NPDL, new pedagogy for deeper learning

I’ve recently read this publication by Michael Fullan, bringing the profession back in, call for action, and I wrote an article about it in Norwegian here. In short, it addresses the issue of new pedagogy not always being the same as better pedagogy and technology not being the silver bullet. The pedagogy must always be the driver, not technology. The government in Norway has provided 50 million kroner towards content production, but I have never read any research that supports the theory that more content providers equal better learning for students. So far digital content is more of the same, old pedagogy, but online. New Pedagogy combined with technology should aim much higher. The clue is active students and teachers, the vision is to; Engage the world to change the world! Active students create their own content and provide their own questions.

Here are some points from the publication that resonate with me.

The past is riddled with bad old pedagogies or ones that have outlived their usefulness — teaching the whole class from the front of the room most of the time as if students are all the same, backed up by individual seatwork, and structured in simple and fairly standardized three-part lessons. A modification of this approach is dividing the class into three groups for their seatwork or reading — normal, accelerated, and slow — not because there are always or only three inherently di erent levels of ability among the students, but because the otherwise arbitrary number of three is a managerial convenience for the teacher. is is what is commonly and rightly criticized as factory schooling for an industrial era that we should have left behind long ago. In these environments, teacher collaboration is typically con ned to sta meetings in whole schools, subject departments, or grade-level teams where announcements are made, materials are handed out, and plans and programs are discussed.

There has also been and continues to be a lot of good old pedagogies that have been practical, relevant, inspired, and cooperative. Many teachers and schools have engaged students in cooperative learning, education for democracy, interdisciplinary study, problem-based and project- based learning, and so on. is kind of teaching and learning exists in the work of John Dewey and Paulo Freire. The tragedy is that, over a quarter century, many nations pushed all this great work and the dedicated and experienced teachers who did it underground with a global education reform movement that standardized and prescribed the curriculum, and turned what were once humanistic and inclusive classrooms that developed the whole child into test-preparation factories (Sahlberg, 2011). In these environments, good very often turned to bad, but we shouldn’t blame the teachers for it.

Eventually, the global education reform movement strategies became exhausted, students became disengaged from school, teachers took flight from the profession, the public became alarmed. At the same time, the digital revolution revived the possibilities for deeper learning beyond mere memorization and test taking. This provoked the public, the profession, technology companies, and start-up entrepreneurs into rethinking how students can and should be more directly engaged in undertaking and sometimes leading their own learning. Add in the worldwide epidemic in mental health problems among young people, along with the greatest global refugee crisis in 70 years with all the challenges that brings into many classrooms, and we get more than an inkling of why deeper learning that engages the whole child has come back on to the educational agenda.

But not all new pedagogies are good pedagogies. There are bad new pedagogies that perpetuate superficial learning or little learning, alongside good new pedagogies that develop deeper learning. For instance, many low-cost online learning companies in the U.S. that try to bypass teachers altogether have appalling records in terms of student achievement results. Excessively “independent” learning that sometimes masquerades as personalized learning can be exciting and engaging for learners who are already motivated, but when students who have a lot of dislocation and distraction in their home lives are literally as well guratively left to their own devices, narrowing the achievement gap for them and their peers remains a distant digital dream.

What we seek are good new pedagogies for deep learning. These have a lot in common with good old pedagogies, so we need to make sure we recognize these older pedagogies, value them, and engage the teachers who practice them in moving everyone further forward. It’s a factual mistake and a strategic professional error to dismiss all existing classrooms as places of fuddy-duddy factory learning. But while the best old and new pedagogies overlap a lot, the new ones have three additional features that distinguish them. These features are also ones that engage and energize teachers as well as students and promote their joint learning and development in the process.

Good new pedagogies are often student- driven. Teachers don’t do all the work to get students collectively engaged by spending endless hours devising brilliant multiple activities and projects for them. Sometimes, as Richard Elmore (2004) once said, the most dedicated teachers can teach too hard, and this can get in the way of them stepping back and following the learning a bit. In good new pedagogies, students have a voice. They come up with their own ideas and follow their own paths. They surprise you — and surprise is one of the most delightful emotions that make teaching so fulfilling and worthwhile. They learn to make good judgments about what their work is worth and take more responsibility for its quality. They ask di cult questions sometimes, like the 7-year-olds who put an iPad on the principal’s desk with a presentation on how their classroom learning environment (yes, using that very language) could be improved to enable greater collaborative learning.

Good new pedagogies make positive uses of digital technology. They use live online polling of student responses, gaming strategies, simulations, real-time feedback on Twitter, and continuous online interaction with parents, just to mention a few (Cho, 2016).





  1. In your post you write that “the government in Norway has provided 50 million kroner towards content production, but I have never read any research that supports the theory that more content providers equal better learning for students. So far digital content is more of the same, old pedagogy, but online.” I suppose what you have in mind, is NDLA (National Digital Learning Arena), amongst others.

    I would like to point out one real advantage of the NDLA learning resources, compared to traditional learning resources: The contents on may be re-used, modified, remixed and shared by anyone – a unique opportunity for teachers and students to create their own learning resources if they wish. To my mind the important thing is how teachers and students choose to use learning resources. Learning resources per se are no guarantee for deep learning.

    1. Hi Marion, thank you for your comment. On the contrary, I was not referring to NDLA, but the government’s belief in strengthening the competition. Read full article from IKT Norge here
      I argue that money spent on content online will not automatically change the learning for the students. The pedagogy needs to change first. That said, using technology can change the pedagogy, but I don’t think it necessarily always works like that. I think NDLA has done a great job getting more teachers onboard with technology in class. What we need now is a discussion around deep learning and new pedagogy.

I would love to hear from you