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The history of pedagogics gives the impression that pedagogics has never had an identity of its own. Throughout history it has borrowed its identity from philosophy, theology, psychology and sociology. Against the background of this historical challenge, the article proposes pedagogical practice as an alternative identity to pedagogics, although not in the classical sense of an absolute and self-sufficient identity, and it develops one particular ontological theory of pedagogical practice viewed from a life-world approach with the ambition of suggesting a theoretical point of departure for pedagogical research.

Pedagogy, literally translated, is the art or science of teaching children. In modern day usage, it is a synonym for "teaching" or "education," particularly in scholarly writings. Throughout history, educators and philosophers have discussed different pedagogical approaches to education, and numerous theories and techniques have been proposed. Educators use a variety of research and discussion about learning theories to create their personal pedagogy, and are often faced with the challenge of incorporating new technology into their teaching style. Successful education for all depends on teachers being able to embrace both the art and science of pedagogy, acting as "parents" who understand the needs, abilities, and experiences of their students while also being trained in the best methods of communication and presentation of appropriate materials.

From the very beginning, educators have tried to find interesting ways to bring out the possibilities of intelligence and a love of learning from their pupils. The advent of writing circa 3000 B.C.E. resulted in a style of education that was more self-reflective, with specialized occupations requiring particular skills and knowledge: scribes, astronomers, and so forth. In ancient Greece, philosophy helped questions of educational methods enter national discourse. In both Republic and Dialogues, Plato advocated a system of instruction using the Socratic method of teaching through questions. Through the clever use of questions and answers, Plato's teacher, Socrates, was able to show even an uneducated slave boy how the logic leading to the Pythagorean Theorem was within him.
A contemporary of Fröbel, Johann Friedrich Herbart, had a very different approach to education. Based on his views of philosophy, which were based on a philosophical realism, and psychology, that all mental phenomena result from the interaction of elementary ideas, Herbart believed that a science of education was possible. Herbart's work and his belief that a science of education was possible led to the establishment and acceptance of pedagogy as an academic discipline studied on the university level.

In his work Universal Pedagogy (1906), Herbart advocated five formal steps in teaching, which were translated into a practical teaching methodology:

preparation – relating new material to be learned to relevant existing ideas (memories) to stimulate the student's interest (prepare students to be ready for the new lesson)

presentation – presenting new material in the form of actual experience of concrete objects (present the new lesson)

association – comparison of the new idea with existing ideas to find similarities and differences and thus implant the new idea in the mind of the student (associate the new lesson with ideas studied earlier)

generalization – procedures designed to take learning beyond perception and experience of the concrete into the realm of abstract concepts (use examples to illustrate the lesson's major points)

application – using the newly acquired knowledge so that it becomes an integral part of the life of the student (test students to ensure they learned the new lesson).

Herbart's ideas were widely adopted in Germany and also the United States, translated into the simple five-step teaching method that became the basic pedagogical practice in the nineteenth century. By the twentieth century, however, the steps had become mechanical and Herbart's underlying ideas on ethics, psychology, and aesthetics had been forgotten. In their place, new pedagogical theories, such as those of John Dewey in the United States, which freed the child from what had become a controlled learning environment, grew in popularity.

Although his teaching methodology was overtaken by new ideas, Herbart's institution of pedagogy as an academic field has remained. The idea of a science of education, including psychology as a source of information about the nature of the learner as well as the learning process, has continued to advance teaching methods.

The importance of psychology in understanding the interest, abilities, and learning processes of students, has become an integral part of theories of education. Theories of learning have been developed to describe how people learn; these theories aid in the development of various pedagogical approaches. There are three main perspectives in educational psychology: Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism.

Behaviorism, a term coined by American psychologist John B. Watson, is based around the idea of a stimulus-response pattern of conditioned behavior. One of the most famous experiments in classical conditioning was performed by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov. By introducing the sound of a bell before placing food in front of a dog, Pavlov was able to create a conditioned response in the dog where the dog would salivate at the ringing of the bell alone.

