Interrogating Pedagogy


Pedagogy is the word that educationalists use to describe the relationships between the approach that teachers use (and the strategies and structures they employ) and the conceptual underpinnings of those approaches. These foundations are made up of all sorts of theoretical influences – including the teacher’s political/ethical commitments; their philosophical and empirical position on the qualities of effective teaching and learning, together with ‘big theories’ which have influenced that thinking. Interrogating ‘pedagogy’ and your own pedagogic positions is, therefore, a critical feature of development as an educational professional. To extend your thinking about the nature of pedagogy further, you might want to read the following online article, and pursue some of the readings identified in its bibliography:

Smith, Mark (2012). What is Pedagogy.

EdLab has a Pedagogy

The work we do (and you do) as part of EdLab is also underpinned by particular pedagogies. Most fundamentally, it is about doing things – we evaluate our success, in part, on the basis of having created engaging and exciting educational experiences for our local communities. But it is also about thinking about things; about using your experience ‘doing stuff’ as a means to generated situated understandings of what education is and does and can or could b

This positions the relationship between theory and practice in a particular way – and this carries implications for how you should think about your learning (and how we have to assess that learning). It disrupts a pretty dominant theory-to-practice convention – in which you’d be taught some ‘big ideas’, expected to demonstrate a competence in them and only then apply them to practice (incidentally, think about the apprenticeship model of a degree in these terms). This is based in on a mind-to-body construct of the learner – something that the emphasis on enactment in EdLab rejects. Instead, we think you can do stuff, and that the act of doing allows particular understandings to coalesce and emerge.

This doesn’t negate the importance of theory, of course; it is absolutely critical that you leave the unit not just with a warm feeling of having done nice things, but also with some critical ideas about what education can be. You need to be active in producing theory as you go along, reflecting on your activity in order to arrive at some transferable positions and understandings. The Brazilian educationalist Paulo Freire puts this really nicely;

Critical reflection on practice is a requirement of the relationship between theory and practice. Otherwise theory becomes simply “blah, blah, blah,” and practice, pure activism. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of Freedom

The importance of student-level theorising does not, of course, negate the value of big external theory – or reading the thoughts of others. This becomes critical as a mechanism to enhance and extend your own thinking – in ways we will explore later in the course.

This positioning then, brings with it expectations of you – but also of us. It means that we’re not really looking for ‘facsimile’  in our assessments. In other words, we don’t need to see that you have understood any particular theory or idea. What is more important is the productive elements – the ideas you have generated, and the ways they interact with a broader community of thinkers practitioners. Of course, some people may well see this not very innovative at all … it sounds a bit like a description of how academic communities are meant to operate.

Task #2: Reflection Activity

With all of this in mind, now is a good time to start to think about your own pedagogy – about the kinds of commitments and orientations you may have as a practitioners. We would like you to produce a blog post exploring this in reference to the project with which you are involved. What kinds of quality of educational experience are you hoping to deliver? How do these things correspond to your commitments and principles about what education can and should be in general.

In producing this blog post, we do not expect evidence of extended reading. However, it might be helpful to find some educational thinkers who have ideas which seem to resonate with your own commitments. Here is a useful source to support this;

Palmer et al. (2001). Fifty Major Thinkers on Education: From Confucius to Dewey. London: Routledge.


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