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Pedagogy: A definitive guide to learning practices

The principles and practices of teaching are both an art and a science, here's what pedagogy means and the latest modern teaching methods.


What is pedagogy?

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Collaborative learning

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Modern vs traditional learning

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Boosting pupil engagement

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Does Gen Z learn differently?

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Using social media

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Why is flipped learning effective?

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What is deep learning?

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Teaching mixed-abilities

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“Generally in life, knowledge is acquired to be used. But school learning more often fits Freire’s apt metaphor: knowledge is treated like money, to be put away in a bank for the future.” Seymour Papert, The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School In The Age Of The Computer

The principles and practices of teaching are both an art and a science. Education influences our youngest generations, it inspires children to think differently and it develops critical thinking in young, influenceable minds.

In school, children acquire language, science and mathematical skills that they can use later on in life. Education has a recurring impact, long after children become adults.

The principles of teaching are constantly evolving; collaborative learning, flipped learning and deep learning are all a mainstay of the modern classroom.

What is pedagogy?

If teaching is the act of encouraging learning activities through discovery and acquired knowledge, pedagogy is the method of teaching, both as an academic subject or theoretical concept.

Within pedagogy, there are four core learning profiles:

  • Auditory learners benefit from listening to the information presented to them in class. They learn orally from both listening to instruction from the teacher and audio recordings.
  • Tactile/kinaesthetic learners absorb knowledge through touch and movement. They prefer to work with hands-on devices and learning aids.
  • Visual learners prefer to see information in order to visualise the relationship between ideas and concepts to understand them.
  • Reading and writing learners prefer to take on information by reading texts. These learners can further absorb information by condensing and rephrasing it.

Today, teachers have the advantage of utilising traditional learning practices while incorporating new educational technologies to create a diverse, differentiated classroom, ready for mixed-ability pupils.

Want to know how teachers can create a more differentiated environment? Check out our infographic — reimagining the modern classroom.

Why should learning be collaborative?

Collaborative learning is a method of active learning that relies on the principle of two or more students working together, towards a common goal. These activities vary widely, but most centre on the learner’s exploration or application of the curriculum, not simply on the teacher’s point of view.

Collaborative learning arms pupils with the confidence to teach and learn from their peers and teachers, too. In primary schools especially, collaborative learning will help develop soft skills at an earlier age, helping children become more effective communicators.

The differences between collaborative learning and cooperative learning can be interchangeable for educators, however, collaborative learning encourages students to make individual progress in tandem with others. Co-operative learning, meanwhile, promotes accountability with interdependence. Find out more about the benefits of collaborative learning.

Learn how a collaborative approach helps develop pupils’ soft skills, and how to overcome the barriers to collaborative learning in our free guide.

Which is more effective — modern or traditional learning?

Today, school education often involves the use of technology and a variety of teaching styles. Many of today’s modern teaching methods, however, are an evolution of more traditional learning techniques.

The key to enhanced and holistic learning is by taking principles from both traditional and modern teaching, and combining them for a fully immersive learning environment.

Our infographic highlights how modern technology is helping teachers give their traditional learning practices a new modern twist.

How teachers can boost pupil engagement

Keeping the attention of pupils is a constant battle for teachers. With the right tools and techniques, however, pupil engagement is far more achievable.

Student engagement can be measured on three levels:

  • Behavioural engagement with demonstrating good behaviour in the classroom
  • Emotional engagement by valuing what they are learning
  • Cognitive engagement through displaying maximum effort to understand a subject

The more inspired and engaged pupils are, the more they will consider the subject matter carefully, facilitating a stronger learning experience.

Younger generations are surrounded by technology, so edtech can be a strong classroom differentiator to keep them engaged, but it must support the pupils’ needs and learning outcomes.

Ultimately, learning should be fun. It should inspire activity and stimulate discussion points among pupils. Quizzes, for example, can facilitate active participation by pupils.

For practical tips and tricks to improve engagement in your school, download our free guide.

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Does Gen Z learn differently to Millennials and older generations?

Those born after 1995 are considered Neo-millennials, or Generation Z. This is the most tech-savvy, digitally-native generation yet. So, do teachers need to adapt their teaching methods to account for their preferences? Or do younger pupils just need to learn in the same way as all the generations before them?

