White Paper Explores Social Pedagogies

Social media is everywhere in education, so it’s not surprising that research on what it means to share and build knowledge has become a hot question in the halls of academia. A whitepaper written by Randy Bass and Heidi Elmendorf, from Georgetown University, culls together the work of a small consortium of 16 faculty members from 10 institutions funded by the Teagle Foundation and the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship. The paper describes a model for exploring relationships between the social life of information and the social construction of knowledge in terms of course design and teaching practices.

The authors use the term “social pedagogies” to describe the study of student engagement with informational sources that make up their intellectual communities inside and outside of the classroom. The phrase social pedagogy is often associated with social programs, particularly the relationship between schools and families. In this context the focus is on the “social dimensions” of authentic learning derived from the combination of real-world learning activities, developing stages of expertise, and the metacognitive process of shaping and conveying knowledge.

“In short, social pedagogies are ways of seeing how acts of communication and representation connect authentic tasks to learning processes, learning processes to adaptive practices, practices to learning environments and intellectual communities, and how the constellation of these elements helps students integrate their learning in the formal curriculum.”

The group looked at a wide range of teaching contexts from technology-rich courses to those where no technologies were involved at all. They hope to make specific contributions to the scholarship of teaching and learning in the areas of course design frameworks, participatory learning, cognitive processes, and the iterative cycles of learning within a course.

The conceptual framework shown above articulates common design elements and learning goals that emerged from the group’s cross-case studies. Elements in the model represent a variety of design choices that an instructor may make in creating a course, and a set of learning goals that may be linked to specific elements. The framework is meant to prompt instructors to consider their course construction in terms of multi-layered sets of goals they have for their students. No single case represents all the elements, or all of them equally, but a course is likely to be more effective when multiple design elements are at work.

The whitepaper tries to conceptualize teaching and learning and the instructional design process in terms of social engagement. While most of the elements do not seem like new ideas, they may begin to to pave the way for new conversations about the social aspects of information, and the ways we as instructors and course designers can become more cognizant of learning experiences that motivate students and enhance the construction of knowledge.


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