Cognitivism became the dominant force in psychology in the late twentieth century, replacing behaviorism as the most popular paradigm for understanding the learning process. Cognitive theory is not a refutation of behaviorism, but rather an expansion that uses changes in behavior as indicators for processes within a learner's mind. The concept of cognitive theory utilizes the concept of "schema," a structure of internal knowledge, as well as the concept of short and long term memory. Cognitive theory suggests that meaningful information is easier to retain, and new information is affected by context, environment, and previous schemata.

Constructivism is a set of assumptions about the nature of human learning. It values developmentally appropriate teacher-supported learning that is initiated and directed by the student.

According to the constructivist approach, learners construct and interpret their individual realities based on their perceptions of experiences. Learning is regarded as a process in which the learner actively constructs new ideas or concepts based upon current and past knowledge and beliefs. Constructivist learning, therefore, is a very personal endeavor, whereby internalized concepts, rules, and general principles may consequently be applied in a practical real-world context. The teacher acts as a facilitator, encouraging students to discover principles for themselves and to construct knowledge by working to solve realistic problems. Working with other students enables the sharing of viewpoints and an emphasis on collaborative learning.[6] Constructivist theories are behind many modern teaching styles, such as Generative Learning, Inquiry-based instruction, Discovery Learning, and knowledge building, promoting the student's free exploration within a given framework or structure.

The idea of individualized "learning styles" originated in the 1970s, and gained considerable popularity. A learning style is the specific method of learning that is presumed to allow a particular individual to learn best. With this concept, each individual processes information in one of several manners (or a combination thereof.)

Auditory learners process information and learn best through hearing, while visual learners process information best through seeing it. Kinesthetic learners process information best when it is combined with physical movement. It has been proposed that teachers should assess the learning styles of their students and adapt their classroom methods to best fit each student's learning style. Teachers can use techniques like role-playing or historical reenactment in the classroom to reinforce information through kinesthetic learning, or graphic organizers such as diagrams and concept maps for visual learners. Older students, once aware of which learning style fits them best, can use a variety of techniques in their studies to help them learn. For example, auditory learners may find that reading aloud works well for them. Many students use a combination of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning styles.

Because of the differences in cognitive, physical, and social abilities of different age groups, different pedagogical approaches are used when working with children of various ages. A technique that works well with a five year old might not be successful with a fourth grader. Similarly, teaching adults requires a different approach than the education of high school teenagers, even when the subject matter is the same. Pedagogical approaches and learning theories may be numerous in nature, but the desire of educators to examine and discuss these varied approaches and theories will hopefully help create the best possible learning environment for all students, from preschool through adult.

One of the most important debates regarding teaching preschool children is over work versus play. While some educators advocate the beginnings of formal education, including mathematics, reading, and foreign languages, most advocate imaginative play over academic learning at such an early age. Physical development is often stressed, and children are engaged in group activities that aid in socialization. Some preschool programs may be very structured, while others allow the children more choice in their activities.

From kindergarten through grade five or six, generally known as elementary education, students learn most of their basic reading, writing, and mathematics skills. Education within the public school system is generally more traditional in nature (teacher-directed learning). Many public schools tailor their pedagogical approaches to include different learning styles as well as cultural responsiveness. For parents looking for a more student-directed pedagogical approach, private schools like Montessori and Waldorf, as well as open and free schools, offer a variety of approaches to childhood education.

Educators in many middle and high school programs often use a traditional pedagogical approach to learning, with lectures and class discussion providing the core of instruction. Standardized testing, while used occasionally in the lower grades, is much more prevalent in high school. Technology is often an integral part of instruction; in addition to multimedia and educational presentations, computer programs have replaced activities like animal dissection in science classes. For those seeking a less teacher-directed approach, alternative high schools generally provide a smaller class size and more student-directed learning. Other types of private schools, such as military schools, offer a rigidly structured approach to education that is almost exclusively teacher-directed.

While there are some "free" or alternative colleges that offers self-directed learning and non-graded, narrative evaluations, most colleges and universities primarily employ lectures, laboratories, and discussions as their primary teaching method.

Similarly to pedagogical approaches in high school, technology provides additional presentation materials, as well as impacting the way faculty and students communicate. Online discussion groups are common; students may have access to an online message board where they can discuss a covered topic with other students and the professor, and email contact between students and professors can supplement office hours. Professors are often challenged to find new ways to address students' different learning styles, as well as creating a learning environment that is accessible to those with learning disabilities.

