What is pedagogy?
It is the method and practice of teaching. People talk about pedagogy when they are referring to the way the teacher delivers the content of the curriculum to the children. The different pedagogical approaches can be broken down into four main categories: behaviourism, constructivism, social constructivism, and liberationist. In our school we use a blend of pedagogical approaches but with clear, consistent strands across the school.
Learning is teacher-centred in a behaviourist pedagogical approach, using direct instruction and lecture-based lessons. Behaviourist pedagogy is the theory that the teacher should be the sole authority figure and leads the lesson. Knowledge should be delivered in a curriculum where each subject is taught discretely (as opposed to topic-based learning). In a lesson using a behaviourist pedagogical approach, you could expect to see a mixture of lecturing, modelling and demonstration, rote learning, and choral repetition. These activities are ‘visible’ and structured, as well as being led by the teacher. However, during the lesson, the shift may come where the student is the centre of the activity and demonstrates their learning. Behaviourism is often described as a traditional teaching style.
Learning through experience and reflection is the theory of this approach. A Constructivist pedagogy puts the child at the centre of the learning and is sometimes called ‘invisible pedagogy’. A constructivist approach would incorporate project work, inquiry-based learning and might adopt a Montessori or Steiner method.
Constructivism is based on the pedagogical research of Piaget. He wrote extensively about ‘schemas’, an idea that learners come ready to learn, and the teacher must build activities to facilitate their learning. Younger children work things through physically, whereas older children tackle symbolic and abstract ideas. A lesson might include individualisation, a slower pace, hidden outcomes, the mantle of the expert and less teacher talk. Some adopters of this pedagogy would also place emphasis on being outdoors and engaging with nature. Constructivism is often described as a progressive teaching style.
3. Social constructivism
A blend of teacher-guided and student-centred learning. Cognitive psychologist, Lev Vygotsky developed social constructivism, building on the work of Piaget, but argued against the ideas of Piaget that learning could only happen in its social context and believed that learning was a collaborative process between student and teacher. The teacher uses group work elements but with smaller group sizes and limits the choice in topics. The teacher might also use teacher modelling, questioning and a mixture of individual, pair, and whole class instruction.
The student voice is placed at the centre and a democracy is put into the classroom. Value is placed on having the teacher as a learner and the class discovering subjects together. Liberationism is a critical pedagogy developed by the Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire. Freire was the Director of the Department of Education and developed an approach of teaching where he was able to teach illiterate adults to read in just 45 days. Freire focussed on removing the two barriers to learning: poverty and hunger. Freire was then imprisoned following a military coup. Once he was released, he wrote a book called 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed' where Freire wrote about the dehumanisation of students in schools and argued for cooperation and unity.
The teacher might use examples of literature that contain non-standard constructions, such as hip-hop or graffiti. Students may take on the role of the teacher and decide upon the topic of the lesson. The teacher would provide space and opportunity for the students to showcase their learning and this could take the form of a performance, speech or dance.
The Way We Teach - our clear, consistent strands
Organisation Our teachers have excellent organisational skills. Classroom routines are efficient and smooth. Children are taught to be responsible for their own time and resources: they know what to do and they do it. Resources are prepared ahead of time, are well-managed during lessons, are fit-for-purpose and tailored to the individual needs of pupils. Teachers make productive use of instructional time by maintaining a good pace and ensure that every second of their lessons count. Timetables are carefully managed to provide regular breaks and a wide variety of different subjects and activities.
Shared objectives Teachers ensure that the concepts and ideas presented in lessons are understood by all children. They check that children understand the main ideas of the lesson, intervene when understanding is not clear or complete, and do this even when it means changing the lesson or activity part way through. Teachers make sure the learning intentions of each lesson and activity are clear to the children. They are very clear about what children are expected to achieve and how much time they have, to do it in.
Homework Homework is meaningful and directly linked to what the children are learning. There is a flexible approach to setting work to be completed outside of class time. Use of spontaneous learning opportunities that arise within lessons allows children to extend and deepen their understanding of classroom learning. Extra homework is always available through online learning platforms.
Classroom climate The overall feeling in the classroom is extremely positive. Children are actively taught to behave respectfully towards and with each other. Children are well-liked and respected by their peers and teachers. Children and teachers are sociable and enthusiastic and use humour and praise. Relationships between staff are perfect role models for the children to follow.
Behaviour management Behavioural expectations are clear and consistently followed. Where teachers need to correct behaviour, they use quiet reminders and sanctions are given, commensurate with the action. Excellent behaviour is modelled by staff and children are given time to explain why and how situations have ‘gone wrong’ and how they can ‘make things better.’
Collaborative learning Children spend much of their time in collaborative learning situations where they can share resources, work in pairs and groups and develop their own ideas. This has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, by the layout of classrooms and not sharing resources, leading to more teacher directed lessons. More shared work will take place as soon as is safely possible.
Personalised teaching and learning Teachers personalise their pupils’ learning experiences. They do this by being sensitive to the individual needs of the children in their classes and by providing specially chosen learning materials that are rich and varied. Teachers adapt learning resources for children to meet individual needs. Teachers have high expectations and provide appropriately challenging and differentiated tasks.
Making Links Explicit Teachers make extra and cross-curricular links explicit. They are aware and build on previous learning and extend knowledge and understanding further. They talk openly about ‘What we already know…’reinforcing learning and stimulating memory.
Dialogic Teaching and Learning Dialogic teaching describes the ongoing discussion between teachers and pupils. This method is used extensively to check learning throughout the school. Teachers constantly check understanding, allowing them to target future work more effectively.
Assessment for Learning (AfL) Teachers provide evaluative feedback to their children. In addition, they provide opportunities for their pupils to reflect on their own learning and learning styles. Teachers feedback on and mark work in a way that is useful to the future learning process. Much is done during the lesson or as soon as possible afterwards.