The importance of pedagogy

As if the job of a teacher wasn’t busy enough, the need to stay up to date in your area of specialism, whether you teach in primary, secondary, further education or higher education, has never been more pressing. And rightly so. Yet while continuing professional and personal development has long been a priority for teachers who acknowledge that it’s impossible to be effective without honing subject knowledge and pedagogy, much of this activity happens in teachers’ own time.

This is problematic on many levels, not least the extent to which it bleeds into life outside work, but also in the way it reflects the fact that development is still not prioritised highly in all schools.

Exploring research

During 2012 to 2014, almost 100 teaching schools took part in a National College for Teaching and Leadership-led school-based enquiry around 1 of 3 national themes:

1. What makes great pedagogy?

2. What makes great professional development which leads to consistently great pedagogy?

3. How can leaders lead successful teaching school alliances which enable the development of consistently great pedagogy?

Three reports were published in 2015 (and can be downloaded here). These reports and the accompanying case studies make useful reading for any wishing to focus on improving pedagogy and generally staying up to date. The key messages about what makes great pedagogy as outlined in What makes great pedagogy and great professional development: final report are as follows:

– Talk with pupils about their learning, listen carefully, and involve them.

– Be open to new learning and challenge and do not give up.

– Use a range of strategies flexibly to meet pupils’ needs.

– Develop pupils’ thinking and learning skills.

– Do not underestimate what pupils already know and can do.

– Build in time for assessment for learning (AfL) and scaffold it.

– Develop a common language to talk to colleagues about pedagogy.

Staying up to date

Discussions about the importance of pedagogy, and research such as that mentioned above, offers much food for thought. If you are wanting to shine a light on how best to stay up to date in your role, these reminders may help:

– Unions and subject associations – always a great source of information and advice, and their conferences can be excellent ways of meeting teachers from around the country able to support and challenge in equal measure!

– Local higher education institutions – many HEIs are very keen to build links with local schools to share research and skills in the quest to improve teaching and learning. Some offer excellent professional learning opportunities and the chance for young people to experience teaching in HE.

– Conferences – there are many of these run by a variety of organisations, some at the weekend. Again, they are a chance to meet up with a wider selection of colleagues in the profession, and hear the thoughts and expertise of people working in your field in a range of contexts.

– Local teach-meets – these are great ways of learning and networking in your locality. You can find out what’s going on in your area, here

There might be a dominant pedagogy at any one time, but its position at the top won’t last indefinitely. There has long been a focus on the process and content of teaching since the ancient Greeks, so to declare that we have, at this point, found the answer to what works for every child, is folly.

Pedagogy is important and will continue to be so. Whether we approach it as a science or a craft remains up for debate, as does the idea that we might move pedagogy beyond teaching and towards the practice of the original pedagogues in Ancient Greece. But the key message remains: we need to keep pedagogy in our sights if we want to improve on job.

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