All 2 entries tagged Pedagogy

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April 02, 2019

How has reading around pedagogy affected my teaching practice? – C.L Davison

After being set our initial university assignment exploring the ‘implications of current theories of Cognitive Development in teaching and learning’, I was dubious about what effect theorists who died decades ago could have on my day to day practice in the classroom.

The importance of research-led practice had been drummed into us, but even after writing my initial assignment on the work of Piaget and Vygotsky, I was unsure where they fitted into my educational experience, or how I was supposed to use their theories. Part of the issue was, it seemed to me, that they were summarising the obvious. Piaget’s description of the development of children (Muijs 2012) and Vygotsky’s points on supporting or ‘scaffolding’ students to get to the next level of understanding (Gray and Macblain 2012) all seemed to be common sense, except coined in elaborate terminology.

I couldn’t be sure whether my perception of these theorists was because their points seemed obvious, or whether because, and I think more likely, they were so fundamental in shaping modern education, theory and research that their ideas have become ingrained in the education system and those of us immersed in it.

Despite my initial, somewhat uninspiring, encounter with pedagogy my engagement with pedagogy and research was far from complete. I was concerned by what I initially deemed to be the restrictive nature of the theories. Piaget suggested specific ages at which children develop, but was that still the case almost four decades after his death? Was behaviourism (Skinner, 1974) the only way to develop effective behaviour for learning in the classroom? Did I need to include all of Gardner’s multiple intelligences (Gardner, 2004) in every lesson?

Then, however, the light bulb moment occurred, in which I connected with a piece of pedagogy. I realised my misconception was that pedagogy was a script, an idea that one subscribed to unconditionally and acted upon unquestioningly. In fact pedagogical theories could be used as a device, developing my understanding of the way students learn. Once understood they act as an informed base from which to experiment and explore different ways of teaching and learning, not a straightjacket dictating the direction of my practice and my development as an educator.

The first piece of pedagogy which inspired me to recognise the versatility and power of research-based practice was Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom, 1956). Initially created by Benjamin Bloom and a cohort of educationalists, its intention was to categorise different levels of thought, enabling them to be quantified and therefore compared and tracked. I originally used Bloom’s Taxonomy to structure my lessons, demonstrating to students how we were going to make progress and ensuring I had progressive levels of challenge throughout. Moreover, I soon realised the flexibility of the taxonomy as a tool to develop students’ critical thinking skills and encourage their own independent learning skills. I have since experimented with a variety of ways to do this, including creating Bloom’s question cards, which can be used by students to challenge themselves or each other to develop higher levels of thinking.

The realisation that pedagogy wasn’t restricted to its original form and purpose, that instead it could be used as a platform to explore different teaching techniques and ideas and that a variety of ideas can be synthesised to create new and exciting investigative techniques in the classroom, was a turning point in my cynicism against pedagogy. I am currently exploring a variety of cooperative learning techniques, creating a pick and mix of ideas and theories that I think will work for my students, in my classrooms, for my style of teaching. This is not to say that I’m ‘improving’ pedagogical theories, but rather exploring how they can work for me, as a way of ironing out some of the difficulties I face with some of my classes.

And in my opinion, this is the most effective way to use pedagogy. Initially it should be used as a base to develop understanding, but after that you have to make it work for you; test it out, create resources, synthesize ideas until you find the best fit for you. Pedagogy is not effective until it is understood and treated as a vehicle for exploration, not a rulebook.


March 19, 2018

Creativity and the curriculum at an Early Years conference – Rebecca Bartram

I recently attended a British Education Research Association (BERA) conference on Creativity and the Curriculum. As an alumnus of Central Saint Martins College with a degree in Jewellery, creativity and learning have always been important to me both personally and professionally. It is my need to be creative which led to me specialising and becoming passionate about Early Years Education and the subject of childhood.

At the conference, delegates shared fantastic work in the form of PhD research and larger international studies. Throughout, the emphasis was on subjects and creativity working together with equal value rather than the model that we might be more familiar with (or find more comfortable) where art is used to make mathematics more interesting, or to complement a piece of further writing. Particularly exciting, inspiring and interesting to me was the work presented on science and creativity. Whilst this was a large European funded study, a school presented a case study where a group of children had participated in a project that made artistic responses to four big questions - time, evolution, energy and forces.

The results were astonishing. The artistic merit and scientific knowledge explored and learned through self-directed study far exceeded that of the national curriculum expectations. For example one child, in response to the question ‘energy’ had learned how particles behaved and had designed and created a ‘particle physics’ chess game, playable with moves governed by the behaviours of different particles. Another example was a response to ‘time’ where the child after exploration and discussion with their peers and the art and science teachers, made ice cube models of polar bears; these were arranged on a set and filmed melting using time-lapse photography. The final piece of work was poignant to say the least.

Interestingly, the children offered this opportunity were in years seven, eight and nine (non-tested year groups) and the time allocated to do this was lunchtime. Over the course of the day and in discussion, the recurring theme to me was the notion of the space for creativity, a physical space and also space in time to develop ideas and to explore creativity. Space where the process of working creatively is valued for the learning it can produce.

This led me to reflect on teacher education and the current education system in UK schools. What is our responsibility as teacher educators and where in the diagram below does our responsibility lie? Are we modeling in our programmes a compliant, box tick, teaching system or are we modeling a pedagogy of creativity? Can we give trainees the knowledge and confidence to take creative learning into schools to inspire children who in turn will have the skills to think creatively as adults and could this be a critical skill for the next generation and our society?

Compliance and cretivity model 

Hewitt and Tarrant (2015)

Those in attendance at the conference overwhelmingly had some sort of arts background before joining the teaching profession. For them the idea of being creative and working creatively was not uncomfortable. For others it can be challenging to not have prescribed outcomes that you work towards. There is security in ticking the boxes and covering the curriculum in a clear, measured, linear fashion. From an Early Years perspective the pedagogy embraces learning that takes place in a myriad of ways and in the most unexpected of places; good Early Years practice enables children to access an environment full of curiosities and possibilities. A space where children can explore and learn, be curious and take risks, without fear of failure. The big question for me is how do we engender this confidence in ourselves, create this safe space in our timetables, to model it effectively to our trainees, so that they can have the confidence to embrace a creative approach to the curriculum?

References

Hewitt, D. and Tarrant, S. (2015) Innovative Teaching and Learning in Primary Schools. London, Sage Publications Ltd.


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