What is pedagogy?

I’ve just returned from a very interesting meeting at the GTCE on pedagogy, innovation, assessment and pupil participation. There was a really interesting mix of people there, with academics, union representatives, teachers, consultants and school leaders.

Something that became reasonably clear early on was that nobody seemed entirely clear what pedagogy really means. Some of the GTCE papers seemed to imply it meant:

  • Teaching and Learning, or
  • “What goes on in the classroom”

Interestingly, Dictionary.com defines it as:

ped·a·go·gy:  [ped-uh-goh-jee, -goj-ee]  Show IPA

1. the function or work of a teacher; teaching.
2. the art or science of teaching; education; instructional methods.

Not quite the same! In fact the interesting publication Professionalism and pedagogy, a GTCE commentary led by Professor Andrew Pollard of the Institute of Education, say that pedagogy is “the art, science, and craft of teaching”.

I think we can all agree that:

  • Teachers should cause learning.

However it seems to me that in order to do this effectively:

  • Teachers must constantly review and reflect on their practice,
  • teachers should collaborate and discuss their practice with other professionals, and students, and
  • teachers should be constantly creative, innovate, and have fun with their teaching.

For me, these things are at the heart of pedagogy, but there is far too much of an emphasis on just measuring learning with narrow statistical tools.

In the world of IT, programmers discovered that constant, immediate and richly detailed feedback on their work results in much better products than the old methods, where customers wrote a specification and then waited two years until something got delivered. (This is the idea behind agile development).

I think teaching should be the same. Professional collaboration would enhance teacher strengths instead of enforcing minimum competencies through tick-box inspections. It would foster innovation which would be motivating for teachers, and this would result in better learning for students.

Every teacher on Twitter knows how collaboration and discussion has enthused them. I now need to put my money where my mouth is and push this approach at my school. Watch this space…

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