IPPL needs a set of lenses through which to interrogate the innovative pedagogies, networks and strategies being examined; without a core framework, the risk is of generating a multitude of interesting but unconnected insights. To avoid this we have developed the “Cs” framework:
Combinations of pedagogies are characteristic of any educational situation over time. A single teacher, let alone teams of educators, never uses one pedagogical method exclusively. A pedagogical approach is made up of several pedagogies combined in systematic ways. The innovation may lie as much in the way in which those pedagogies are combined as in any specific methods or practices. Innovative approaches to teaching and learning deploy such pedagogical combinations systematically in ways to be understood holistically rather than always broken down into disaggregated practices and episodes.
Focusing on pedagogical combinations offers a fruitful way to understand how established pedagogical approaches are brought together to create effective learning designs.
Students and teachers do not learn and teach in a vacuum – they learn and teach something! Particular pedagogies may be much more appropriate than others for particular types of knowledge and competence areas, or for inter-disciplinary learning. We are thus looking to bring together insights and research evidence regarding pedagogies for specific subjects or competence sets, as captured by the word “content” (the term already used in the earlier Innovative Learning Environments project to help characterise the pedagogical core). Asking what learning is for, what is worth learning, and which pedagogies are most powerful to promote such learning typifies approaches often termed "innovative".
Our first reviews have focused on the knowledge areas mathematics, second language learning, and social and emotional learning.
There is widespread recognition of the importance of context and how this impacts on the appropriateness of particular pedagogies. Some of the most relevant contextual factors are the impact (or not) of being surrounded by digital media; the influence of different socio-cultural backgrounds; and the role of values, even religion. There are also different educational contexts, climates and conditions. Context itself needs to be contextualised: findings about the influence of, say, social background from one system may well not hold in another culture. While it is difficult to generalise about the impact of context, therefore, IPPL will ask about how particular pedagogical approaches and innovations respond to particular contextual circumstances. Do particular innovations, for instance, assume high levels of existing cultural capital in order for students to thrive?
At the same time, IPPL will need to avoid the relativism inherent in answering all generalisations with “it all depends”, and to do this will look for tendencies and even meta-principles.
The concept of “connoisseurship” captures the idea of expert application of specific pedagogies; clarifying connoisseurship is about contributing to understanding the conditions and meta-principles behind the aspect of the project title “for powerful learning”. For instance, in the 2010 OECD/ILE publication The Nature of Learning, Brigid Barron and Linda Darling-Hammond describe how inquiry approaches “are highly dependent on the knowledge and skills of the teachers…When these approaches are poorly understood, teachers often think of them as “unstructured,” rather than appreciating that they require extensive scaffolding and constant assessment and redirection as they unfold.” (p.215) If particular pedagogies are inappropriately applied it will not be surprising that they have only limited impact on outcomes (assuming such outcomes can be measured). Evaluative studies of practices done in the name of a specific approach understate its potential if they include the poorly-implemented as well as expert applications.
Bringing together evidence relating to expert application is a substantial research synthesis activity that is envisaged will take time well beyond the first project phase in 2017.
We can go beyond seeking to understand the innovative pedagogies themselves to ask how they can best be introduced, developed and sustained in different learning contexts, especially schools. In the design process, we can ask what is needed within schools and other learning environments and the role played by networks and learning communities. We can ask about the learning, routines, conditions, catalysts and incentives that promote pedagogical innovation. Such questions have featured in our approach to networks in the first project phase, and could be deepened in subsequent work through, for instance, case studies.
We could also review policies, strategies and initiatives aimed at promoting particular innovative pedagogical approaches.