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My interest in the idea of sharing pedagogical purposes comes directly with the contact I have had with the Project for Enhancing Effective Learning at Monash University in Australia. Now each of these teachers were very active in establishing learning agendas with their classes. The impact they were having was inspiring. Each classroom tool can have a purpose beyond delivering content, and this needs to be shared.
I suppose the purpose of this website is collate, crystalise and open dialogues about how to increase this within classrooms. As the quote from Carl Bereiter illustrates this classroom methodology can empower our students.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Why share Pedagogical Purposes? Part 1

I have recently stumbled across a few ideas that I think make clear why I think the sharing of pedagogical purposes works. I will admit that I am no expert in these matters but I am interested in tuning them into useful classroom tools.

I have recently recieved a copy of John Hatties Visible Learning book, and like all good books poses far more questions than it gives answers. The first thing it made me think about was when a teachers pedagogical knowledge becomes most useful. So in no particular order



  1. when a learner does not comprehend and discerning why


  2. when a learner has made a mistake and discerning why.


  3. when progress is being made by a student and discerning why


  4. when to intervene with a student and when not


  5. when to utilise alternative ways of teaching/ learning.


  6. when dealing with alternative conceptions that students arrive with.

All useful thoughts but ones that require solid evidence from students to help make a decision. Soemtimes a gut feeling is just not enough.


The final one fits very well with the idea of the learning --> unlearning--> over learning sequence. Which appeals immensely, but, in which position do I leave my learners?


Again, the very idea of students arriving with preconceived ideas about their world, is another good reason to have activities that illicit these so that teacher and student can explore and change them. Ian Mitchell of the PEEL project corrected me once as I used the term misconceptions, insisting, correctly, that they are alternative conceptions as they work in their current state of learning. All the more reason to ensure students are involved fully in the process.




The next thing in John Hatties Visible Learning I stumbled into was Poppers three worlds of learning of surface, mental and ideas which led me to Blooms taxonomy. Now, I thought I knew this ( and the revised one with Anderson et al) but somehow the educational world I've existed in seems to have missed the Four Dimensions of Knowledge. Many ideas in similar areas but nothings as resplendent as this. Once,I saw these I got the feeling that these will prove much more use to me and my students in the years to come. They also indicated to me that the sharing of pedagogical purposes are a route worth pursuing.


These are given as





  1. Factual knowledge


  2. Conceptual Knowledge


  3. Procedural knowledge



  4. Meta cognitive knowledge


What strikes me is the simplicity, balance and usefulness of these. They shout teach me. They are very much what should be taught as opposed to how we should teach. Part of the criticism in Visible Learning is that teachers/ education is too often aimed solely at Factual knowledge.
I've had a go at reviewing a science enquiry I have written and we are about to use with around 400 year 8 students in Science. This should produce some interesting data to reflect upon over the summer.


http://tinyurl.com/ngcr7p Available here for closer scrutiny.


Essentially the ABC's are learning outcomes (statements currently) which have been plotted across the Four dimensions and up through Blooms taxonomy. The words in italics are the science specific thinking skills I am trying to develop in the students . I will blog about these when I'm finished creating the assessment hierarchies that go with them.


Now what this review shows me is that in fact the lesson plan actually does TEACH in the four dimensions. I will admit that this was done by accident but is satisfying non the less(if it works!). But what really excites me is the only reason it does this is that each task the students will do has a distinct, planned and assessable procedure that goes with it. For example when searching for relevant factors that would influence the outcome, the lesson flows as follows. Everything in blue is a way of sharing the pedagogical purpose with students. It is clear the emphasis that this requires, although it is not necessarily a time consuming thing.



  1. Teacher states why we are going to use Debonos Green thinking hat


  2. Use hat to generate many possibilities.

  3. Debrief the use and the benefits of the hat.

  4. Introduce filter map, say why its being used

  5. Use filter map


  6. Debrief use of the filter map


  7. Summarise the factors that will be controlled.



I am hoping that in subsequent enquiry lessons the students will not require me to prompt and debrief as often, as they take over the decision making process of choosing which tool and when to employ it.


A final thought about this new grid was that the top four are all factual, and I have no planned "activities" directed towards them. I then realised that in fact they are not that important in this lesson, and that the students are quite likely to pick them up as they go along as this is what they will be thinking about. It then struck me that most of my teaching experiences have been directed toward this factual realm with an assumption that the "rest" will follow. In reality more teaching needs to directed towards the "rest" and the facts will follow.