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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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Finding One’s Signature Pedagogy

I really resonate with the idea of finding one’s “signature pedagogy.” With so many teaching strategies, approaches, models, and programs available, I think it helps to envision one’s teaching as something personal, putting one’s stamp on his or her teaching style and methods.

Finding one’s signature pedagogy (a term I heard used recently at a professional development workshop facilitated by Cynthia Alby at Georgia College) involves experimenting with various teaching methods, strategies, and techniques, and adopting those that work with a particular group of students in a specific context. That means that a teacher’s go-to teaching methods may work with one group of fifth-grade students, for example, but those same methods might need to be adjusted for students coming in the next academic year.

Solidifying a signature pedagogy also requires helping students get accustomed to certain teaching practices, so they have time to practice and develop skills within those practices. For example, if a teacher utilizes literature circles to engage students in deep discussions about text during reading instruction, students need opportunities to practice the various roles and skills embedded in that learning activity. Changing a teaching technique too quickly might confuse students or produce a superficial understanding of the technique as well as content.

On the other hand (and this is going to sound contradictory), students can grow bored of engaging in a teaching strategy or learning activity, and there is something to be said of novelty within one’s teaching. This is where the fine art of teaching comes in, and teachers must sense and be mindful of the proper time to change things up. Likely, this would involve occasionally introducing a new learning activity or method. For instance, once students mastered literature circles, the teacher could expose them to another method to interact with the test, such as using a graphic organizer.

During this time, the teacher must be constantly reflecting on his or her practice, asking: does this technique work with these students? Should I “keep” it? Am I comfortable using this method? Is it time to change things up? What else might I try? By asking such questions, the teacher begins to develop a signature pedagogy that is contextualized, and ideally, serving the needs of students in that classroom. Like adding and deleting apps to a cell phone, the teacher continually adds new techniques and methods but also is willing to discard those that might not be working or become irrelevant. Finding one’s signature pedagogy is a continuous process but one that enables a teacher to personalize instruction, increase student engagement, and build competence and confidence.