The 3 Major Pedagogical Approaches To Teaching To Facilitate Learning

Young children learn from adults, their peer group and the environment around them. As a teacher therefore, you are expected to have a good understanding of the pedagogical approaches to teaching children, starting right from preschool.

In this article:

  1. What is Pedagogy?
  2. Is Pedagogy an Art or Science?
  3. Pedagogy as a Science
  4. Pedagogy as an Applied Science
  5. The 3 Major Pedagogical Approaches to Teaching

What is Pedagogy?

Pedagogy, simply put, is the method of teaching.

As a teacher/facilitator/educator of young children in their early years, it becomes your sole responsibility to not only articulate the ‘what you know’ and ‘what you do’, but also justify ‘how you do what you know’ and ‘why you do what you know’ of it to your children.

All this has to be done with the objective to enhance children’s cognitive developmental aspects, which includes their learning potential.

Is Pedagogy an Art or Science?

Right from ancient times, education was assigned the status of Art. Education was alternatively referred to as the Art of leading children to knowledge and its acquisition.

Teaching, in many ways, is similar to painting. A skilled ‘painter’ (read “teacher”) is one who has adequate knowledge and a deep understanding of the concepts and theories of teaching.

A good painter is someone who has a good understanding of the various colors and its compositions. This understanding is what makes him/her create a spectrum of colors and shades, using just three basic colours of VIBGYOR : Blue, Yellow and Red.

Similarly, a teacher should have the ability to impart learning effectively (doing right things) and efficiently (doing things right), by leveraging three key attributes in him/her:

  • Vision
  • Creativity
  • Decision-making

Who is an Effective Teacher?

In addition to possessing the three key attributes (discussed above), namely vision, creativity and decision-making; what makes an effective teacher are a combination of the following aspects:

  • Possessing deep knowledge and understanding of the pedagogical theories
  • Having multiple perspectives about the theories and its interpretations
  • Knowledge of different pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning styles
  • Having the ability to create various teaching methods within the basic teaching techniques

When the basic teaching techniques are sprinkled with creativity, and is backed by the desire to impart effective learning; a good teacher can create a world of experience in the minds of children and make them learn from it (the experience).

Pedagogy as a Science

Towards the end of the 19th century, sociology and psychology emerged as exclusive fields of study. This was the time since when education was viewed as a science, and the practice of teaching was scientifically analysed across three broad areas:

  • The science of child development
  • The study of how people learn
  • Research on effective teaching/instructional strategies

Since education was being looked at as a science, the focus shifted to Teaching how to teach. This is when the term Pedagogy gained significance as a field of study, and that it deals with the process of teaching and imparting learning.

Having said, pedagogy is not an independent stand-alone discipline, as it is an interdisciplinary plural science.

Pedagogy as an Applied Science

Because pedagogy is interdisciplinary and plural in nature, meaning it draws expertise from more than one discipline, the field of pedagogy is no longer debated to be an art or a science. Rather, it is now viewed as Applied Science, just like the field of medicine.

Pedagogy is a field of applied study, wherein the acquired knowledge of various teaching approaches is applied practically, with the core objective to bring about effective learning outcomes.

As an applied science, Pedagogy deals with two broad areas:

Pedagogy as an applied science deals with Theoretical Fundamentals and Practical Skills

a) Theoretical Fundamentals

The theoretical fundamentals are derived from the theoretical aspects and elements of teaching that have been put-forth by renowned pedagogues, which includes philosophers, educational theorists and child development theorists (links the various theories are given below).

b) Practical Skills

This is all about the application of skills of instruction by the pedagogues (teachers/instructors), which is aligned with the learning potential of learners – the children.

The 3 Major Pedagogical Approaches to Teaching

Based on the theoretical implications of learning and development on children, three major pedagogical approaches to teaching were derived:

1. Behaviorist Pedagogy

Behaviorist pedagogical approach to facilitate learning uses the Theory of Behaviorism.

The theoretical implications of learning as conceived by Edward Thorndike, Ivan Pavlov and B. F. Skinner advocates that a teacher acts as the sole figure of authority, and delivers the content using:

  • Lectures
  • Modeling/Demonstrating and
  • Repetitive learning/Rote learning, and through
  • Reinforcement and punishment

(Note: B. F. Skinner’s Operant Condition theory and Thorndike’s Law of Effect theory are covered in this article. Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning theory is covered in detail in this article.)

Behaviorist pedagogy is also called as ‘Teacher centered approach to learning’, as it uses direct instruction and lecture-based lessons – both focused on the teacher.

This approach is said to be Visible or Structured pedagogy, and is also described as a Traditional Teaching Style.

At times however, the behaviorist pedagogy allows the learners to demonstrate a learnt activity, and can therefore briefly shift towards being learner-centric.

2. Constructivist Pedagogy

According to Jean Piaget, children, when provided with the needed experiences, construct their knowledge through schemas.

Schemas are described as patterns of repeated behaviour, which allow children to explore and express their ideas and thoughts through play and exploration. Children construct meaning from what they are doing, while performing repetitive actions during schematic play.

(Note: Piaget’s Theory of Constructivism and its educational implications are covered in detail in this article.)

Since the pedagogical approach to constructivism puts the child at the center of the learning, it is called as the Learner centered approach to teaching. The methods to impart learning adopted in this approach is through project work or inquiry based learning, with significant emphasis on outdoor experiences.

Play, therefore, takes up a dominant position in this approach to early childhood education, and is considered as a progressive teaching style.

3. Social Constructivist Pedagogy

The Social Constructivist pedagogical approach to teaching is a blended approach of both behaviorism and constructivism. In other words, it is both Teacher centered and Learner centered.

Lev Vygotsky’s theoretical inputs serves as an impetus for this approach. Vygotsky strongly emphasises that learning in children not only happens by constructing knowledge through schemas, but also through their interaction with the society in a social setting, and the teacher in the classroom setting.

(Note: We have covered Vygotsky’s Socio-Cultural theory in detailed in this article.)

Vygotsky stated that effective learning is a collaborative process, and the methods to be used in this pedagogical approach are brainstorming/questioning sessions and group work, with a proper mix of individual, small group and large group activities.

While these three forms of pedagogical approaches to facilitate learning are widely used, the pedagogical approaches in early childhood education fundamentally depends on who initiates the learning experience: The child or The teacher.


Having a good knowledge and understanding about the pedagogical approaches to teaching as a teacher helps you develop, evolve, and implement an effective teaching strategy.

As an educator therefore, you should be an open to learn and unlearn at an equal pace, so that you can nurture learning among children and unleash their learning potential.