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All things pedagogy...

a master edition!

Hello and welcome to the 65th edition of our fortnightly newsletter, Things in Education.

Over the past two-and-a-half years, we have written extensively on various aspects of pedagogy – what pedagogical knowledge is, what different pedagogical approaches are, how we can combine different pedagogical approaches according to our learning outcomes and students’ needs, and a lot more. Today, we bring all of this together to write a master edition on pedagogy.

What is pedagogical knowledge?

A teacher’s content knowledge is distinct from their pedagogical knowledge. Content knowledge refers to a teacher's mastery of the subject matter they are teaching. Pedagogical knowledge, on the other hand, focuses on knowledge about teaching methods, instructional strategies, classroom management techniques, assessment practices, and understanding how students learn. We have formulated a grid that teachers and school leaders can use to assess where they lie in terms of content and pedagogical knowledge, and plan teacher professional development programmes with the aim of getting to Zone B – high content knowledge and high pedagogical knowledge. You can read more about this in the 60th edition of our newsletter.

What are the various pedagogical approaches?

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has emphasised on the need for experiential learning in the classroom. There are several pedagogical approaches that teachers can use to ensure such experiential learning.

Direct Instruction

Direct Instruction (DI) as a pedagogical approach is often confused with ‘Chalk and Talk’ and ‘Lecture-Based Approach’. This has given Direct Instruction a bad rap, and an unfair one at that. When done correctly, Direct Instruction is a robust approach to teaching, with students actively participating. The 62nd edition of our newsletter busts several myths about this pedagogical approach.

Inquiry-Based Learning

Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) as a pedagogical approach has become quite popular in theory, but moving to inquiry classrooms from traditional lecture-based classrooms can be challenging. In the 11th edition of our newsletter, we wrote about a gradual transition from traditional classrooms to focused inquiry classrooms and finally to open inquiry classrooms. 

Project-Based Learning

Project-Based Learning (PBL) as a pedagogical approach is not very well understood. Very often, we have seen that schools confuse getting their students to do projects at the end of the term with Project-Based Learning. Furthermore, transitioning to Project-Based Learning entails a change of perspective not only for teachers but also for students. In the 7th edition of our newsletter, we wrote about what Project-Based Learning is, what it is not, and how to facilitate this approach in the classroom.

A note about IBL and PBL: As teachers, we have to keep in mind that students are novices and not experts in various subjects, and so the inquiries or projects they do must be at their level of understanding and skill. We wrote about the importance of the right learning outcomes in IBL and PBL classrooms in the 39th edition of our newsletter.

Problem-Based Learning

Problem-Based Learning (PrBL) as a pedagogical approach uses complex, real-world issues as the classroom's subject matter, encouraging students to develop problem-solving skills and learn concepts instead of just absorbing facts. While a useful approach for building conceptual knowledge, it is also quite easy to get Problem-Based Learning wrong. You can read more about the various problems with Problem-Based Learning in the 43rd edition of our newsletter

So, can we combine pedagogical approaches?

One of the bigger debates in pedagogy revolves around whether it's more effective to allow students to discover things themselves through methods like Inquiry-Based or Project-Based Learning, or to directly give them the information through Direct Instruction. However, neither side of the above debate helps teachers plan by itself. Depending on the teacher’s skills, their knowledge of the topic and more crucially their understanding of the students, they can combine different pedagogical approaches for a given learning outcome. You can read more about this in the 61st edition of our newsletter.

In fact, this works well in early learning classrooms as well. In India, it is difficult to implement a pure Montessori or Reggio Emilia or Waldorf  approach. And now, the National Curriculum Framework for the Foundational Stage (NCF-FS) has also emphasised on a textbook-free and play-based approach. To make this transition easy, we can combine the best and most practical aspects of the various approaches. You can read about the four essentials of early pedagogy in the 26th edition of our newsletter.

To choose the right pedagogical approach or combine the right pedagogical approaches in the right way, teachers also need what is called pedagogical content knowledge – which, in short, is the knowledge of which pedagogical approach will work best for which topic.

What’s the key to successful pedagogy?

“Wonderful ideas do not spring out of nothing. They build on a foundation of other ideas.” Harvard professor Eleanor Duckworth beautifully sums up the essence of constructivism in her book, The Having of Wonderful Ideas. Based on all our experiences with thousands of students and teachers, we believe that the Constructivist philosophy forms the bedrock of successful pedagogy. In simpler terms, we must build upon the pre-existing knowledge, skills and experiences of students for any pedagogical approach to be successful. You can read about the Constructivist approach in the 41st edition of our newsletter

What’s the next step?

If you’d like to start trying out different pedagogical approaches in your classroom, head over to TEPS stands for Things Education’s Pedagogical Strategies, and this digital planning tool gives you access to 50,000+ teaching strategies tagged to different pedagogical approaches across all subjects from K-12.


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Edition: 3.13

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