Remedial programs for adult learners (such as literacy programs) focus not only on the acquisition of knowledge, but also must deal with the biases and sensitive emotional issues that may face adults in these situations. Adult educators often use students' life experiences to help connect them with the academic material. Adult learners interested in continuing higher education often find that online or distance learning is easier to fit into a busy schedule than physically attending classes.

Many educators are focusing on ways to incorporate technology into the classroom. Television, computers, radio, and other forms of media are being utilized in an educational context, often in an attempt to involve the student actively in their own education. Some educators, on the other hand, believe that the use of technology can facilitate learning, but is not the most effective means of encouraging critical thinking and a desire to learn, and prefer the use of physical objects. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that technology has revolutionized many approaches to education, including distance learning, computer assisted instruction, and homeschooling.

While new approaches and pedagogical techniques are constantly being developed, some older ones are being questioned. Many educators question the value of standardized testing, particularly in younger children. While such techniques are still a major part of many educational systems, there is a push to discontinue their use in favor of more student centered, hands on evaluation. Thus, as all those involved in educational theory and practice continue to advance their knowledge and techniques, and our knowledge and technology continues to develop, pedagogy also is in a state of continuous change and improvement in an effort to provide the best education to all people.


There are two main approaches in educational research. The first is a basic approach. This approach is also referred to as an academic research approach. The second approach is applied research or a contract research approach. Both of these approaches have different purposes which influence the nature of the respective research.

Basic approach

Basic or academic research focuses on the search for truth or the development of educational theory. Researchers with this background “design studies that can test, refine, modify, or develop theories”. Generally, these researchers are affiliated with an academic institution and are performing this research as part of their graduate or doctoral work.

Applied approach

The pursuit of information that can be directly applied to practice is aptly known as applied or contractual research. Researchers in this field are trying to find solutions to existing educational problems. The approach is much more utilitarian as it strives to find information that will directly influence practice. Applied researchers are commissioned by a sponsor and are responsible for addressing the needs presented by this employer. The goal of this research is “to determine the applicability of educational theory and principles by testing hypotheses within specific settings”.

Comparison of basic and applied research

The following are several defining characteristics that were written by Gary Anderson to compare basic (academic) and applied (contract) research.


The basis for educational research is the scientific method. The scientific method uses directed questions and manipulation of variables to systematically find information about the teaching and learning process. In this scenario questions are answered by the analysis of data that is collected specifically for the purpose of answering these questions. Hypotheses are written and subsequently proved or disproved by data which leads to the creation of new hypotheses. The two main types of data that are used under this method are qualitative and quantitative.


Learning styles have been defined in various ways by different educational experts:

·            A learning style is the way you learn best.

·            Your natural learning preference or style dictates how your brain works most efficiently to process, comprehend and learn new information, and how easily or quickly you learn something new.

·            A learning style is the unique collection of individual skills and preferences that affect how a person perceives, gathers, and processes information.

·            Learning styles are the manner in which brains learn and store information.

·            Learning styles have nothing to do with how intelligent you are, but rather with how you are intelligent.

Learning Styles Models

David Kolb's Model

The David Kolb styles model is based on the Experiential Learning Theory, as explained in David A. Kolb's book Experiential Learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (1984). The ELT model outlines two related approaches toward grasping experience: Concrete Experience andAbstract Conceptualization, as well as two related approaches toward transforming experience: Reflective Observation and Active Experimentation. According to Kolb’s model, the ideal learning process engages all four of these modes in response to situational demands. In order for learning to be effective, all four of these approaches must be incorporated. As individuals attempt to use all four approaches, however, they tend to develop strengths in one experience-grasping approach and one experience-transforming approach. The resulting learning styles are combinations of the individual’s preferred approaches. Theselearning styles are as follows:

1.                Converger;

2.                Diverger;

3.                Assimilator;

4.                Accommodator.

Convergers are characterized by abstract conceptualization and active experimentation. They are good at making practical applications of ideas and using deductive reasoning to solve problems.

Divergers tend toward concrete experience and reflective observation. They are imaginative and are good at coming up with ideas and seeing things from different perspectives.

