Effective Teaching and Pedagogy

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Oct 30, 2010

The dynamic of classroom teaching that is most vital to student learning is lost when classrooms function like cemeteries. The cemetery model of teaching enforces students' silence, solitary work, and permanent placement in an orderly arrangement of furniture, usually in rows and columns. This model has become emblematic of teaching. It appears whenever classrooms are portrayed in television programs and commercials. The model typically shows teachers standing in the middle of scrubbed and seated youngsters who look like the teacher and raise their hands, eager to participate. This view of classrooms lags behind current understandings of teaching and learning, and overlooks the rich diversity of students.

Teachers typically meet their students in numbers as large as their classroom will hold. Many of the students' home backgrounds and languages differ from those of the teacher. Classes include students who are poor, preliterate, and lacking in knowledge not only of the language of instruction but also of the expectations and procedures of school.

Increases in U.S. Minority Student Enrollment

The percentage of public school students who are minorities increased from 22 percent in 1972 to 43 percent in 2004, with the largest growth among Hispanic students. In 2004, minority public school enrollment, at 57 percent, outpaced white student enrollment, at 43 percent, in the west of the United States (U.S. Department of Education, 2006).

Regardless of how the student population changes, teachers use the knowledge and skills they have been taught. They frequently use instructional methods that focus more on securing students' immediate attention to content than on building teacher-student relationships that support communication and learning. They may implement a cemetery model in their classroom because they were taught that way themselves and believe it is responsible for their own academic success. Even when teachers see their students struggle with and detach themselves from learning, they may lack the skills needed to shift to another approach or they may find other explanations for students' failure.

Because teachers are typically highly qualified and proficient in their content knowledge, the skills they lack are usually related to the knowledge and application of pedagogy. When teachers understand and use pedagogy, their teaching has the flexibility to meet students' vast array of learning needs. This book discusses pedagogy and its role in effective classroom teaching. Pedagogy, as much as teaching, ensures that all students are assisted in learning academic content as effectively as they learn in their worlds outside of school. Pedagogy can guide teachers to organize their classrooms, design activities, and communicate with students to support learning, but it is also a system for strengthening teaching in order to produce learning outcomes for all students.

This book is about a system composed of five pedagogy standards. The system supports teaching that encourages students to learn through activity and dialogue. Each standard emphasizes a component of teaching, beginning with activity and then focusing on language and literacy development; contextualization; thinking; and most important, teacher and student dialogue on academic topics. Together the standards support classroom teaching by organizing lessons and designing activity that supports the use of a variety of effective approaches, particularly dialogue. The major benefit of the five pedagogy standards is that they encourage teachers to use the premier teaching strategy: instructional conversation.

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