Pedagogy: What It Is & Why Matters?

By | First Published: | Last Updated: 22 November, 2019

Is pedagogy just a fancy word for teaching? Partly, but it is also much more.

pedagogy feature image

What Is Pedagogy?

Pedagogy includes but goes beyond the notion of teaching. It encompasses everything a teacher does to help students learn.

And, pedagogy is focused on helping children to learn. Andragogy is a similar concept, but it is focused on helping adults learn.


Beliefs are Drivers of & Part of Pedagogy

Your beliefs drive your actions, and therefore, your beliefs are part of your pedagogy. These include your beliefs about:

  • The purpose of education
  • Your role as a teacher
  • How to treat students and manage their behaviour
  • How your students learn
  • The best ways to teach your students
  • How to go about assessing your students’ learning

But where do these beliefs come from? A lot of our beliefs come from untested theories and fashionable fads. Sadly, many of these theories and fads have little if any grounding in evidence at all.


Evidence-Based Pedagogical Beliefs

Beliefs drive your actions. Put another way, your pedagogical beliefs drive your pedagogical practices. Embracing evidence-based pedagogical practices involves:

  • Being willing to let go of or change some of your existing beliefs
  • Based on what research has found about how to best help students learn

Trusting research over popular opinion is a pedagogical belief. And, it is the foundational belief of evidence-based pedagogy.

What You Do as a Teacher Matters!

A second core belief of evidence-based pedagogy is that what you do as a teacher makes a difference to your students’ growth and success.

Students success at school is helped or hindered by many factors. Some of these are outside of your control. These include:

  • Students who suffer frequent illnesses or chronic conditions such as ADHD
  • The home life of your students
  • Students natural abilities and tendencies

Yet, without denying the impact such factors have, what you do as a teacher also makes a difference to how well your students do at school.


9 Evidence-Based Pedagogical Practices

As research is ongoing, we are discovering more and more about how to help children learn. So, there is no single list of pedagogical practices that is set in stone. Yet, here is a snapshot of what we know now.

1Your Relationship with Your Students Matters

Forging a positive and professional relationship is an important pedagogical practice. It has a direct impact on your students’ academic success. It also has an indirect impact through influencing things such as students’ self-efficacy, engagement and behaviour.

Second pedagogical practiceClarity & Alignment are Crucial Pedagogical Practices

You need to be clear about what you want your students to learn. It doesn’t matter whether you achieve such clarity through learning intentions, goals, success criteria or some other method. What matters is that you are clear about what your students must know and be able to do to achieve success – and how you will assess that success. See –Teacher Clarity.

Then, you must align what you teach, how you teach and what you get your students doing accordingly.

3Either-Or Beliefs Can Be Flawed Ways of Thinking

Quite often, different ways of teaching are presented as polar opposites. For example, teacher-led explicit instruction vs. student-led discovery and inquiry learning. Sometimes, such a comparison is worthwhile as one is clearly more effective than the other. Yet, often, a more nuanced understanding is needed. For example, two seemingly opposing approaches may work well together or may be appropriate at different stages of learning.

See – Finding 2.

pedagogical practice 4Some Teaching Strategies Have More Impact Than Others

Keeping in mind the importance of nuance, sometimes a particular teaching strategy has more impact than alternative teaching strategies. The size of such differences can be measured using effect sizes, percentile gains or months progressed. See 10 Evidence-Based Teaching Strategies and 6 High-Impact Teaching Strategies.

Choosing high-impact teaching strategies is an essential pedagogical practice. However, lower-impact strategies can also be useful when they are easy to implement and used to complement rather than replace higher-impact strategies.

5What Your Students Do Matters Too! And, it is a Pedagogical Practice

Pedagogy is about what you do as a teacher. Yet, this includes what you tell your students to do – and what they do matters too. For example, having your students practice new things and spacing this practice out over time has a large impact on their success. So too do other strategies, such as connecting new learning to prior knowledge, identifying similarities and differences and checking their work.

pedagogical practice 6Managing Your Students’ Behaviour Makes a Difference

Managing your students’ behaviour is a crucial pedagogical practice. It affects your students’ learning, as well as your own sanity. Forging positive teacher-student relationships helps. So too does teaching well. But you also need a bank of strategies specifically designed to manage your students’ behaviour.

See – Top 10 Behaviour Management Strategies

7Intervention for Struggling Students Helps

Using evidence-based practices in your own classroom helps. But sometimes more is needed. In such cases, working with other people in the school to offer struggling students additional support is an important pedagogical practice. One evidence-based example of such support is Response to Intervention.

Enrichment Programs Work, but Acceleration Works Better

At the other end of the spectrum, you need to make decisions about how to help your high-achieving students to progress even further. It is very easy to let such students coast along, but they deserve as much challenge and support as every other student in your class. Research shows that enrichment programs work. However, accelerating bright students has a larger impact on their learning.

9Formative Assessment & Feedback Make a Difference

Formative assessment refers to any form of assessment with the primary purpose of helping students to correct and improve what they have done. It can be as simple as an incidental observation of a student trying to find the area of a rectangle, or as complex as an analysis of a persuasive speech. Whether simple or complex, such formative assessment forms the basis of feedback that you provide to your student. Such feedback tells them how they have done and what they need to do to improve.

FREE eBook on How to Give Feedback


Pedagogy in a Nutshell

Pedagogy is a synonym for teaching. But it is more! It is a synonym for the different things teachers do to help their students learn.

This includes various aspects of the teaching process, including planning, teaching, and assessment.

Yet, pedagogy also involves other important activities, such as relationship building, managing students’ behaviour and collaborating with others.


Research On Pedagogical Practices

Download a Sampling of Research on the Above Pedagogical Practices


shaun killian drawing

(MEd., MLead.)

Shaun Killian (me) is an experienced and passionate teacher, as well as a past school principal. After a heart transplant and having both my legs amputated, I am not yet capable of returning to work. Yet, my passion for helping students succeed has led me to use my time to research teaching and associated practices. I then share what I find in practical ways through this website. The greatest compliment I have ever received from a past student was I never left any student behind. That is mission of most teachers and I hope you find the information on this site useful.

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2 thoughts on “Pedagogy: What It Is & Why Matters?”

  1. I think the biggest different between pedagogy and teaching is the understanding of how students learn, learning about learning.

  2. Hi Alexandra
    I agree that understanding how students learn is an essential aspect of pedagogy and one that is not captured under the term teaching

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