Age of Awareness
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Age of Awareness

Why The Paideia Model Of Teaching Is Your Next Best Strategy

Focus on enduring value, humanism, authenticity, challenge, and respect

The pandemic brought to the surface important conversations about the shortcomings of traditional education. Moving teaching and learning strategies that were believed to work in person to an online platform highlighted for some that this was not an easy or even desirable transfer. Strategies such as knowledge driven direct instruction are limited in their capacity to drive learning mastery at best and at worst they are teacher-centric.

Photo by Shubham Sharan on Unsplash

Such traditional teaching strategies do not nurture learning in person or online.

So, what does?

The Paideia Model

The Paideia Proposal published in 1988 offers useful guidance and strategies upon which educators can hone their craft.

The priority of the Paideia model of teaching is a focus on what is of enduring value.

The main principles underpinning this education philosophy include:

  1. All children can learn;
  2. All children deserve the same quality of schooling, not just the same quantity;
  3. The quality of schooling to which they are entitled is what the wisest parents would wish for their own children, the best education for the best being the best education for all;
  4. Schooling at its best is preparation for becoming generally educated in the course of a whole lifetime, and that schools should be judged on how well they provide such preparation;
  5. The three callings for which schooling should prepare all Americans are, (a) to earn a decent livelihood, (b) to be a good citizen of the nation and the world, and © to make a good life for oneself;
  6. The primary cause of genuine learning is the activity of the learner’s own mind, sometimes with the help of a teacher functioning as a secondary and cooperative cause;
  7. The three types of teaching that should occur in our schools are didactic teaching of subject matter, coaching that produces the skills of learning, and Socratic questioning in seminar discussion;
  8. The results of these three types of teaching should be (a) the acquisition of organised knowledge, (b) the formation of habits of skill in the use of language and mathematics, and © the growth of the mind’s understanding of basic ideas and issues;
  9. Each student’s achievement of these results should be evaluated in terms of that student’s competencies and not solely related to the achievements of other students;
  10. The principal of the school should never be a mere administrator, but always a leading teacher who should be cooperatively engaged with the school’s teaching staff in planning, reforming, and reorganising the school as an educational community;
  11. The principal and faculty of a school should themselves be actively engaged in learning;
  12. The desire to continue their own learning should be the prime motivation of those who dedicate their lives to the profession of teaching.

I cannot argue against any aspect of this Paideia philosophy. It serves to rediscover the essence of education through humanistic learning.

An education based on such a philosophy offers curricula covering knowledge acquisition, intellectual development, the understanding of ideas and active learning and teaching methods.

In this article, I want to explore the Paideia model of teaching that many learners would benefit from:

  1. Didactic teaching of subject matter
  2. Coaching that produces the skills of learning
  3. Socratic questioning in seminar discussion.

According to this philosophy, each of these three types of teaching should consume one third of classroom time.

The didactic teaching of subject matter.

Although this is a teacher-centred method of instruction in which teachers deliver and students receive lessons, it is necessary to kick start the processing of ideas and intellectual development.

Using active teaching ideas, teachers can side step a lengthy monologue and instead spend no more than 20 minutes (of a 60-minute lesson) discuss ideas and relationships between them. I see this type of teaching as sparking an interest in a topic or aspect of a subject.

It’s a way to make systems thinking a visible thinking culture as recommended by Harvard University’ Project Zero.

Teachers can use a presentation (which should be shared with learner so there is no requirement to copy text from a board which is probably one of the biggest and unnecessary wastes of learning time that can happen in a classroom), they can use an object to demonstrate a function or process, a perspective in art, photography or propaganda, and they could demonstrate a movement, skill, tone intonation or pronunciation.

Photo by Adrià Crehuet Cano on Unsplash

This first type of active teaching is a necessary and desirable initial step to active learning.

Socratic questioning in seminar discussion

In the next phase of the teaching model, the teacher asks open, higher order questions to promote challenge and deeper thinking.

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

When learners ask each other questions using the Socratic questioning technique, the learning experience is enriched. What this does not look like, however, is organising learners into small groups and asking them to discuss a topic or question.

Learners need to have this style of questioning modelled to them by the teacher so that it becomes central to the learning experience and the classroom culture. They will expect to have their views challenged so they can think critically about ideas.

This only serves to open their minds, diminish assumptions and develop their intellect, confidence, resilience and communication skills.

A flow of Socratic questioning could include:

  • What do you think the author/artist is trying to say here?
  • Why do you say that? (This encourages clarification)
  • Can you elaborate on that idea?
  • What evidence is there for this interpretation? (This demands the use of evidence as a basis for an argument)
  • Might other people have different interpretations to this text/painting? (This encourages establishing alternative perspectives)
  • Is this always the case? (This encourages the challenging of assumptions)
  • But what if….how might that impact…..? (This encourages examining implications and consequences)
  • Yes, but why?
  • Why do you think I asked that question?
  • What is a better question?

As you can see Socratic questioning encourages critical thinking and reflective enquiry skills that are based in evidence, openness, elaboration and challenge.

As Socrates claimed,

The highest form of human excellence is to question oneself and others.

This persistent challenge helps learners to acquire and practise the tools of Socratic dialogue which they can employ in any aspect of their lives, not just in relation to academic subjects.

Coaching that produces the skills of learning

This type of teaching supports the learners to develop the skills necessary to process and apply information. Anything produced by learners in this phase of the teaching and learning should be ‘Product–oriented’. This means that most or all learners’ work is produced for an authentic audience (parents or other community members) and will be assessed by that audience.

Photo by Girl with red hat on Unsplash

There is also a focus on learner-centred assessment practices in the classroom which is sometimes extended to the entire school community in order to develop a cyclical plan for continuous improvement.

Final thoughts

The Paideia model of teaching is named after the Greek word for the nurturing of children, education or learning: paideia.

For me, the three types of teaching underpin these values.

The learning experience is rigorous, thinking cultures are visible, authentic and develop opportunities to develop resilience and respect through accountable talk. I explain accountable in the 2 minute video below:

Follow me on Medium if you like reading about education, teaching, instructional design, well being and motivation.

I love receiving and reading your comments. I am always happy to engage with other educators and those interested in education in all its forms.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn for short form content on these topics.

I have a free bi-monthly teaching and learning e-newsletter available. Sign up here.




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Hannah Young

Hannah Young

I write about education, well-being, digital content creation & marketing

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