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Culturally appropriate pedagogy in comparative contexts

Nozomi Sakata, UCL Institute of Education

Culture varies across different contexts, and so does pedagogy. The nexus of culture and pedagogy was one of the themes extensively discussed at the recent Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) and Japan Comparative Education Society (JCES) conferences.

It has been almost two decades since Alexander (2000) published his seminal work Culture and Pedagogy, on the basis of which he defines ‘pedagogy’ as involving not only teaching acts but also educational theories, values, evidence and justifications (Alexander, 2004).

Since then, however, have we conceptualised pedagogy beyond teaching practices? Have we moved beyond teachers to also include students, parents, communities and policymakers in our research on pedagogy? At the CIES conference, Schweisfurth, Thomas and Smail (2019) claimed that pedagogy is still undertheorised in comparative contexts.

‘Existing research on learner-centred pedagogy in the global south has primarily explored teaching practices and teachers – to the exclusion of pedagogical dimensions beyond classrooms that locate, legitimise and enable the act of teaching.’

Take, for example, a case of learner-centred pedagogy (LCP). Considered a universal panacea for various educational challenges, it has been widely borrowed and lent beyond national borders. At the JCES conference, Diasse (2019) and Vesikula (2019) presented on the adaptation of a competency-based curriculum in Senegal and that of Education for Sustainable Development in Fiji, respectively, both of which embrace elements of LCP. To investigate the global spread of LCP, existing research on LCP in the global south has primarily explored teaching practices and teachers – despite of Alexander’s (2004) broader conceptualisation of pedagogy.

The exclusive focus on teachers and teaching excludes pedagogical dimensions beyond classrooms that locate, legitimise and enable the act of teaching. Research by Juke (2019) and Wolf (2019), presented at the CIES conference, partly addresses this issue. The researchers explored culturally effective pedagogy by comparing expectations of pedagogical approaches between teachers and parents in Tanzania and Ghana. Both studies highlighted the nature of children’s behaviour and socio-emotional skills that may significantly influence classroom pedagogy, leading them to argue for the involvement of parents as well as teachers in pedagogical policymaking and research processes. During the JCES conference I also shared my PhD findings, exploring LCP implementation from children’s perspectives in Tanzania, with a focus on pupils’ subjective experiences of LCP implementation and possible associations between the level of LCP appropriation and their learning outcomes (Sakata, 2019).

In addition to including various educational stakeholders in research on pedagogy, we should also talk about pedagogy in tandem with other aspects of teaching and learning, especially curriculum and assessment. In a recent piece in the BERA Blog, Wyse and Manyukhina (2019) discuss different types of curriculum adopted by different countries, one of which is the learner-centred curriculum. For it to be appropriated in the classroom, however, we need learner-centred pedagogy that puts students at the core of learning processes. Likewise, for learner-centred pedagogy to be practised, the assessment system of the country in question needs to examine knowledge and skills expectedly trained through learner-centred curriculum and pedagogy. Bartlett and Vavrus (2013) attribute minimal implementation of LCP in many countries in the global south to fact-based, high-stake examination systems. Consistency between curriculum, pedagogy and assessment, as well as consistency between these factors and cultural values, is required to produce effective and fruitful educational policy endeavours in global contexts.

 


The author would like to thank BERA for the generous funding provided to attend the CIES and JCES conferences through the ECR Network Funding Scheme. 


References

Alexander, R. J. (2000). Culture and Pedagogy: International comparisons in primary education. Oxford: Blackwell.

Alexander, R. J. (2004). Still no pedagogy? Principle, pragmatism and compliance in primary education. Cambridge Journal of Education, 34(1), 7–33.

Bartlett, L. & Vavrus, F. K. (2013). Testing and teaching: The Tanzanian national exams and their influence on pedagogy. In F. K. Vavrus & L. Bartlett (Eds.), Teaching in tension (pp. 93–113). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Diasse, A. (2019). Introduction of the competency based approach in teaching and learning mathematics at elementary school level in Senegal: Successes and challenges. Presented at the Japan Comparative Education Society 2019 Conference, Tokyo, 7–9 June.

Juke, M. (2019). The role of children’s social and emotional competencies in effective teaching of early grade reading in Tanzania. Presented at the Comparative and International Education Society 2019 Conference, on ‘Education for Sustainability’, San Francisco, 14–18 April.

Sakata, N. (2019). Implementation of learner-centred pedagogy (LCP) in Tanzanian primary schools: Pupils schooling experiences and learning outcomes in relation to LCP. Presented at the Japan Comparative Education Society 2019 Conference, Tokyo, 7–9 June.

Schweisfurth, M., Thomas, A. M., & Smail, A. (2019). Revisiting comparative pedagogy. Presented at the Comparative and International Education Society 2019 Conference, on ‘Education for Sustainability’, San Francisco, 14–18 April.

Vesikula, A. L. B. (2019). The need for contextualization of education for sustainable development (ESD) in schools: Using contextual approach to improve problem solving as a skill of ESD in the classroom: A study of ESD in Fiji and Japan. Presented at the Japan Comparative Education Society 2019 Conference, Tokyo, 7–9 June.

Wolf, S. (2019). The perils and promises of listening to parents: Encountering unexpected barriers to improving preschool in Ghana. Presented at the Comparative and International Education Society 2019 Conference, on ‘Education for Sustainability’, San Francisco, 14–18 April.

Wyse, D. & Manyukhina, Y. (2019, April 10). What next for curriculum? Blog post, BERA Blog. Retrieved from https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/what-next-for-curriculum