Signature Pedagogies in Education

Approximate Reading Time: 2 minutes

Instructional Design Collaboration: A Professional Learning and Growth Experience ~ Stephen’s Web.

Amid a dozen of so papers that could have been wrritten in the 1990s is this position paper in the current issue of the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT): “A reflective analysis of the collaborative design process is presented using an adapted, four-fold curriculum design framework (from Hai-Jew (2010)) Course instructors discuss their approaches to backward instructional design and describe the digital tools used to support collaboration.” Well, this too could have been written in the 1990s, I guess. Seriously, folks, this is 2013 – we’ve gone way beyond faculty exchanging online learning tips.

Yup. It could have been written in the 90’s.

I am regularly disappointed by how little courses change from year to year at most institutions. The Faculty where this paper came from has had pretty much the same model for their graduate courses (both F2F and online) since at least 2003 (which is when I took my first courses there).

The standard template is:

  • Assigned readings
  • Discussion (via reading responses, and dialog)
  • A group project
  • An individual paper (formal, for-publication style)

Perhaps, this is what passes for a “signature pedagogy” in Education, but does that even make sense?

If the signature pedagogy in medicine is bedside teaching, and in law it is the case discussion, then what would be an appropriate signature pedagogy for master’s level education?

Bedside teaching in medicine makes sense – you are teaching using an approach that the learners will actually be practicing when they are done. Case discussion and analysis also makes sense in law, as pouring over cases and analyzing them to find arguments they can apply to their current case is again what those learners will actually be doing when they become lawyers themselves.

I would think a signature pedagogy in Education *should* be one that actually uses the theories and models being taught – one where the teaching methodology matches the kind of work the participants will do when they graduate. Instead, what we find here is a single template that virtually all course designs adhere to, and that bears NO resemblance to what the vast majority of the graduates will be doing after they graduate.

Seriously, unless they go on to do a PhD, how many of them will write research papers after they graduate? The program discussed in the paper above is a course-based masters. It isn’t even intended to be a stepping stone to a PhD – there’s an entirely different program for that (thesis based, which *does* make sense). A course-based M.Ed is primarily undertaken by practicing teachers (and some administrators) as a way of advancing their salaries and careers. Most of them will NOT go on to become researchers, so what sense does it make to do a formal research paper (for example)?

Wouldn’t a signature pedagogy in education be one that actually implements the theories and models being studied in order to teach those same theories and models? Shouldn’t it be one that employs experimental designs and invites the students (most of who are teachers) to examine the course design as it’s being taught? Wouldn’t it make sense to have the students have input into the design and/or teaching?


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