Grabaims

Classroom Pedagogy

The word ‘pedagogy’ has an elusive, will-o’-the-wisp quality, one that educational thinkers have been defining and redefining since ancient times. In dictionaries, pedagogy refers to the art or the science of teaching or education. Scholars define this discipline in varied ways as one that requires discourse or as ‘any conscious activity by one person designed to enhance the learning of another’ (Watkins and Mortimer (1999).

The word pedagogy comes from the Greek word paidagōgeō, in which paidos means "child" and ágō means "lead"; literally translated it means, to lead the child – and thus, the broad interpretation of pedagogy as a means to prepare a child to understand the world around him. The word has been used in different forms throughout history. For example, in ancient Rome, a ‘Pedagogue’ was a slave who escorted Roman children to school. In Denmark, a pedagogue is used to refer to a practitioner of pedagogy. In Scandinavia, a pedagogue is a person who gives pre-school education. However, a pedagogue can occupy a variety of jobs. For example, a pedagogue can work in a retirement home, a prison, an orphanage or practice human resource management etc. 

The distinction between a teacher and a pedagogue:
The main distinction between a teacher and a pedagogue lies in the kind of knowledge they impart to their students. A teacher primarily teaches her students what is in the school curriculum for example, mathematics, science, and language etc.; a pedagogue, apart from teaching the school curriculum also focuses on teaching students how to prepare for life outside school. This involves social skills, cultural norms, and at times, the practice of social inclusion. A pedagogue must also pay attention to his students’ mental and social development. 

According to Leach and Moon (1999) a pedagogical setting is one in which ‘the teacher, together with a particular group of learners creates, enacts and experiences’. They are suggesting that pedagogy is a joint activity between the teacher and the student where the latter plays an active role in learning.

Why must teachers learn this art?

The great scientist and thinker Albert Einstein was emphatic about the vital role that the school plays in nurturing the “continuance and health of human society.” In an address to the State University of New York, he said: 

“Knowledge is dead; the school, however, serves the living.”

It is in school that a child is moulded into an individual who is capable of giving back to the community. However, teachers must do this with great sensitivity, without destroying the child’s individuality, their aim being “the training of independently thinking and acting individuals, who, however, see in the service of the community their highest life problem.”

For a teacher to achieve this lofty goal, it is apparent that she must acquire the skills of a pedagogue. 

Pedagogical theory

A basic understanding of pedagogical theories that have evolved over time will establish a solid foundation for teachers upon which to base their long term vision and teaching strategies. Some well known theories are:

Behaviourism

Pioneered by John B. Watson (1878-1958) and B. F. Skinner (1904-1990), this theory posits that all human behaviour arises as a response to specific stimulus, a view partly influenced by the work of Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov in conditioned responses among animals. Thus, a teacher can mould a student’s behaviour through positive or negative reinforcement

Cognitivism

Cognitivism gained credence in the 1960s, refuting the behaviourist theory that human beings cannot be programmed like animals. Rather, this theory holds that the human mind is akin to a “black box” whose contents – memory, thinking, problem-solving and other processes - must be explored in order to be understood. While behaviourism implied that humans are passive learners, cognitivist theory sees the mind as a computer that receives information and processes it, thus leading to certain outcomes.

Constructivist Theory

This theory, developed by Vygotsky, Dewey and Piaget, among others, approaches the subject of learning as an active process, where a student does not passively acquire knowledge but constructs knowledge based on his/her personal experiences, cultural and physical environment.

Effective pedagogical strategies - Here are 6 essential strategies for any teacher who wants to master the art of pedagogy.

1. Interest and explanation 
“When our interest is aroused in something, whether it is an academic subject or a hobby, we enjoy working hard at it. We come to feel that we can in some way own it and use it to make sense of the world around us.” (Ramsden 1992) 7. Educators must always explain to a child the relevance of the content that is being taught in class. Such explanations must enable the students to understand the content. In order to achieve this, an educator must have knowledge of what the child already understands; then she should forge a connection between what the child knows and the new content. 

