A Note to Educators: Pedagogy Surpasses Curriculum

Recently we have noticed that many of the organizations we work with are focusing their coaching resources on implementing curriculum, meaning the content of what teachers teach. This content is often determined by state standards and purchased textbooks or programs. While often well-intentioned, what many schools and districts don’t realize is that prioritizing content over pedagogy comes at an unfortunate expense!

A NOTE TO EDUCATORS:  Curriculum doesn’t engage students. Teachers with great pedagogy engage students!

Let’s take a step back and define curriculum and pedagogy as the point of this article is for us to think critically on how we support our teachers and use our coaching resources in schools.

Curriculum is the tool organizations often purchase or give educators to support or meet a standard or course of study with their students. Curriculum is the WHAT of teaching and can be a worthy tool but only when teachers are critical of HOW and WHEN they will use the tools in the experiences they create for students.

Pedagogy is the HOW and the WHEN of teaching. Pedagogy focuses on HOW we teach curriculum, HOW we relate the material to our students and HOW students find themselves in the standards. Pedagogy interprets HOW teachers use the curriculum and relate it to what is important to their students today and to their future goals. Pedagogy is HOW teachers deepen their students’ learning experiences so they want to be engaged in the lesson.

Pedagogy also focuses on the WHEN. Pedagogy pushes teachers to determine WHEN their students have demonstrated mastery so they are ready to push forward or are ready to apply previously learned material to new concepts and opportunities.

Pedagogy is the art and science of teaching, that when carefully crafted supports every student with their learning. It is often agnostic of curriculum and helps to engage and excite students about achieving at high levels. These are the strategies that high-impact teachers use, and administrators brag about, to make the curriculum come to life ensuring their students walk out of their classes ready to be change agents in their communities.  This might come in the form of a carefully crafted Think Pair Share where students share their thoughts and defend their responses how events in the French Revolution compare to the unrest about police violence in their community, or a well-planned Do Now that reveals that most students mastered a 3rd grade number sense objective following a study of the ratios of banks and grocery stores in their community for every citizen.  Even if a curriculum lacks relevance for students, (which it often does, particularly students in traditionally underserved communities) strong pedagogy can connect required standards for students and their lived experiences, making learning more culturally relevant and important to them.

So why are organizations moving toward coaching curriculum instead of pedagogy? This is a complex question, but with textbook companies often trying to create and sell “foolproof” materials that are rapidly-paced, teachers often need to ask for supports. What we believe, after engaging in many discussions about this in schools across the country, is that teachers are actually calling for reasonable pacing guides to support the curriculum, which is not actually “coaching.”  We believe that teachers are capable and well-equipped to read and understand curricula, but what they often crave is coaching support on their career-long quests for pedagogical strategies to support and differentiate student learning in their highly diverse classrooms.

Over the next year, our team is committed to sharing with you what our research has determined to be some of the highest leverage pedagogical strategies all K-12 teachers should consider implementing in their classrooms. Some of these strategies are ‘oldies but goodies’ but still very relevant today. We know that even poor curriculum implemented well has more value than good curriculum implemented poorly. Pedagogy trumps curriculum… every time!

Stay tuned and let us know what you think…do you agree that pedagogy surpasses curriculum?


By Kristyn Klei Borrero, CEO and Co-Founder of CT3 Education; and Carrie Lupoli, former special education teacher-turned-educator and nutrition coach.

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Our suites of pedagogical strategies provide the strategic framework, and Real Time Teacher Coaching® supports school leaders and teachers at every step. Find out more about Real Time Teacher Coaching as well as No-Nonsense Nurturer and Real Time Leadership Coaching.
Category: Education