In The Child and the Curriculum (Dewey, 1990), the role of the teacher is described as building a bridge between the world of the child and the intellectual, cultural life of the community, a task that requires a deep understanding of both the logical structure of subject knowledge and of the learner’s psychological development. For the child, informal learning outside the classroom is a continuous, integrated process with no conscious division between experience, inquiry and knowledge; a process in which interest is assured and relevance can be taken for granted. However, the range of such experience may be idiosyncratic and it is through formal education that children can participate in the wider cultural and social life of the community. Understanding and maintaining the balance between the interest of the learner and the requirements of the subject to be studied makes great demands on the teacher, who faces the challenge of achieving the same integration
The chapter begins with an examination of the concept of pedagogy, which is a term that is still unfamiliar in the British context. The first section considers its meaning, the relationship between the teacher and the learner that it describes and the implications for our understanding of teachers’ identity and professionalism. In the second section of the chapter, the characteristics of teaching and learning in the primary school classroom are discussed and an overview is given of changes in policy that have had an impact on pedagogy. This section also refers to some of the major research projects that have studied primary classroom practice since the Plowden Report and considers the challenge for the teacher who needs to balance competing demands for learner-centred and subject-based teaching. Finally, the potential offered by a focus on learning processes through interventions such as Thinking Skills, Learning to Learn and Assessment for Learning to support teachers in adopting an ‘inquiry stance’ and taking control of their pedagogical practice is evaluated.