Assimilators are characterized by abstract conceptualization and reflective observation. They are capable of creating theoretical models by means of inductive reasoning.

Accommodators use concrete experience and active experimentation. They are good at actively engaging with the world and actually doing things instead of merely reading about and studying them.

Kolb’s model gave rise to the Learning Style Inventory, an assessment method used to determine an individual's learning style. An individual may exhibit a preference for one of the four styles – Accommodating, Converging, Diverging and Assimilating – depending on his approach to learning via the experiential learning theory model.

Honey and Mumford’s Model

In the mid 1970’s Peter Honey and Alan Mumford adapted David Kolb’s model for use with a population of middle/senior managers in business. They published their version of the model in The Manual of Learning Styles (1982) and Using Your Learning Styles (1983).

Two adaptations were made to Kolb’s experiential model. Firstly, the stages in the cycle were renamed to accord with managerial experiences of decision making/problem solving. The Honey & Mumford stages are:

1.                Having an experience

2.                Reviewing the experience

3.                Concluding from the experience

4.                Planning the next steps.

Secondly, the styles were directly aligned to the stages in the cycle and named Activist, Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist. These are assumed to be acquired preferences that are adaptable, either at will or through changed circumstances, rather than being fixed personality characteristics. The Honey & Mumford Learning Styles Questionnaire (LSQ) is a self-development tool and differs from Kolb’s Learning Style inventory by inviting managers to complete a checklist of work-related behaviours without directly asking managers how they learn. Having completed the self-assessment, managers are encouraged to focus on strengthening underutilised styles in order to become better equipped to learn from a wide range of everyday experiences.

A MORI survey commissioned by [The Campaign for Learning] in 1999 found the Honey & Mumford LSQ to be the most widely used system for assessing preferred learning styles in the local government sector in the UK.

Anthony Gregorc's Model

Dennis W. Mills, Ph.D., discusses the work of Anthony F. Gregorc and Kathleen A. Butler in his article entitled “Applying What We Know: Student Learning Styles”. Gregorc and Butler worked to organize a model describing how the mind works. This model is based on the existence of perceptions—our evaluation of the world by means of an approach that makes sense to us. These perceptions in turn are the foundation of our specific learning strengths, or learning styles.

In this model, there are two perceptual qualities 1) concrete and 2) abstract; and two ordering abilities 1) random and 2) sequential.

Concrete perceptions involve registering information through the five senses, while abstract perceptions involve the understanding of ideas, qualities, and concepts which cannot be seen.

In regard to the two ordering abilities, sequential involves the organization of information in a linear, logical way and random involves the organization of information in chunks and in no specific order.

Both of the perceptual qualities and both of the ordering abilities are present in each individual, but some qualities and ordering abilities are more dominant within certain individuals.

There are four combinations of perceptual qualities and ordering abilities based on dominance: 1) Concrete Sequential; 2) Abstract Random; 3) Abstract Sequential; 4) Concrete Random. Individuals with different combinations learn in a different ways—they have different strengths, different things make sense to them, different things are difficult for them, and they ask different questions throughout the learning process.

Sudbury Model of Democratic Education

Some critics of today's schools, of the concept of learning disabilities, of special education, and of response to intervention, take the position that every child has a different learning style and pace and that each child is unique, not only capable of learning but also capable of succeeding.

Sudbury Model democratic schools assert that there are many ways to study and learn. They argue that learning is a process you do, not a process that is done to you. That is true of everyone; it's basic. The experience of Sudbury model democratic schools shows that there are many ways to learn without the intervention of teaching, to say, without the intervention of a teacher being imperative. In the case of reading for instance in the Sudbury model democratic schools, some children learn from being read to, memorizing the stories and then ultimately reading them. Others learn from cereal boxes, others from games instructions, others from street signs. Some teach themselves letter sounds, others syllables, others whole words. Sudbury model democratic schools adduce that in their schools no one child has ever been forced, pushed, urged, cajoled, or bribed into learning how to read or write; and they have had no dyslexia. None of their graduates are real or functional illiterates, and no one who meets their older students could ever guess the age at which they first learned to read or write. In a similar form students learn all the subjects, techniques, and skills in these schools.

