Developing a Signature Pedagogy

Christopher Davis
8 min readMar 9, 2022

The concept of a “signature pedagogy” comes from the Lee Shulman and the Carnegie Foundation. They had studies teaching in a variety of disciplines and noted that in medical, law, theology, and other schools a specific approach to teaching and learning was used that was duplicated across multiple institutions of higher education.

A signature pedagogy means that students and faculty in these schools do not need to figure out how a class works or what the expectations are. This reduces the cognitive overhead to allow greater focus on the learning at hand.

As online colleges and universities have developed standardized and centralized curriculum using master courses, they usually create their own signature pedagogy, implicitly if not explicitly. These learning models help support the instructional design process as well as make it easier for students to navigate courses.

Developing a signature pedagogy is a decision-making process that includes selecting what is part of the learning model and what is not, and how included elements are expressed.

A key aspect of this process is to consider what is the role of faculty in the classroom. The default is that faculty are content experts and a source of content. However, faculty do much more than serve as a “sage on the stage.” Some of the other activities of faculty in the classroom include:

Curate: teachers choose what content and learning activities to include in a learning experience.

Sequence: teachers decide what order to present content and activities to maximize learning.

Prompt performance: teachers provide assignments and tasks that prompt learners to apply what they have learned.

  • Feedback: teachers provide feedback on learner performance.
  • Scaffolding: teachers provide supports to help learners learn a new topic.
  • Motivation: teachers are often cheerleaders pushing learners to keep trying.
  • Evaluate: teachers provide grades and evaluations on the quality of learner performance.
  • Answer questions: teachers answer learner questions.
  • Ask questions: teachers ask learners questions.
  • Explain: teachers provide explanations about content.
  • Highlight: teachers can identify the essential elements in a lesson.

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Christopher Davis

#HigherEd revolutionary with over twenty years experience in higher ed teaching and administration. Opinions and positions are my own.