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Active and participatory approaches to pedagogy

A short article by Fran Hunt and Nicole Blum on Active and Participatory approaches to pedagogy.
Model from Treseder which visualises levels of pupil and teacher participation. This includes consulted and informed, assigned but informed, adult-initiated, child-initiated and directed, child-initiated but shared decision making with adults.
© Save the Children

In addition to critical approaches to pedagogy, it is also important to consider how we engage pupils in learning. A more traditional teacher-centred approach can be useful in passing on content knowledge, for instance, and to support pupils to successfully pass exams, while more participatory approaches can encourage learners to take an active role in their own learning.

These participatory and active approaches are central to global education because they can help to encourage pupil voice, exploration and critical engagement, and peer learning. They move away from the teacher being the sole transmitter of knowledge by allowing students to contribute to the construction of knowledge.

Indeed, many global topics do not have simple answers and so children and young people need to be equipped with the skills to discuss and debate these issues from a range of perspectives. This links to our Week 1 discussion about the diverse roles teachers can play in global education as well as the potential benefits and outcomes it can have for pupils.

Visualising participation

Take a closer look at the image above by Phil Treseder (1997; cited in Cahill & Dadvand 2018, see list below) which attempts to visualise some of the different ways for pupils and teachers to ‘participate’ in an activity or a project. As you can see, some approaches are more pupil-led, whereas some are directed more by teachers. There are various reasons why one approach might be more suitable than another depending on the occasion. Factors influencing whether you might choose to adopt more participatory approaches in your teaching might depend on the type of activity or project you are engaging with, the age of pupils, how much time you have available, what kinds of assessment are required for your students, and whether other teachers in your school also use such approaches.

Reflecting on thse approaches

When thinking about your own practice, it might help to consider the following questions:

  • Are there times in your teaching where an active and participatory approach could better help support your pupils’ learning and development?
  • Are there times in your teaching when a more teacher-centred approach is more appropriate?
  • Have you had opportunities to include participatory and pupil-led approaches in your teaching? If so, which of the examples in Treseder’s image most fits with your experience?
  • Can you foresee any challenges to including participatory approaches in your teaching?

If you want to look at other models of active and participatory approaches to pedagogy, you might like to review the following sources:

Cahill, H. and Dadvand, B. (2018) ‘Re-conceptualising youth participation: A framework to inform action’, Children and Youth Services Review, 95: 243–253.

Hart, Roger A. (1992). Children’s Participation: From tokenism to citizenship, Innocenti Essay no. 4, International Child Development Centre, Florence.

© University College London
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