Come and Have a Pedagogy Chat

On Sunday morning, I had a welcome change from the daily COVID-19 conversation; I met up with Alice Sharp to discuss pedagogy.

I have been using the word, ‘pedagogy’ for many years and am delighted that it is finally making its way into the common parlance of Early Years colleagues. I know many are still reluctant to talk pedagogy but now there is both a carrot and stick to use the word because it is on the lips of our regulator, Ofsted. And sometimes that is what is needed to get us going…!

What is pedagogy?  It originates from the Greek words país (child) and ágõ (to lead or to guide). It is how we lead a child to learn, how we guide and support them. In my recent book I wrote a little song (and designed a pedagogy cocktail!) to help remember it. So, to the tune of Tommy Thumb start singing this with the children to learn a lovely word at the same time:

Pedagogy covers what could be described as broad education, that is not just teaching and learning in school but also taking account of the child’s upbringing.  To design a pedagogy, you need some key ingredients.

You need to agree the values of your nursery, organisation, childminding business or whatever type of setting you are. For example, what do you all believe to be the importance of childhood? In my world, the values are all about social justice so my base has got to be how I will deliver learning that will support all children, but especially those who have experienced disadvantage.

You need to identify the theorists that influence how you will design your teaching approach and the learning experiences for the children. This will shape your curriculum which are all the experiences, activities, environment, routine and interactions that the child will experience at your setting.

You need to think about and agree your view of the child. How do you think a child learns? Is she an apprentice like Vygotsky might suggest, or curious and capable and able to co-produce her learning in partnership with you as described by Reggio Emilia? How will you give her the right to be heard as asked by the United Nations Rights of the Child?

How do you teach children? How do you support how they learn? Do you build on their interests at home and from their local community? How do you create a learning environment that meets their needs such as climbing trees (risky play)?

Is it important the children learn to cook, cycle and be physically confident to respond to the challenges of their environment? Some may end up foraging crispy seaweed or blackberries to bake muffins.  If your pedagogy has a social justice structure to it, then the staff may be very equipped with all the means we have to extend children’s social and language skills. That could encourage lots of singing, drama, poetry, reading and a very strong home learning bridge.

Once you understand this and define what that looks like in your setting, you need to decide how to monitor its operation.  Is it working well?  Do staff understand why they are doing what they do and are you hearing those reflective conversations, those pedagogical chats that lift each of us up. Our call to action must be that the language of pedagogy becomes central to training and practice. Staff must know how we teach children to support how they learn so they can reject trendy, poorly supported ideologies.

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