I just finished reading about signature pedagogies by Shulman (2005). A signature pedagogy is not something that I have considered before so I am going to post some of the quotes that I like, and my response to them.
Erik Erikson observed: “If you wish to understand a culture, study its nurseries” (p.52)
If you wish to understand why a person is the way they are, examine how they were raised. Thus if you wish to understand why a person teaches the way they do, examine how they were taught.
“Signature pedagogies are important precisely because they are pervasive” (p. 54)
The way that a discipline is taught goes far beyond any one faculty or university. Rather the way that knowledge is imparted in a discipline tends to cross all boundaries, whether the boundary is an institution or a geographical area. The rituals & modes of educational instructions is similar within the discipline. Why is this the case? Perhaps it has to do with the way people have been taught in a discipline
“Since faculty members in higher education rarely receive direct preparation to teach, they most often model their own teaching after that which they themselves received” (p. 57)
This actually makes the argument for the role of an educational developer. If you have not received instruction on how to teach, mimicry is a coping strategy. How faculty cope with being in a teaching role when they have never been taught how to teach? They copy by following the signature pedagogies of their profession, by teaching as they were taught. Thus pedagogies develop tremendous inertia in a field. In order for change to happen, an instructor must be aware that there are other ways of imparting information. The role of the educational developer is important for being a coach/advisor/support when someone recognizes that there are other (better?) ways. It is important for a change facilitator to be present in that nexus otherwise the moment may pass.
One more thought: “Professional action is often characterized by tension between acting in the service of one’s client and acting in a manner that protects the public interest more broadly … Every profession can be characterizes by these inherent tensions, which are never resolved, but which must be managed and balanced with every action” (p.58)
A professional pedagogy must work to balance the tensions, to provide students with the ability to deal with the tensions. Any changes to the way that information is imparted must ultimately be in support of helping professionals cope with this tension. Change must be effective and not just change because it is the current ‘trend’ in education. Instead, does that new way of teaching support the students in their future. The research of a educational developers can really be important here.
Shulman, L.S. (2005) Signature pedagogies in the professions, Daedelus 134 (3) 52 – 59,