Wednesday, 29 June 2011

It's hard to make practical use of pedagogical theories

We want our greater understanding of pedagogy to matter, to make a different. I've been looking closely at different pedagogical theories as part of my studies. It's interesting and challenging in equal measure. But at the back of my mind there's a so what factor which bugs me. In my role, there are very few situations where I can envisage making explicit use of pedagogical theory. Certainly, it's essential to have a good grasp but I want this knowledge to matter at a practical level.

So what are the issues?

The first point would be that they are abstract concepts. Of course they are, this is the point. But thinking about a practical learning design scenario there's a lot the educator has to do to make use of a theory. It's almost as if you read about a theory and then let it subconsciously effect your practice. Basically, the link between theory and practice has to be done by the educator which is a lot of work.

Which theory? Each theory makes it's own claims to get to the essence of learning and how best to teach/facilitate. For the educator, this means some form of value judgement about which to favour. Am I right about this? Certainly, this is how it feels as I read about them. I'm not saying this is bad but it makes it hard for the average educator to make decisions about their own teaching and learning.

Are they really so different? Of course, they are if you have the time to read and reread the important papers concerning each theory. Just reading the highlines can lead to confusing and a sense that some overlap with others. I found that ones with the word construct somewhere in the title take a while to nail as distinct entities.

Research around pedagogy is important and interesting. Long may it continue. But what we need are more conscious effort to make sense, make use and make them matter in the real world of education.

Answers on a postcard.... In my next post I will explore how I'm thinking about making use of the conversational framework to facilitate this process.

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