Whether you teach children or adults, whether you're an experienced teacher or brand new to the field, and whether you teach quantum physics or creative writing, every teacher can benefit from taking different approaches to teaching.

Three different pedagogical (teaching) theories have stood the test of time:

  • Cognitivism

  • Constructivism

  • Connectivism

These approaches can help take your teaching to the next level.

A library with several levels Photo by Max Langelott on Unsplash

1. Cognitivism

Cognitivism focuses on how learners think and how they make connections.

A miniature version of Auguste Rodin's The Thinker. Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

Cognitivists believe that, as we learn, our brains create certain categories. It's easier for learners to remember complex information if they're encouraged to organize it into categories.

A cognitivist teacher is likely to:

  • Give frequent examples to connect students' knowledge to new material

  • Divide big topics into manageable chunks

  • Review content frequently


What would be a cognitivist approach to teaching Italian chefs how to cook ramen?

2. Constructivism

Constructivism is the belief that learners construct their own knowledge.

A construction yard. Several workers and managers wearing hard hats perform various functions on site. Photo by Mark Potterton on Unsplash

Constructivism is a pedagogy for teaching that focuses on the social aspect of learning. They believe that the teacher's role is to identify what learners can do and what they can't do, and help them bridge that gap.

Constructivist teachers are likely to:

  • Assign practical tasks

  • Keep the classroom hands-on

  • Tailor the classroom to student needs


What would be a constructivist approach to teaching accountants how to use a new software?

3. Connectivism

Connectivism emphasizes the importance of a diversity of learning sources, especially by using the internet.

Many things connected together Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash

Connectivism is a pedagogy for teaching that encourages students to combine information from a variety of sources to learn something new. These sources can be books, websites, other people, etc.

Connectivist teachers are likely to:

  • Research frequently

  • Share their ideas with each other

  • Follow experts in the subject matter on social media


What would be a connectivist approach to teaching high school students how to write an essay?

Take Action

Use these approaches to branch out and try something different with your teaching.

Classroom with students listening to the teacher Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

Ask yourself these questions to choose the right pedagogy for your teaching:

  • Do my students have experience with similar subject matter?

  • Is there a practical use for this material that my students can employ?

  • To what extent can my students teach themselves through research and discussions?


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