This article will provide you with an understanding of what ‘pedagogy’ is, why it’s important for every classroom and how pedagogy has been evolving to take 21st-century skills and learning into account.

You’ll learn about the different aspects of pedagogy, as well as some common pedagogical approaches. 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 and online and collaborative work are changing teaching, you’ll understand why and how having a clear and concise pedagogy can support your curriculum. 

There are countless pedagogies that can work for your course. Download our free guide, which highlights and explains 9 different pedagogical approaches and how they can be used to keep your students motivated and engaged.

Table of Contents

1.0. What is pedagogy?

1.1. Why is pedagogy important?

1.2. How do you say ‘pedagogy’?

2.0. Different types of pedagogy

2.1. What is constructivist pedagogy?

2.2. What is inquiry-based learning?

2.3. What is the Socratic method?

2.4. What is problem-based learning

2.5. What is collaborative learning?

2.6. What is integrative pedagogy?

2.7. What is reflective pedagogy?

2.8. What is critical pedagogy?

2.9. What is culturally responsive teaching?

3.0. Creating your own pedagogy

3.1. How can pedagogy support your curriculum?

3.2. How does pedagogy impact the learner?

4.0. How is pedagogy changing?

4.1. Online learning

4.2. Personalizing pedagogies

5.0. Conclusion

1. What is pedagogy?

Pedagogy is often confused with curriculum. The definition of pedagogy refers to how we teach—the theory and practice of educating. Curriculum refers to the material being taught. Pedagogy is the relationship between learning techniques and culture. It is determined based on an educator’s beliefs about how learning takes place. Pedagogy requires meaningful classroom interactions between educators and learners. The goal is to help students build on prior learning and develop skills and attitudes. For educators, the aim is to present the curriculum in a way that is relevant to student needs.

Shaped by the educator’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.

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 to 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. 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 “paidag-o-jee” (as in the seventh letter of the alphabet, “g”.)

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

2. Different aspects of pedagogy

There are countless pedagogies that can help you engage students. By implementing activities from different pedagogical techniques in your classroom, you’ll ensure students can tackle learning in a way that best meets their needs. Here, we outline nine pedagogical approaches that help students develop higher-order thinking skills and provide a more nuanced understanding of how their learnings fit into the world around them.

2.1. What is constructivist pedagogy?

Constructivist teaching strategies help students understand the meaning of their learning materials, instead of just passively ingesting content. Rather than focusing on the subject or lesson being taught, educators are encouraged to focus on how the student learns. 

An example of constructivist pedagogy: KWL(H) Charts are a great way to get an overview of student progress throughout the term. After finishing a unit or series of lessons, have learners fill out a chart with the following fields: What we know, What we want to know, What we have learned, How we know it.

2.2. What is inquiry-based learning?

Inquiry-based learning encourages students to ask questions and complete research while learning various concepts. The pedagogy focuses on helping learners acquire the skills necessary to develop their own ideas, as well as question themselves and group members in a constructive way. The four steps of inquiry-based learning are:

  • Developing problem statements that require students to pitch their question using a constructed response, further inquiry and citation.
  • Researching the topic using time in class where the instructor can guide students in their learnings
  • Presenting what they’ve learned to their peers or to a small group
  • Asking students to reflect on what worked about the process and what didn’t. Students focus on how they learned in addition to what they learned, to activate metacognition skills (or thinking about thinking).

An example of inquiry-based learning: One way to incorporate inquiry-based learning in your classroom is through oral history projects. Ask students to research the personal histories of an individual of their choice, conduct interviews with the person (if possible) and create a presentation that includes artifacts, a feature article, a personal memoir and a photograph.

2.3. What is the Socratic method?

The Socratic method is a traditional pedagogy named after Greek philosopher Socrates, who taught students by asking a series of questions. The principle underlying the Socratic method is that students learn through the use of critical thinking, reason and logic. 

An example of Socratic learning: To implement Socratic learning strategies in your classroom, arrange students in inner and outer circles. The inner circle engages in discussion, while the outer circle observes and takes notes. The outer circle then shares their observations and questions the inner circle with guidance from the instructor. 

2.4. What is problem-based learning?

In problem-based learning, students acquire knowledge by devising a solution to a real-world problem. As they do, they acquire knowledge, as well as communication and collaboration skills.

An example of problem-based learning: Concept mapping is an engaging activity that helps students tackle complex course concepts. Divide the class into teams and present them with a course-related problem. One team member writes down a solution and passes the sheets of paper along to the next team member, who builds upon that idea and then passes it along to the rest of the team. In the end, a spokesperson can present their ultimate solution. 

2.5 What is collaborative pedagogy?

Collaborative pedagogy rejects the notion that students can think, learn and write effectively in isolation. Collaborative pedagogy is a learner-centered strategy that strives to maximize critical thinking, learning and writing skills through peer-to-peer interaction and interpersonal engagement.

