Friday, 27 February 2015

Pedagogy: can we understand it in terms of cooking meals?

I've written an article for the NZCER journal Curriculum Matters that is now published, as part of a special issue on metaphors in education. In it, I speculate on how to make concrete something as abstract as trying to understand what pedagogy is and why it matters. I did so because as an initial teacher education (ITE) educator, I teach those who want to be secondary teachers because they have a passion for their subject area, and want to know how to 'deliver' this to secondary school students. I put 'deliver' in speech marks because it is a naughty word - see Dianne's post  from last year where she takes to task 6 particular words in education.

What ITE students fast come to realise is that by becoming teachers, they must begin to understand what pedagogy is, and how different it is from delivery. The latter is about transmission, which has a limited place in this century's learning contexts. The former is about a whole other discipline. 'Delivery' is about telling students, pedagogy is about helping them learn and create knowledge for themselves, but under guidance. Broadly, delivery is about this question: "What shall I teach?", while pedagogy is about this question: "What do my students need to know?" This latter question implies knowing one's students, their immediate learning needs (whether a skill, a concept or an understanding), an ability to design targeted learning, and making the learning count for something. It implies creating the environment in which students have to think. Delivery, on the other hand, only needs to be about transmitting information/facts/stuff. It can be where a teacher can say they have covered the curriculum, but they can't also say they have helped students learn, unless they have done something other than delivery.

This is a long way of saying my article about metaphor attempted to make sense of pedagogy while using pedagogical design to do so. In other words, I was looking for a prior knowledge/experience starting point that would be the hook for this new learning. This hook, I decided, was food. I hazarded a guess that cooking and food was a common experience and knowledge point of everyone (even if the details of that experience differed for each person). So, I created a table in which I outlined key components of both cooking a meal and pedagogy, that would illuminate what teachers needed to consider to design tasty learning.

Here is my effort as it will appear in the article, and I'd like to know what you think of it so I can refine it. I would love some feedback on this!

The components of each are listed on the left, while the other two columns briefly outline my conception of how a recipe/meal can help us understand pedagogy:

Table 1: Recipes and pedagogy

  • specific ingredients  
  • proportions/measurements
  • utensils and equipment
  • student group and learning needs
  • class facilities
  • curriculum concepts
  • content
  • resources
  • thinking processes
How to create the product/the goal of a recipe (ie, the dish):
  • the mix/chemistry (knowing how and why certain processes affect cooking outcomes)
  • technical knowledge of cooking processes and combinations of ingredients
  • cooking times and effective use of equipment to make the recipe become good food
How to aim for a learning/curriculum goal:
  • the mix/chemistry (knowing how and why certain processes affect learning outcomes)
  • technical knowledge of learning and facilitation processes such as: metacognition, pedagogical design, timing, order, opportunity
  • using resources/equipment for meeting curriculum learning goals
  • specific organisation of learning to scaffold thinking and knowing
The order in which food processes need to happen:
  • order and combinations in mixing of ingredients
  • cooking receptacles
  • cooking times/cooking order
The order in which learning needs to happen:
  • beginning with prior knowledge
  • building block/scaffolding activities and skills to address prerequisite knowledge
  • processes (developing conceptual learning/problem-solving)
Plating and eating the food:
  • how it looks, smells, tastes
  • the degree of satisfaction in eating it
- a sensory and affective experience
The evidence of:
  • conceptual learning (abstraction, inference, analysis, justification, synthesis, reflection, judgement, threshold concepts)
  • procedural learning (understanding of process, method, order...)
  • metacognitive learning - learning how to learn/articulating strategies
  • the satisfaction (‘fun’/enjoyment) in the challenge/level of achievement and learning in the task
- a cognitive and affective experience
Feedback on the dish by the diners:
  • Look, taste and smell
  • Satisfaction (fullness, texture, size, how appetising it is)
  • Was it worth eating?

Evaluation by cook:
  • Is it worth creating again (cost, time, effort, effect on diners)?
  • Does it need refinement (what needs changing - taste, plating,...?)
  • Would different ingredients work?
  • with a different combination of diners, what needs changing (dietary needs, timing)?
Feedback and behaviours of learners:
  • Coming back for more when the learning is successful, satisfying, challenging  
  • evidence of realising it’s a work in progress that includes risk-taking, feedback and self-reflection
  • deciding if their own learning intentions/goals have been achieved...

Evaluation by teachers:
  • have learning goals been achieved?
  • does it need refinement/alteration?
  • what if different resources were used?
  • what was the learner experience like?
  • with a different class, how should it be modified? - resources, strategies, learning needs, order…
  • are curriculum goals satisfied by this design?

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