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Friday, December 5th, 2008...8:50 am

Why Strong Pedagogy Always Involves Engaging Students

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Terri Jenkins, Instructional Specialist
The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning

A recent article in the “Open Education” blog asserts that educators seeking to incorporate technology into their teaching should stop focusing on pedagogy (teaching strategies) and opt for an androgogical approach (finding ways to engage learners in their own educational process).  Simply put, the author says it’s a matter of ‘taught’ vs. ’self-directed’ education.  QTL Instructional Specialist Terri Jenkins has a different take.  She says pedagogy should have always involved guiding students to self-directed, deeper level thinking; it’s the execution that sometimes falls short.    

Pedagogy certainly is most often defined as the art or science of teaching; the selection of information delivery strategies and the design of instruction.  One of our first pedagogical masters and mentors was Socrates. Carefully designed questions required thoughtful introspection and a reliance on a wide knowledge base and experiences.  Students certainly evaluated their own thinking and learning, drawing meaningful conclusion and further advancing their understanding of the world in general.  His teaching rendered well-informed, self-directed thinkers.

How we have moved from this level of thinking to spoon-fed curriculum is unclear.  However, as a result, some educators do mistakenly see themselves as the purveyors of knowledge rather than facilitators of thinking.

The analysis of past decades of educational research and pedagogical philosophy reveals the advent of technology, the impending 21st Century, and an ever restless public, did not ignite the fires of change.  They simply continued kindling flames simmering in education.  The battle cry for instruction and facilitation that encourages and fosters critical thinking, decision making, and metacognition has long been sounded.  The question is not a matter of shifting from pedagogy to andragogy.  The more relevant question is, when will current educational systems  reach the “flash point” when what we already know about pedagogy becomes common practice rather than common knowledge.
Knowles identifies four postulate regarding effective adult education:

  1. Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction (Self-concept and Motivation to learn).
  2. Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for learning activities (Experience).
  3. Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance to their job or personal life (Readiness to learn).
  4. Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented (Orientation to learning).

From these postulates, Connor derives her considerations for andragogy.

  • learners must know why something is important to learn;
  • learners must be shown how to direct themselves through information;
  • topics must be related to the learners’ experiences;
  • people will not learn until they are ready and motivated to learn;
  • and therefore teachers must help learners overcome inhibitions, behaviors, and beliefs about learning.

None of these postulates or considerations are foreign to pedagogy or unique to andragogy.  Pedagogues have long been aware that choices regarding content and process facilitate deep learning, that students flourish in a context that is relevant and connected to their world and their experiences, that students can be skilled in evaluating not only their own progress and products, but their own thinking processes as well.  Problem centered education emerged as a field of thought in the late 50’s early 60’s, yet schools in general remain decidedly traditional.  Pedagogy needs not emulate andragogy but embrace all that we currently know about effective pedagogy.


  • Thanks Terri for a thoughtful response. Many can agree that we look forward to the day when our understanding of best practices is truly reflected in our concerns for student learning and in common practices in classrooms and boardrooms. Concern for the learner should be the driving force in reflecting on what we do, how we do it, and most importantly, how well that translates to benefits for students. Effective pedagogy represents the highest level of practice and is worthy of our greatest zeal. Whatever it is called, we need more of it. 1/1

  • Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance to their job or personal life (Readiness to learn).

    This is why I truly believe in job embedded professional development. My experience is that most teachers who experience it a school and classroom level discover it works.

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