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date: 23 February 2024

Relational Pedagogylocked

Relational Pedagogylocked

  • Mary Jo HinsdaleMary Jo HinsdaleMary Jo Hinsdale earned her PhD in Philosophy of Education from the Department of Education, Culture and Society at the University of Utah. She is now retired after serving as the long-term director of the McNair Scholars Program at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah (now Westminster University)
  •  and Ann-Louise LjungbladAnn-Louise LjungbladMalmö University

Summary

One could easily argue that the pedagogy of relation is not new: a genealogy of the approach would send us back to the ancient Greek philosophers. However, in recent years relational pedagogy has been taken up in novel and ever-deepening ways. It is a response to ongoing efforts at school reform that center on teacher and administrator accountability, based on a constraining view of education as the effective teaching of content. In this view, methods, curricula, and high-stakes testing overshadow the human relationship between teacher and student that relational pedagogy theorists place at the center of educational exchanges. When relationships are secondary to content, the result can be disinterested or alienated students and teachers who feel powerless to step outside the mandated curriculum of their school district.

Contemporary relational theorists offer an alternative vision of pedagogy in a concerning era of teacher accountability. Internationally, teachers experience challenging educational environments that reflect troubled social histories across differences of socioeconomic class, race and ethnicity, gender, and ability status. Climate change, civil and economic instability, and war add global pressures that bring immigrant and refugee students into classrooms around the world. In the United States, histories of slavery, genocide, and indigenous removal continue to resound through all levels of education. Putting the teacher-student relationship at the heart of education offers a way to serve all students, allowing them to flourish in spite of the many challenges we face in the 21st century.

Relational pedagogy is inspired by a range of philosophical writings: this article focuses on theorists whose work is informed by the concept of caring, as developed by Nel Noddings, with the critical perspective of Paulo Freire, or the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas. Although these approaches to ethical educational relations do not necessarily mesh together easily, the tensions among them can bear fruit that informs our pedagogy. After outlining the theoretical contours of relational pedagogy, we will turn to more recent empirical work in the field. New studies help us understand how to turn theory into classroom practices that will benefit all students.

Subjects

  • Curriculum and Pedagogy
  • Education, Cultures, and Ethnicities
  • Educational Theories and Philosophies

Updated in this version

The authors have made substantial updates to the text, including a new section on Empirical Foundations. The reference list has also been updated to reflect a broader range of helpful resources.

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