Describing current instructional methods as homogenization and lockstep standardization, alternative approaches are proposed, such as the Sudbury Model of Democratic Education schools, an alternative approach in which children, by enjoying personal freedom thus encouraged to exercise personal responsibility for their actions, learn at their own pace and style rather than following a compulsory and chronologically-based curriculum. Proponents of unschooling have also claimed that children raised in this method learn at their own pace and style, and do not suffer from learning disabilities.

Gerald Coles asserts that there are partisan agendas behind the educational policy-makers and that the scientific research that they use to support their arguments regarding the teaching of literacy are flawed. These include the idea that there are neurological explanations for learning disabilities.

Other models

Aiming to explain why aptitude tests, school grades, and classroom performance often fail to identify real ability, Robert J. Sternberg listed various cognitive dimensions in his book Thinking Styles (1997). Several other models are also often used when researching learning styles. This includes the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the DISC assessment.

One of the most common and widely-used categorizations of the various types of learning styles is Fleming's VARK model which expanded upon earlierNeuro-linguistic programming (VAK) models:

1.visual learners;

2.auditory learners;

3.reading/writing-preference learners;

4.kinesthetic learners or tactile learners.

Fleming claimed that visual learners have a preference for seeing (think in pictures; visual aids such as overhead slides, diagrams, handouts, etc.). Auditory learners best learn through listening (lectures, discussions, tapes, etc.). Tactile/kinesthetic learners prefer to learn via experience—moving, touching, and doing (active exploration of the world; science projects; experiments, etc.). Its use in pedagogy allows teachers to prepare classes that address each of these areas. Students can also use the model to identify their learning style and maximize their educational experience by focusing on what benefits them the most.

Yet another model and perspective on learning styles

Chris J Jackson's neuropsychological hybrid model of learning in personality argues Sensation Seeking provides a core biological drive of curiosity, learning and exploration. A high drive to explore leads to dysfunctional learning consequences unless cognitions such as goal orientation, conscientiousness, deep learning and emotional intelligence re-express it in more complex ways to achieve functional outcomes such as high work performance. Latest research is summarized here. Evidence for this model is allegedly impressive. It is a new model of learning and therefore remains in need of verification by independent research. Siadaty & Taghiyareh (2007) report that training based on Conscientious Achievement increases performance but that training based on Sensation Seeking does not. These results strongly support Jackson's model since the model proposes that Conscientious Achievement will respond to intervention whereas Sensation Seeking (with its biological basis) will not.

The Learning Style Inventory (LSI) is connected with Kolb’s model and is used to determine a student’s learning style. The LSI diagnoses an individual’s preferences and needs regarding the learning process. It does the following: (1) allows students to designate how they like to learn and indicates how consistent their responses are, (2) provides computerized results which show the student’s preferred learning style, (3) provides a foundation upon which teachers can build in interacting with students, (4) provides possible strategies for accommodating learning styles, (5) provides for student involvement in the learning process; 6) provides a class summary so students with similar learning styles can be grouped together.

Other Methods

Other methods (usually questionnaires) used to identify learning styles include Fleming's VARK Learning Style Test, Jackson's Learning Styles Profiler (LSP), and the NLP meta programs based iWAM questionnaire. Many other tests have gathered popularity and various levels of credibility among students and teachers.

Learning-style theories have been criticized by many.

Some psychologists and neuroscientists have questioned the scientific basis for these models and the theories on which they are based. Writing in the Times Educational Supplement Magazine (29 July 2007), Susan Greenfield said that "from a neuroscientific point of view [the learning styles approach to teaching] is nonsense".

Many educational psychologists believe that there is little evidence for the efficacy of most learning style models, and furthermore, that the models often rest on dubious theoretical grounds. According to Stahl, there has been an "utter failure to find that assessing children's learning styles and matching to instructional methods has any effect on their learning." Guy Claxton has questioned the extent that learning styles such as VAK are helpful, particularly as they can have a tendency to label children and therefore restrict learning.

