Question Emily Education

What is pedagogy?

What is pedagogy?

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The word ‘pedagogy’ is derived from a Greek expression which literally means ‘to lead a child’. It is the word used to describe the theory and practice of education, particularly in an academic sense. Herbart (cited in Kenklies, 2012) is generally considered to be the founding father of the concept of pedagogy: his approach emphasised five steps to be followed in the teaching process, which are: preparation, presentation, association, generalisation and application. Key educational theorist Friere (1970) described his method of teaching as ‘critical pedagogy’, which combined education with critical theory and focused on relationships between teaching and learning, encouraging students to think critically about their educational situation and to identify and acknowledge the ‘connections between their individual problems and the social contexts in which they are embedded’ (Boyce, 2002). It is important to acknowledge that the teaching of adults has some critical differences to the teaching of children; this discipline is therefore referred to as 'andragogy' (literally translated as ‘to lead man’). Andragogy is distinct because it acknowledges the learners’ life experience and tendency towards self-direction (Knowles et al., 2005). Ultimately, both pedagogy and andragogy aim to explore and ascertain how best to teach particular learners to ensure their full development as human beings.


Boyce, M. E. (2002). ‘Teaching critically as an act of praxis and resistance’. Electronic Journal of Radical Organization Theory [Online], 2.2. Available online.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York, Continuum.

Kenklies, Karsten (2012-02-12). ‘Educational Theory as Topological Rhetoric: The Concepts of Pedagogy of Johann Friedrich Herbart and Friedrich Schleiermacher’. Studies in Philosophy and Education 31.3: pp. 265–273.

Knowles, Malcolm; Holton, E. F., III; and Swanson, R. A. (2005). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development (6th ed.). Burlington, MA: Elsevier.