Younger pupils might prefer a digital approach to learning, but it’s worth noting that using more technology for the sake of it is not enough. Neomillennial learning, meanwhile, is a specific technique that involves a greater use of technology and multimedia to provide a 360 degrees learning experience.

This is because Gen Z or Neo-millennials have different preferences, goals and values to previous generations, even Millennials. As such, some pedagogy experts have suggested that teaching methods should be adapted to the preferences of this group.

Unlike older generations, Gen Z learns better through:

  • Interactive activities
  • Collaborative projects
  • Hands-on challenges

Yet the role of the educator is still the most important aspect of learning; interactive tools cannot replace traditional pedagogy.

Read how new approaches to modern learning are improving student results and school performance.

How and why should teachers use social media in learning?

In a digital-first world, pupils are surrounded by social media platforms. Considered largely a distraction by teachers, or a risk to e-safety, can there be a place for social media in education?

“Technology used for education can have a beneficial effect. Social media, however, is one of the biggest issues to behaviour and engagement in schools today.” Deputy Headteacher, Hartlepool, The State of Technology in Education Report 2016/17

In some scenarios, however, can be beneficial to adapt social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and even Snapchat for the modern classroom.

  • Help pupils research topics and identify fake news on Twitter
  • Boost collaborative learning and foster creative thinking with Pinterest
  • Suggest pupils report on a school events with Snapchat

For a complete guide to using Pinterest for finding and sharing teacher resources and inspiring pupils, read our blog.

Why is flipped learning effective?

Flipped learning is a technique that gives students time at home to engage with a subject or topic, before undertaking relevant tasks and learning practices in school hours.

“Formal learning is like riding a bus: the driver decides where the bus is going; the passengers are along for the ride. Informal learning is like riding a bike: the rider chooses the destination, the speed, and the route.” Jay Cross, Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance

Three quarters of surveyed teachers report better levels of engagement in the classroom after implementing flipped learning. So. why is flipped learning so effective in the modern classroom?

Could it be the flexible approach?
Flipped learning enables students able to access materials at a time that best suits them best.

Is the reduced burden of homework?
Flipped learning allows pupils to absorb core information at home, and save wider questions and suggestions for class hours.

There are some obstacles to implementing flipped learning like self-discipline in pupils and a lack of resources, but overall this approach keeps class time more active.

To explore the impact of collaborative working both inside and outside the classroom, download our free guide.

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What is deep learning?

Deep learning allows a student to take principles from one situation and apply it to another.

Preparing students for the future can be incredibly challenging for teachers.

Even more so in an increasingly data-driven, automated world; today’s pupils are growing up in a scenario in which half of tomorrow’s jobs don’t yet exist. So, learning transferable, real-world skills is even more important for today’s pupils than yesterday’s.

“The skills that are easiest to teach and test method and recall are also the easiest to automate.” Lifelong Learning Report, Institute of Directors

Pupils need six core skills for deep learning:

  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Citizenship
  • Character
  • Communication

Read why deep learning should be applied to the modern teaching environment in our blog.

How should schools teach mixed-ability classes?

A pupil’s learning ability is not synonymous with their readiness or their motivation. There are three principal learning conditions that will affect a pupil’s approach to learning.

  • Readiness to learn
  • Learning ability
  • Learning interest

Teaching a classroom of mixed-learning profiles is problematic; it can take differentiated learning to engage the whole class. Teachers with mixed-ability classes rely on creative teaching methods and interactive resources. Importantly, teachers should:

  • Individualise their teaching content
  • Pluralise their teaching methods

It is important to first identify the differences between learning profiles in the classroom. These include:

  • The invisible child
  • The underachiever
  • The right place, wrong time learner
  • The learner with a potential specialism
  • The unmotivated learner
  • The perfectly primed learner
  • The learner in need

There are methods of differentiation that can be deployed to engage all learner profiles. Ultimately, engagement is key to fostering motivation and confidence in the classroom.

The State of Technology in Education Report 2021/22

Our latest report is here. Edtech trends, surprising stats and candid insights from thousands of educators. How many educators struggled to engage their students remotely?

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