A non-peer-reviewed literature review by authors from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne identified 71 different theories of learning style. This report, published in 2004, criticized most of the main instruments used to identify an individual's learning style. In conducting the review, Coffield and his colleagues selected 13 of the most influential models for closer study, including most of the models cited on this page. They examined the theoretical origins and terms of each model, and the instrument that was purported to assess types of learning style defined by the model. They analyzed the claims made by the author(s), external studies of these claims, and independent empirical evidence of the relationship between the 'learning style' identified by the instrument and students' actual learning. Coffield's team found that none of the most popular learning style theories had been adequately validated through independent research, leading to the conclusion that the idea of a learning cycle, the consistency of visual, auditory and kinesthetic preferences and the value of matching teaching and learning styles were all "highly questionable."

One of the most widely-known theories assessed by Coffield's team was the learning styles model of Dunn and Dunn, a VAK model. This model is widely used in schools in the United States, and 177 articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals referring to this model. The conclusion of Coffield et al. was as follows:

Despite a large and evolving research programme, forceful claims made for impact are questionable because of limitations in many of the supporting studies and the lack of independent research on the model.

In contrast, a 2005 report provided evidence confirming the validity of Dunn and Dunn's model, concluding that "matching students’ learning-style preferences with complementary instruction improved academic achievement and student attitudes toward learning." This meta-analysis, made by one of Rita Dunn's students, does not take into account the previous criticism of the research.

Coffield's critique of Gregorc's Style Delineator

Coffield's team claimed that another model, Gregorc's Style Delineator (GSD), was "theoretically and psychometrically flawed" and "not suitable for the assessment of individuals."

Mark K. Smith compiled and reviewed some critiques of Kolb’s model in his article, “David A. Kolb on Experiential Learning”. According to Smith’s research, there are six key issues regarding the model. They are as follows: 1) the model doesn’t adequately address the process of reflection; 2) the claims it makes about the four learning styles are extravagant; 3) it doesn’t sufficiently address the fact of different cultural conditions and experiences; 4) the idea of stages/steps doesn’t necessarily match reality; 5) it has only weak empirical evidence; 6) the relationship between learning processes and knowledge is more complex than Kolb draws it.

Other critiques

Coffield and his colleagues and Mark Smith are not alone in their judgements. Demos, a UK think tank, published a report on learning styles prepared by a group chaired by David Hargreaves that included Usha Goswami from Cambridge University and David Wood from the University of Nottingham. The Demos report said that the evidence for learning styles was "highly variable", and that practitioners were "not by any means frank about the evidence for their work."

Cautioning against interpreting neuropsychological research as supporting the applicability of learning style theory, John Geake, Professor of Education at the UK's Oxford Brookes University, and a research collaborator with Oxford University's Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain, commented that

We need to take extreme care when moving from the lab to the classroom. We do remember things visually and aurally, but information isn't defined by how it was received.

Multiple Learning Styles Model. Memletic styles

Many people recognize that each person prefers different learning styles and techniques. Learning styles group common ways that people learn. Everyone has a mix of learning styles. Some people may find that they have a dominant style of learning, with far less use of the other styles. Others may find that they use different styles in different circumstances. There is no right mix. Nor are your styles fixed. You can develop ability in less dominant styles, as well as further develop styles that you already use well.

Using multiple learning styles and “multiple intelligences” for learning is a relatively new approach. This approach is one that educators have only recently started to recognize. Traditional schooling used (and continues to use) mainly linguistic and logical teaching methods. It also uses a limited range of learning and teaching techniques. Many schools still rely on classroom and book-based teaching, much repetition, and pressured exams for reinforcement and review. A result is that we often label those who use these learning styles and techniques as “bright.” Those who use less favored learning styles often find themselves in lower classes, with various not-so-complimentary labels and sometimes lower quality teaching. This can create positive and negative spirals that reinforce the belief that one is “smart” or “dumb.”

By recognizing and understanding your own learning styles, you can use techniques better suited to you. This improves the speed and quality of your learning.

The learning styles are:

·            Visual (spatial). You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.

·            Aural (auditory-musical). You prefer using sound and music.

·            Verbal (linguistic). You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.

·            Physical (kinesthetic). You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.

·            Logical (mathematical). You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.

·            Social (interpersonal). You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.

·            Solitary (intrapersonal). You prefer to work alone and use self-study.