Tag Archives: Pedagogy

Pedagogical Peculiarities – New Book




  1. Pedagogical peculiarities: an introduction
    Stephen Brookfield                                                                                                                  
  2. Redefining professionalism through an examination of personal and social values in veterinary teaching
    Karen Young and Simon Lygo-Baker                                                                               
  3. ‘Messy and precise’: peculiarities and parallels between the performing arts and higher education                                                                                                                         
    Emma Medland, Alison James and Niall Bailey                                                         
  4. Research as pedagogy in academic development
    Ian Kinchin, Martyn Kingsbury and Stefan Yoshi Buhmann  
  5. The vulnerability of a small discipline and its search for appropriate pedagogy: the case of medical physics
    Anesa Hosein and Jamie Harle                                                                                        
  6. The marketization of pedagogy and the problem of competitive accountability
    Richard Watermeyer and Michael Tomlinson                                                           
  7. Strategic pedagogic management
    Gill Nicholls and Simon Lygo-Baker                                                                       
  8. Building and agenda for academic development on the peculiarity of university teaching.
    Paul Ashwin



Digital technology amplifies the obvious

Digital technology in various forms is now well embedded into teaching at university. The use of PowerPoint seems ubiquitous – barely a lecture goes by without the support of a slide presentation. And what is interesting is the way in which the projection of PowerPoint slides also projects the lecturer’s views on teaching. It bares all, whether you intend it or not.

Lecturers who claim to be interested in student engagement have their bluff called when they then have a slide presentation without any room for questions because they are so full of content. The structure of the knowledge within the presentation is also transparent, with linearity usually dominating (Kinchin et al., 2008). Use of technology gives signals about you as a teacher that will be interpreted by students.

It is also interesting to see how practices that are self-evidently sensible suddenly become ‘innovative’ once they are set in the context of “flipped classrooms” or “lecture capture technology”. For example, we can find  recommendations such as ‘keeping on-line pre-class videos short – about 20 minutes to maximize student engagement’. Well this is surely also a good idea in the analogue classroom too. We know full well that students find it difficult to remain engaged for a full 60 minute lecture, but the logistics of timetabling 20 minute lectures on campus means that in the analogue world it is just not practical. The digital environment enables us to do this in practice.

So too comments such as “sequence your materials logically“, “offer support to colleagues“, or “manage your students’ expectations” are all quite sensible as guidelines for the digital world, but are equally well suited to the analogue teaching environment too.

I think we have to be a little wise to the re-invention of good practice. Maybe some of our younger colleagues are hearing these things for the first time. That’s fine, so long as they do not walk away thinking that all these valid classroom tips are uniquely valid for the digital teaching environment. The digital-analogue divide needs to be bridged. Good teaching is good teaching, whether you are using a VLE or a chalk board.  But if the application of technology is helping to push these ideas to the fore, that can only be a good thing – surely?


Kinchin, I.M., Chadha, D. and Kokotailo, P. (2008) Using PowerPoint as a lens to focus on linearity in teaching. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 32(4): 333 – 346.

‘P’ is for ‘Pedagogy’: The missing term in the university lexicon.

When designing a curriculum, a focus on content as a starting point tends to be objectivist and considers knowledge as external to the student – as a fundamental ‘truth’. This resonates with many colleagues in the sciences. A student focus tends to be more constructivist and considers knowledge to be internal to the student, as a personal and idiosyncratic construction. This may resonate more with colleagues in the Arts and Humanities.

As the pendulum (figure above) has swung towards the student in recent years, there has been an emphasis on student learning needs and student diversity. However, Simon (1999: 42) has argued persuasively that ‘to start from the standpoint of individual difference is to start from the wrong position’. This is not to argue against a focus on the needs of the student, and the support they need in order to gain expertise in their chosen field. Far from it. But surely the starting point should be the discipline – that central point in the pendulum where the pointer swings fastest.

However, when learning about a new discipline, the specialist terminology of the field can sometimes create a barrier. This is part of the process of learning and engaging with the culture of the discipline. When learning about education, the term ‘pedagogy’ can have the effect of causing panic among academics, and is often confused with the more familiar term ‘teaching’. So why use the term pedagogy?

Simplifying the terminology of education projects an over-simplistic view of the ideas being discussed and results in the complexity of the situation being lost. This can result in a lack of engagement with the topic that appears to offer no challenge. This is what many colleagues within the disciplines would characterise as ‘dumbing down’. So why should we dumb down the discourse on teaching and learning?

For such reasons, it is important that ‘pedagogy’ finds its way into the lexicon of the university teacher as it means so much more than the related term, ‘teaching’. Teaching tends to focus on the ‘what?’ of the classroom, whereas pedagogy offers a focus on the ‘why?’. Only with an appreciation of the why can evidence of teaching effectiveness be contextualised and developed.

Inertia within the pendulum has developed as academics can feel alienated from the discourse on education that is increasingly scrutinised through the lenses of accountability and managerialism. But to regain control of their discipline, rather than pull back from discussions of teaching, academics must engage more fully with that aspect which intersects with student engagement – the pedagogy of their discipline. This is central to the function of the university of they are to avoid becoming centres of non-learning (Kinchin et al., 2008).

The difference between teaching and pedagogy, click on link: pedagogy vs teaching slide[1]


Kinchin, I.M., Lygo-Baker, S. and Hay, D.B. (2008) Universities as centres of non-learning. Studies in Higher Education, 33(1): 89 – 103.
Simon, B. (1999) Why no pedagogy in England? In: Leach, J. and Moon, B. (eds.) Learners and pedagogy. London, Paul Chapman, (pp. 34 – 45).