An example of collaborative pedagogy: Set up stations or posters in a few locations around the classroom and get students to participate in a gallery walk. Divide students into small groups and have them rotate between each station together sorting their observations into categories. Finally, ask them to write down a list of questions about the source material they are viewing.

2.6. What is integrative pedagogy?

Integrative learning is the process of making connections between concepts and experiences so that information and skills can be applied to novel and complex issues or challenges.

An example of integrative pedagogy: Hands-on learning experiences, like community service, are a great way to bring integrative pedagogy into the classroom. Holding fundraisers, volunteering at local schools or eldercare homes or preparing meals for those experiencing food insecurity are forms of experiential learning that can help students take part in community service activities.

2.7. What is reflective pedagogy?

Reflective pedagogy encourages the instructor to reflect upon lessons, projects and assessments, with the goal of improving them for future use. Students are also encouraged to reflect on their performance on assessments and look for areas where they can improve.

An example of reflective pedagogy: Conversation stations are a great way for students to engage with their peers and reflect on their own learnings. Instructors start by sharing a list of discussion questions pertaining to a course reading, video or case study. Students are put into groups and given five-to-ten minutes to discuss, before rotating to another group. The students who have just joined a group have an opportunity to share findings from their last discussion, before answering the second question with their new group. 

2.8. What is critical pedagogy?

Critical pedagogy asserts that issues of social justice and democracy are not distinct from acts of teaching and learning. It is a theory and practice that helps students question and challenge prevalent beliefs and practices—and achieve critical consciousness.

An example of critical pedagogy: Flipped classroom strategies aim to increase student engagement and learning by having students complete readings at home and then work on live problem-solving during class time.

2.9. What is culturally responsive teaching?

Culturally responsive teaching is a more modern pedagogy that acknowledges, responds to and celebrates fundamental cultures. It strives to offer equitable access to education for students from all cultures.

An example of culturally responsive teaching: Use learning stations in your classroom to accommodate a variety of student learning styles at the same time. Whether due to culture, socialization, preference or learning needs, students respond differently to a variety of content. You can provide a range of material to each student by setting up learning stations where students can play a game or watch a video.

3. Creating your own pedagogy

To create your own pedagogy, start by forming a personal philosophy of teaching statement. This is a crucial step in the profession of teaching. This helps students manage their expectations about your teaching methods and better approach your curriculum. Critically, make sure to support students in finding the best ways to understand the subject matter and encourage engaging discussions in the classroom.

It’s also important to be mindful of the different educational experiences students have and their preferred methods of participation, as well as their personal experiences and backgrounds. That might include monitoring for cues like wait time between talking in a conversation, eye contact or using written forms of communication, like discussion threads. You can use real-world experiences to demonstrate abstract concepts, and link them back to everyday experiences to which students can relate. Followed by activities that are purpose-built to involve students, this helps learners break down course concepts in their own ways.

3.1. How can pedagogy support your curriculum?

Pedagogy can allow students to gain a deeper understanding of subject matter and can help them apply their learnings to their own personal experiences outside the classroom. Teachers can work together with students to come up with the best way for subject matter to be studied.

Once you’ve created your own pedagogy in higher education, you can then develop course material and activities that are challenging for students. This 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. They know what they need to do and how to do it, and can respond in kind. This encourages engaging dialogue between educators and students, as well as among students themselves—that’s because everyone shares ideas, questions, and knowledge to explore concepts and deepen their knowledge.

3.2. How does pedagogy impact the learner?

With a clear and concise understanding of pedagogy, everyone is on the same page. Students can comfortably share ideas and understand how curriculum will be approached and what’s expected of them. 

Students expand their knowledge base, but also understand how to use their learnings in authentic and relevant real-world contexts. 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. This allows students to reflect on new concepts and open their minds to different approaches.

Through your pedagogical strategies, 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—are all important elements to consider. 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?

Pedagogy has been evolving to better support 21st-century skills and ideas. 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, affording 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

Online learning has become a significant part of higher education. Any modern pedagogy must account for students finding, analyzing and applying knowledge from a growing number of online tools, platforms and sources. Higher-order skills, like critical thinking and the ability to learn more independently, as well as in larger groups, are essential for engaging in online learning in a meaningful way.

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, podcasts and clickers. Digital 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.

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 than ever before. It makes it easier for educators to track their learning through digital activities. But it also requires more attention in guiding them to the right sources, adjusting lecture content and adopting approaches purpose-built for engagement and collaboration.

In many innovative pedagogies, there’s a power shared between educator and student. Students learn more independently, instead of following a set course of lectures and textbooks from an instructor. In many cases, students thrive in self-directed learning methods, 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. It’s also worth considering how you will integrate technology into lesson plans and classwork, 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.

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