What is pedagogy?

Kristie Boston, MA – Faculty Fellow for Professional Development

One challenge for faculty in higher education is understanding pedagogy. Unlike most K-12 educators, higher ed faculty may not engage in education courses that cover topics such as pedagogy, teaching philosophies, student engagement, classroom management, and lesson planning. Often, we enter the classroom arena armed with our content expertise, passion for life-long learning, and the belief that students enrolled in college are there to learn.

Entering the classroom, we attempt our first lesson, maybe our second. Sometimes they are highly successful, other times they are not. Even on the same day, different classes will engage with the material with more or less enthusiasm. When we speak about this in the hallways with our colleagues, conversations often center around “why.” Why did these students absorb the material but not these? Why did this lesson work but not the other one?

When students aren't listening in my class: Are you not entertained?

Often the answers can be found within the discipline of pedagogy. Pedagogy is the study of the method and practice of teaching and covers teaching styles, teaching theory and philosophy, and feedback and assessment. Essentially pedagogy refers to the ways in which instructors provide curriculum to students. This is informed primarily by an instructor’s personal experience, beliefs, and the context and institution in which they teach.

As an introduction to thinking about pedagogy and education, and in line with our culture of innovation at University Park, watch the following presentation “What makes pedagogy radical?” by Harriet Harriss.

As you consider your approach to teaching, i.e., your pedagogy, remember there is a wide spectrum of teaching philosophies that range all the way back to Aristotle. These frameworks move from teacher-centered or “authoritarian” to student-centered or “permissive.” While the examples below are not even close to representing the full list of educational philosophies, they are ones that contain bodies of research and represent a swath of contemporary conversations on best practices and student success.

Teaching philosophies range from teacher-centered, such as essentialism and perennialism, to student-centered, such as progressivism, social reconstruction, and existentialism.
Spectrum of Teaching Philosophies

Important Disclaimer: You do not have to be wholly one philosophy! There is no box to place yourself in and often instructors will adapt the philosophies into a hybrid that suits the needs of the students and purpose of the content on any given day. No philosophy is “good” or “bad” – but it is important to recognize and understand your own pedagogical preferences and how they align with your content, student success, and institutional expectations.

Are you curious about where you fall in this spectrum? I was too! And of course, I wanted to know more about the five pedagogical approaches listed in this spectrum. (I promise that’s coming soon!)

So, here is a short “What is your Philosophy?” Part 1 questionnaire: What is Your Philosophy of Education

When you finish this, hold onto it! The second part, where you will actually interpret your scores, is coming soon to a blog post near you.

Stay tuned for what your scores mean and more details about the different teaching philosophies.

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