2. Concern and respect for students and student learning 
Scholars like Ramsden believe that: “Truly awful teaching in higher education is most often revealed by a sheer lack of interest in and compassion for students and student learning. It repeatedly displays the classic symptom of making a subject seem more demanding than it actually is.” Ramsden believes that a good teacher respects her students and their abilities. Rather than frightening them and setting them up for failure she does everything in her power to make them believe that they can master the subject. He says that good teachers are always “benevolent” and “humble”. They encourage their students to face their fears and try new things.

3. Appropriate assessment and feedback 
This refers to the process through which a teacher develops alternative ways of assessing the child, rather than forcing them to memorize the course content and regurgitate it in an exam. An effective pedagogue will always recognise the benefits of feedback in motivating a student to put in an added effort to their work.

4. Clear goals and intellectual challenge 
A competent pedagogue knows that she must set high standards for her students. She also provides them with clear goals. Her students are aware of what they will learn and what they will they be expected to do with what they know.

5. Independence, control and active engagement 
An effective pedagogue must create learning tasks that are suitable for the student’s level of understanding. They must also be able to recognize the uniqueness of individual learners and must avoid the temptation to impose “mass production” standards that treat all the students as if they were exactly the same. “It is worth stressing that we know that students who experience teaching of the kind that permits control by the learner not only learn better, but that they enjoy learning more.”

6. Learning from students 
This is an important principle that every pedagogue must imbibe. Effective teaching is always open to change. A teacher must be sensitive to the effect her teaching is having on her students. If the results are less than desirable she must be humble and modify her instruction to suit the student’s need.

Pedagogy is as relevant today as it was in the times when the word was coined by the ancient Greeks. Modern educators, like their historical predecessors, are charged with caring for their young wards, helping them to learn and moulding appropriate behaviour. As a science, says instructor Susan Entz, pedagogy is concerned with the “application of standards, the implementation of assessment and evaluation, and the choice of curriculum”10. However, a teacher’s interpretation of knowledge, her ability to communicate and engage with students and stimulate their imagination and creativity are matters that fall within the realm of art.

Article written by: Divya Naraynan

References:
1. PEDAGOGY AND MODELS OF TEACHER KNOWLEDGE 
 http://juliecogill.com/Chapter_2.pdf
2. PEDAGOGY AND MODELS OF TEACHER KNOWLEDGE 
 http://juliecogill.com/Chapter_2.pdf
3. PEDAGOGY AND MODELS OF TEACHER KNOWLEDGE 
 http://juliecogill.com/Chapter_2.pdf
4. Excerpts from an address by Albert Einstein to the State University of New York at Albany, on the occasion of the celebration of the tercentenary of higher education in America, 15th October, 1931. Reference-“ideas and Opinions” by Albert Einstein.
http://www.cse.iitm.ac.in/~kalyantv/pdf/on_edu.pdf
5. Excerpts from an address by Albert Einstein to the State University of New York at Albany, on the occasion of the celebration of the tercentenary of higher education in America, 15th October, 1931. Reference-“ideas and Opinions” by Albert Einstein.
http://www.cse.iitm.ac.in/~kalyantv/pdf/on_edu.pdf
6. Excerpts from an address by Albert Einstein to the State University of New York at Albany, on the occasion of the celebration of the tercentenary of higher education in America, 15th October, 1931. Reference-“ideas and Opinions” by Albert Einstein.
http://www.cse.iitm.ac.in/~kalyantv/pdf/on_edu.pdf
7. Ramsden, P. (1992). Learning to Teach in Higher Education. New York: Routledge.
http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/effective-teaching-strategies-six-keys-to-classroom-excellence/
8. Ramsden, P. (1992). Learning to Teach in Higher Education. New York: Routledge.
http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/effective-teaching-strategies-six-keys-to-classroom-excellence/
9. Ramsden, P. (1992). Learning to Teach in Higher Education. New York: Routledge.
http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/effective-teaching-strategies-six-keys-to-classroom-excellence/
10. Why Pedagogy Matters: The Importance of Teaching In A Standards-Based 
Environment (Susan Entz, Instructor, Hawaii Community College )
http://forumonpublicpolicy.com/archivespring07/entz.pdf