What is pedagogy? Toolbox or playground?

I remember when I was in my early years of university, studying my undergraduate degrees to become a teacher and learning for the first time about this word pedagogy.  I loved the word straight away, but did I know what it meant?  It was explained to me that it meant the ‘art and science of teaching’ or the ‘teachers toolbox of tricks (strategies)’.  However, now that I’ve been teaching (or working in other education projects) for almost 8 years, I have come to see that pedagogy is more of a playground.

 

 

 

 

 

What once was characterised by some basic wooden features that allowed a child to slide and swing, is now site to a stimulating experience, limited only by the imagination.  Wooden playgrounds, like the one pictured above,  were simple but fun.  There were swings and slides, a way to climb and a platform or two to stand on and pretend you were at the helm of a private ship.  But nowadays, a child may have to sit back and observe/take in a background some before they interact with it, making sense of the myriad of colourful and creative constructions in it before they take off and journey into exciting new adventure worlds.  This is very much like pedagogy to me.

Karin Brodie, in an article entitled ‘Pedagogy is a three-ring circus’, defines pedagogy when she says: “A good education rests on the relationship between knowledge, teaching and learning.”  Her article in the Mail & Guardian on August 8th, juxtaposes the perspectives and theories of Chris Waldburger and Meshach Ogunniyi, who both had articles in the Mail & Guardian on July 25th.  Authors Waldburger and Ogunniyi, look at the nature of the progressive or ‘child-centred’ curriculum that is taking shape in the 21st century.

“For Waldburger, academic, classical knowledge must be the core of the curriculum, and for good reason: this knowledge has stood the test of time and has been found to be powerful and empowering for many.

Ogunniyi questions the notion that classical Western knowledge is empowering for all learners, and indeed research has shown that many learners find disciplinary knowledge, as taught in schools, disempowering rather than empowering.” (Brodie, 2014)

However, what Waldburger fails to do is take into consideration learning and the notion that we can only develop new knowledge when linked to background knowledge, whereas Ogunniyi does recognise this, even though he fails to recognise the full scop of children’s knowledge.  Both authors fail to demonstrate and outline the role the teacher plays in all of it as well.  Students can embrace and be empowered by new subject matter and experiences if their background knowledge is accessed.  If they enter a new playground, one with 21st century design ideas, they will observe and access their background knowledge to make assessments about what each section may require them to do to have fun and ‘play’.  How do they have these skills?  How are they taught to play? If we liken this to learning some more, yes students can do rote ‘learning’ tasks such as close passages and comprehension, but can they face a new problem and access their background knowledge and skills, observe and then develop new knowledge and skills to solve it and thereby create a new foundation for future learning?

The concept of pedagogy and what it is opens up all sorts of conversations amongst educators but as this article highlights, the relationship is between knowledge, teaching and learning.  Dictionary.com defines pedagogy in these words:

1.  the function or work of a teacher; teaching.
2.  the art or science of teaching; education; instructional methods.
But it is so much more than this.  More questions arise from this in my mind that I will be contemplating as I study further in this area.  What is the core work of teachers?  What is the difference between the ‘art’ and the ‘science’ of teaching?  What is the scope of instructional methods that a 21st century teacher has to play with?

References

Brodie, K. (2014). Pedagogy is a three-ring circus. Mail & Guardian. [online] Available at: http://mg.co.za/article/2014-08-08-pedagogy-is-a-three-ring-circus [Accessed 15 Aug. 2014].

 

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