. In law, it could be respecting various religious beliefs, or cultural differences in how families might view the same legal issues.

2.4. What is Socratic pedagogy?

Following a more philosophical approach, Socratic pedagogy involves a process whereby students can develop their social and intellectual skills in order to live more actively as part of a democratic society. Students are encouraged to challenge traditional assumptions about knowledge, look for alternatives, and create knowledge through their own thoughts and experiences, as well as via meaningful dialogue with others. Thus, curriculum will often involve collaborative and inquiry-based teaching and thinking as students test established ideas against others to open their minds and gain a deeper understanding of concepts.

An example of Socratic pedagogy

An example is the community of inquiry by C.S. Peirce and John Dewey, which, instead of basing knowledge on fixed scientific facts, looks for social context to learn more about a topic. Another is Bohm Dialogue, which involves group conversations where participation happens without judgment in order to come to an understanding on a topic. Students in a science or math course, for example, might look beyond the hard facts to determine why and how a particular scientific or mathematical principle is what it is, and what that means for society.

3. Creating your own pedagogy

To create your own pedagogy, start by devising a personal philosophy of teaching statement that can help students manage expectations about your teaching methods and approach to curriculum. Support students in finding the best ways to understand the subject matter, and the language used within it by building on their culturally-based ways of talking. And encourage purposeful conversation between student and teacher, as well as among fellow students and peers.

Be mindful of interacting with students in a way that respects their preferences for speaking and communication. That might include monitoring for cues like wait time between talking in a conversation, eye contact, spotlighting, and more. Use real-world experiences to demonstrate abstract concepts, and link them back to everyday experiences to which students can relate. And design activities that involve students and their communities, and that will be meaningful to them.

3.1. How can pedagogy support your curriculum?

Pedagogy can facilitate students not only in gaining deeper learning of subject matter, but also in applying that learning experience to their own homes and communities, and to their own personal experiences and situations. Teachers can work together with students to come up with the best way for subject matter to be studied.

Once you’ve created own pedagogical process for higher education, develop course material and activities that are challenging for students, and that will assist them in cognitive development, ensuring that they advance their understanding of concepts to higher levels.

With a clear understanding of your pedagogy, students can follow your instruction and feedback clearly, know what they need to do and how to do it, and respond in kind. And it can encourage a healthy dialogue between educator and students, as well as among students themselves as everyone shares ideas, questions, and knowledge to explore concepts and deeper their knowledge.

3.2. How does pedagogy impact the learner?

As noted, with a clear and concise pedagogic understanding, students can comfortably share ideas, and have a clear understanding of how curriculum will be approached and what’s expected of them. Essentially, everyone is on the same page.

Students not only expand their knowledge base, but also understand how to use that knowledge in authentic and relevant real-world scenarios and contexts, as well as connect concepts from lessons with situations in their own lives. They can draw on their own cultural knowledge as well, to come up with unique and personalized thoughts and opinions. Concrete evidence, facts, and data, are combined with the exploration of cultural differences of others to further expand knowledge, allowing the student to reflect more objectively on new concepts, and open their minds to different approaches.

Through your pedagogical process, students can also learn what approaches work best for them, which learning activities and learning styles they tend to gravitate towards, and how to develop concepts and build mental models to further their learning. Overall, active learning makes student engagement rise. Students get to participate in personalized teaching strategies, rather than be mere spectators in the classroom.

4. How is pedagogy changing?

Over the years, pedagogy has been evolving to better support 21st-century skills and ideas, as well as the changing nature of teaching. The traditional classroom lecture is no longer as effective as it once was. Teaching has expanded to include new forms of learning, like interactive and collaborative projects and online and remote curricula, and to accommodate more flexible schedules.

Real-world scenarios and cultural differences are being taken into account, allowing students new ways to acquire, construct, and organize their learning. Pedagogy is shifting focus beyond basic memorization and application of simple procedures to aiding students in higher-order learning, including critical thinking skills, effective communication, and greater autonomy.

4.1. Online learning

In a world where new media has taken a significant role in teaching and learning, any modern pedagogy much account for students finding, analyzing and applying knowledge from a growing number of constantly changing sources. This requires higher-order skills like critical thinking and the ability to learn more independently, as well as in larger groups, both in person and online.

Students must be comfortable using technology to help them learn, and to access, share, and create useful information and gain better fluency in a subject. Educators, in turn, can use technology to enhance course materials and further support their pedagogies through blended learning that combines classrooms with online teaching, flipped classrooms that provide materials students can access after class, like videos, lecture notes, quizzes, and further readings, and overall wider access to sources and experts online.

They can integrate new forms of technology to teach, like videos, animations, and simulations through sources like YouTube channels, iTunes University, clickers, and more. Even modern textbooks can incorporate content like video and audio clips, animations, and rich graphics that students can access and annotate. All of this content enhances the experience for students, and particularly benefits students who are struggling. It can also reduce spending, since students have plenty of valuable, real-time updated information at their fingertips for free.

Social media, meanwhile, allows students to develop communities to share experiences, discuss theories, and learn from one another. Educators can interact with students beyond the confines of the classroom, too.

4.2. Personalizing pedagogies

It’s critical that what you’re teaching students is relevant and meaningful, and personalized to their experiences. The increase in non-formal, self-directed learning methods means that students have more access to information overall. It makes it easier for educators to track their learning through digital activities, but also requires more attention in guiding them to the right sources, adjustment of lecture content and approaches based on online activity, and collaboration.

In the latest forms of pedagogy, there’s a power share between educator and students. Students learn more on their own versus only following a set course, lectures, and textbooks from an instructor. And in many cases, students thrive, while educators can use lecture time more effectively for discussion and collaborative work.

The educator, then, becomes a critical guide and assessor for students, linking them to accepted sources of information and emphasizing the importance of accreditation. They are no longer the only source of information, delivered in chunks via lectures. And this requires an overhaul of the strategy towards how student learning is achieved, monitored, and assessed.

5. Conclusion

Pedagogies are constantly evolving. You can develop your own, inspired by common ones and modified for 21st-century learning. A pedagogy must fit your audience, and focus on helping students develop an understanding of the material beyond basic memorization and surface knowledge. Students should be able to relate concepts back to the real world, and even their own lives.

Every pedagogy is different. A good starting point is to create a philosophy of teaching statement that outlines your communication goals as an instructor, and how you plan to relate the work you do in the classroom to professional development once the student moves on to a career. Then, design classroom experiences around this philosophy, work with students to adapt methods to encourage positive responses, and determine how you will evaluate and assess their performance. Also consider how you will integrate technology into lesson plans and class work, as well as promote inclusivity.

Taking all of this into consideration makes for a great recipe for a successful pedagogical approach. The more aware you are of the way you are teaching, the better you’ll understand what works best for your students.

6. Further reading

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