Knowledge processes - Chapter 8: Pedagogy and curriculum

Your ways of knowing

  • Which parts of your education have involved mimetic, synthetic or reflexive pedagogy? Give examples. Explain the differences. Could you have learned differently in each instance? What would have been best?
  • What are your preferred ways of learning – what do you find easiest or most effective?

Different approaches to education

  • How does one acquire knowledge in what Confucius calls the ‘Great Learning’? In what respects does he sound like a philosopher, and in what respects is he like a religious figure? What are the connections between Confucius’ view of knowledge and learning, and social hierarchy? How might Confucius’ nine aspects of knowledge translate into everyday life or classroom practice today?

See Confucius on Becoming a Learned Person.

  • Research a school that is in an unfamiliar setting and prides itself on mimetic pedagogy and curriculum. Describe its pedagogy and curriculum. Analyse the key features of its approach to education.
  • Interview learners at a new school, or level of education. Or write an autobiographical recollection of your own first days in a new educational institution. What felt strange and unfamiliar? What does this say about ways of knowing and learning that you had not experienced before?

Translating professional education talk

  • Develop a glossary or wiki of technical educational terms, such as pedagogy and curriculum, for possible use by parents and other members of an education community.
  • Then, illustrate the glossary or wiki with a diagram that ties the key concepts together visually.
  • Then, create flow and structure diagrams that show how the school functions.

Analysing different types of pedagogy

  • Consider Aristotle’s view of art. Is there more to art than copying?
  • Compare cultures that promote mimesis as a way of learning fundamental truths; for instance, several different fundamentalist religions. What are the strengths and weaknesses of their approach to teaching?
  • Find an instance of mimetic pedagogy today: such as phonics, direct instruction or teaching to fact-oriented tests. Then find an example of a pedagogy that tends to be synthetic or reflexive (in a textbook or a lesson plan, for instance). What are the differences?
  • When each of these approaches works, how does it work? And when it fails, how does it fail?
  • Take each approach to pedagogy. Create a hammed-up drama to illustrate, archetypically or even stereotypically, the approach at work in the classroom.

Pedagogy and curriculum in practice

  • Take one area of the standards framework in the location where you live, or teach or might teach. What kind of pedagogical orientation do you think is assumed? How might you achieve the curriculum or standards objective if you tend in one pedagogical direction, then another?
  • Provide examples of how learners might engage in each of the modes of meaning that are part of the multiliteracies theory. How might they weave between one mode and another (synaesthesia) and combine modes (multimodality)?

Write a curriculum resource

  • Write a Learning Element, or a coherent bundle of learning activities and tasks, such as a lesson or a short string of lessons. A Learning Element can be documented as a teacher resource, a learner resource, or both in parallel. It is the equivalent of a textbook chapter or lesson plan. For examples of Learning Elements, visit