Sponsored by the Elon Teaching and Learning Partnership (ETLP), this project includes research conducted by three Elon faculty members and an Alamance-Burlington School Distinct high school teacher to investigate the following question:
How does an explicit focus on social pedagogies in course/project design impact student and faculty experiences in high school and college classrooms?
What’s a Social Pedagogy?
When we first began talking about our research possibilities, we realized that we were all interested in consciously and intentionally connecting our students to the world outside the classroom via our pedagogical practices:
- Anthony Hatcher is interested in the use of pop culture and oral history projects in his Media History and Media and Religion courses in the School of Communication.
- Mark Meacham is interested in the intersections between literature, students’ identity creation, and popular culture in his high school English classroom.
- Jessie is interested in the impact of service learning projects for students learning about TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) in a Professional Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) course largely populated by future high school English teachers.
- Rebecca Pope-Ruark is interested in creating full-semester course projects that bring rhetorical strategies, real audiences with real needs, and student learning together for her PWR students.
We each believe that creating assignments and course experiences that enable students to develop an authentic sense of voice and purpose, often interacting with an authentic external audience, is valuable, if not crucial, for students’ learning. It was this interest that led us to developing research into social pedagogies.
Social pedagogy is an holistic approach to teaching and learning more frequently practiced in lower grades education in Europe. As conceived by a research group led by Georgetown University’s Randy Bass and Heidi Elmendorf, social pedagogies are
design approaches for teaching and learning that engage students with what we might call an ‘authentic audience’ (other than the teacher), where representation of knowledge for an audience is absolutely central to the construction of knowledge in a course…[to] help students deepen their understanding of core concepts by engaging in ways of thinking, practicing, and communicating in a field (Bass and Elmendorf).
Social pedagogies broaden the context for learning by combining elements of authenticity, social construction, communication, and content to help students address a set of ill-defined or ill-structure problems effectively, which can later contribute to better learning transfer in other contexts, i.e. help students develop “adaptive expertise” (Bass and Elmendorf).
The “butterfly” graphic below illustrates the most recent representation of the social pedagogies framework for course and project design by the Georgetown group. Bass and Elmendorf argue that the framework can be used as a heuristic or “a set of prompts for teachers to consider the elements of their course in light of their goals for their students.” Elements work in concert with each other but can be emphasized differently by the teacher depending on the goals of the course. This more engaged, possibly more authentic approach to course design and learning is at odds with standard lecture models of education because it radically decenters the classroom and values life lessons shaped by content rather than just content. Social pedagogy teaching and research provides the space to explore these tensions deliberately and creates a rich area for the research in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.