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Dynamic Pedagogy

There are a number of different ways to describe the types of teaching and learning strategies that are associated with what’s commonly called “21st Century learning”.  Some examples would include the actual term “21st Century learning” (OECD, 2008), as well as “the New Pedagogy” (Fullan, 2013), and “future-oriented learning” (Bolstad, Gilbert et al, 2012).  While these three terms (and the associated references) don’t necessarily refer to exactly the same pedagogical philosophy or strategies, the language shares a common theme of “modern” or “new”.   My observation is that while some of these strategies may include the use of recent technological advances, many have been in place for a long time.

In fact, it begs the question “is this all new?”.  The answer lies in part in these words from John Dewey:

Therefore, I have been looking for a word that describes pedagogical practice that encompasses the types of strategies described in the references above, that acknowledges the long history behind some of these strategies and doesn’t imply that they are brand new or that technology is their sole focus.

The term that I prefer is “dynamic” pedagogy.  The Oxford dictionary defines “dynamic” as “(of a process or system) characterized by constant change, activity, or progress”.  The word is often used in contrast to “static” or unchanging.  Therefore, dynamic pedagogical practices are those that constantly change and shift in response to the needs of learners and to new research discoveries.  However, changes shouldn’t be for the sake of change – they need to be in response to something that, upon critical examination, demands movement. 

What might be considered dynamic pedagogy?  I like a couple of broad explanations.  From a research perspective, Hattie (2009) suggests that “teacher as activator” role using strategies such as reciprocal teaching, feedback, metacognition, and teacher-student self-verbalization” are proven strategies that make a difference (more so than “teacher as facilitator”).  Fullan (2013) extends Hattie’s description to “teacher as change agent or activator, and student as proactive partner in learning”.

There are several reasons why we should reconsider the name and portrayal of these “new” pedagogical strategies.  First of all is the “been there, done that” mindset of baby boomers still in the system.    As one of the few left in that group, I find myself having to consider “new” pedagogies critically and deeply to identify differences from earlier pedagogical and curricular innovations as each wave has crashed on the shore: 1940’s progressive education, 1970’s “open classroom”, the Year 2000, and now 21st Century learning.  But rather than looking at these as waves crashing and subsiding, leaving nothing but a shifting pattern in the sand, we need a new metaphor to bring us baby boomers on side.  We need something that captures the notion that each iteration of innovative reform was, in its time, the RIGHT thing, not just a fad.  We’re just refining and getting better at it.  No baby getting thrown out with the bath water.  Perhaps we need to think of creative educational reform as a spiral of innovation that goes up and is hopefully proportional to the attention given to research that supports it.  Oh yeah – it should also nod (not bow down) to the advances in technological tools that can make it much better.

Some things haven’t changed.  The big ideas of how students learn to do research haven’t changed –collect data from credible sources, analyse the data, and create a summary of the data and the analysis.  This is not different.  However, technology DOES revolutionize the mechanics of how it’s done and does create new issues such as the volume and breadth of data, the speed and access to information, and the efficiency and ease of presenting data in a variety of media.  It’s just that students learning the research process itself isn’t new.

Likewise, creativity and critical thinking aren’t new.  Nor is social emotional learning – at least not for Kindergarten teachers.  Likewise, generations of arts education teachers have taught students how to think creatively and collaboratively (especially those in settings where the arts are integrated with other subjects).  These teachers have done it for decades and the rest of us are just catching up!  Is it 21st Century?  No, it’s been longer than that.  Is it based on technology? Generally not, although technology can sometimes (often?) make certain types of educational activity much easier.

Let’s encourage and support educators to embrace (and continue to embrace) dynamic pedagogies that, while not new, do reflect what’s best for our learners.

[this article was originally posted on the BCSSA Blog]


Bolstad, R., Gilbert, J., Mcdowall, S., Bull, A., Boyd, S., & Hipkins, R. (2012). Supporting future-oriented learning & teaching — a New Zealand perspective Report to the Ministry of Education.

Fullan, M. (2013). Commentary The New Pedagogy: Students and Teachers as Learning Partners. LEARNing Landscapes6(2), 23–29. Retrieved from

OECD. (2008). OECD/CERI International Conference “Learning in the 21st Century: Research, Innovation and Policy.” 21St Century Learning: Research, Innovation and Policy Directions From Recent Oecd Analyses, 13.

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Learning and the Brain: The Science of Imagination Poster

For those of you that I met in Florida at the Learning and the Brain conference, here is a copy of the poster that I presented on Aesthetic Experiences: AE poster

For a more detailed explanation of the framework for aesthetic education at the centre of the poster, please see this short paper: A Framework for Arts Education – Churchley

It was nice talking to you in Orlando and I hope to continue the conversation.


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Silent embodiment of sound: the conductor’s leadership dance

Embodiment is a term that is often associated with a deity taking on human form, not as a shell or mask, but as an incarnation – a metaphysical being projected into our world in a living, breathing, version that is fully human but is still fully god. Embodiment is also a term used in dance as a way to describe the dancer’s transformation into a human kinetic projection of music, culture, or other abstractions imagined by the dancer/choreographer. This embodiment goes far beyond mimesis or representation – every breath, thought, and movement of the dancer is the abstraction.

Conducting is a form of dance that is self-choreographed, although it uses a relatively standard set of conventions and movements. The purpose of this particular dance is leadership of the musical ensemble. However, the sense of embodiment is just as vital as it is in dance. The conductor’s role is to lead the musicians to create music – music that is audiated in the conductor’s mind, embodied in his/her dance, and realised as sound by the musicians. A successful performance is one where these three phases are symbiotically connected in a seamless dialogue.

Conducting is the silent embodiment of the conductor’s music in a dialogue with the sounding embodiment of the musicians’ music.  The musicians’ response to the conducting dance is certainly mimetic, but it also is self-expression.  This makes the performance a co-creation between the conductor and the other musicians in the ensemble. Key to conducting and to leadership is not only the conductor’s ability to embody his/her audiation (vision), but also his/her relationship with the organization – both as individuals and as “sections” that will determine the type and quality of the dialogue.

In leadership, we speak of vision – however, this is a term that refers to the sense of sight as perceived or imagined by the mind. Audiation is an analogous term that refers to the sense of sound as perceived/imagined by the mind. Both can exist entirely within the mind – vision can exist in darkness, audiation can exist in silence. Leaders can have an audiation for their organization just as they may have a vision.   Therefore, there is a powerful lesson and metaphor about leadership in learning about the conductor’s embodiment of his/her audiation in dialogue with the musicians’ embodiment of their responsive audiation.

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