The 4 Productive Pedagogies, Explained!

productive pedagogies definition explained below

The productive pedagogies framework has four types of pedagogical skills that support quality learning and teaching in the 21st Century.

The four categories are:

  1. Intellectual quality.
  2. Connectedness.
  3. Social support.
  4. Recognition of difference.

The framework was developed by the Queensland Department of Education in Australia, but is based on Neumann’s authentic pedagogy research in the United States.

What are Productive Pedagogies?

Productive Pedagogies are a range of pedagogies that together constitute a framework for 21st Century learning and teaching.

The Four Pedagogies

The productive pedagogies framework has four categories of pedagogical practice. Those are: intellectual quality, connectedness, social support, and recognition of difference.

In each of the four categories are a list of 4 to 6 actionable strategies for creating high quality learning environments.

Intellectual quality

Intellectual quality refers to ensuring the teacher is setting high expectations and a culture of inquiry in the classroom.

Strategies teachers should use to achieve intellectual quality in the classroom include:

  1. Higher order thinking: Higher order thinking is thinking that goes beyond mere memorization and application. Instead, it involves analyzing, comparing and contrasting, critiquing and creating knowledge. This sort of thinking supports problem solving skills.
  2. Deep knowledge: Depth of knowledge refers to ensuring topics are explored in detail. Educators should develop lessons that give students the chance to take deep dives into topics. Lessons should not gloss over topics with surface level details.
  3. Deep understanding: Depth of understanding means being able to demonstrate deep knowledge. While deep knowledge refers to depth in instruction, deep understanding refers to ensuring students can demonstrate their grasp of concepts during lessons and assessments.
  4. Substantive conversation: Many conversations simply involve a question from the teacher, an answer from the student, and assessment of how well the student answered the question. Substantive conversation goes beyond this model. It involves free flowing discussion, ongoing dialogue and open exploration of the topic.
  5. Knowledge as problematic: Outdated pedagogies from last century saw knowledge as something that was fixed. Students were expected to learn facts and teachers presented information as if it were unquestionable. You might know this old approach as the banking model of education. Instead, when we see knowledge as problematic, we understand that there are nuances and caveats to most truth claims. Different people see the world in different but equally legitimate ways. We need to look at the different ways people ‘construct’ knowledge and aim to understand multiple social and cultural perspectives.
  6. Metalanguage: Metalanguage refers to the ways we talk about our language and learning. Teachers should encourage the use of metalanguage so students can express themselves in class more effectively. Examples of metalanguage include terms like ‘verbs’, ‘discourse’ and ‘reflection’.


Connectedness is one of the central and most important elements of 21st Century education. We increasingly appreciate the importance of learning within and with the support of communities. Connected learning ensures students link their knowledge to real life.

Strategies teachers should use to achieve connectedness in the classroom include:

  1. Knowledge integration: This involves linking up subject areas to show students that knowledge doesn’t exist in silos. Lessons that link many domains of knowledge, such as science, history and literacy, help students to see the value and interconnectedness between them. One example of a pedagogy for knowledge integration is phenomenon based learning which is an approach out of Finland that teaches lessons based on phenomena rather than subject areas.
  2. Background knowledge: Recognition that students are entering classrooms with existing knowledge and preconceptions is vital. Making connections to things students already know can engage students, show them their knowledge is appreciated and celebrated. It also allows students the chance to link in-class topics to their own social and cultural worlds.
  3. Connectedness to the world: Lessons should have meaning to students outside of the classroom. This could be: (a) Connectedness between what is being learned and life after school. Can students see why this information is worth learning and that it is usable in real life? (b) Connectedness between what is being learned and students’ interests and cultures. Is the information relevant to students’ lives right now?
  4. Problem-based curriculum: A problem-based curriculum requires students to apply knowledge to a contextualized situation. They need to use what they have learned to overcome hurdles or create new solutions to problems. The links knowledge to real life and helps students understand its usefulness.

Social support

Social support involves a classroom where students feel:

  • Safe,
  • Supported, and
  • Members of a class community.

Strategies teachers should use to achieve social support in the classroom include:

  1. Student control: When students have a sense of control over their own learning, they are more likely to be intrinsically motivated and develop self-belief. A student directed curriculum, democratic classroom and self-paced learning can all be applied to underpin student control in the classroom.
  2. Social support: A class with strong social support focuses on mutual respect, high expectations and encouragement of risk taking. Students are rewarded for effort and commitment to learning, and are never berated for failing if they did their best and had good intentions.
  3. Engagement: Teachers should work toward whole class engagement by creating enjoyable, stimulating and developmentally appropriate lessons. Signs that students are on-task include students asking relevant questions, a working buzz in the classroom, and enthusiasm for learning.
  4. Explicit criteria: Students should know what they will be assessed on. This can help students to sustain focus on task and see task relevance. Implicit criteria, on the other hand, hides exactly what will be assessed. This can sometimes be used to keep students on their toes while studying or allow students to set their own outcomes. However, implicit criteria may be demotivating for students. A useful mechanism for ensuring curricula are explicit is the use of the constructive alignment approach.
  5. Self-regulation: Teachers should aspire to create a classroom where students self-regulate their environment. This may require significant modelling and guided practice at the beginning of the year. As time passes, students should settle into a routine where high expectations for self-regulation and on-task behaviors are implicit.

Recognition of difference

21st Century classrooms should acknowledge and celebrate difference, diversity and multiculturalism as strengths.

Strategies teachers should use to achieve recognition of difference in the classroom include:

  1. Cultural knowledge: Children’s cultural backgrounds, beliefs and approaches should be recognized within the classroom. Indigenous and immigrant knowledge should be explicitly encouraged in class discussions.
  2. Inclusivity: Inclusivity includes inclusion of people of different backgrounds and abilities. Students with disabilities should have equal access and participation as much as practicable.
  3. Narrative: Narrative instruction is juxtaposed to expository instruction. Expository lessons involve the teacher dictating knowledge, while narrative lessons link knowledge to stories, dialogue, historical accounts and use of literary texts.
  4. Group identity: The teacher should create a sense of connectedness and belonging amongst the class group. Difference and individuality within the group are encouraged, while the class as a whole develop a positive bond through shared experience.
  5. Child Citizenship: Students learn democratic values, the importance of active engagement with the institutions of society, and their rights to speak up and have a voice on issues affecting them.

Theoretical Links

While there is no one specific theory underpinning the approach, it dovetails with many prominent 21st Century theories.

In particular, it overlaps with:

  • Authentic learning: Productive pedagogies are based on the concept of authentic learning. This concept highlights the importance of linking knowledge with situations in which it is applied.
  • Sociocultural theory: A sociocultural approach to learning highlights the importance of social and cultural interactions during learning. All four elements above consistently refer to the importance of social and cultural interaction for quality learning and teaching.
  • Constructivism: A constructivist approach highlights the knowledge is constructed in the mind rather than transferred from teacher to learner. Therefore, students need to learn by actively engaging with the content, exploring it from multiple angles, and coming to their own Conclusions based on their experiences with knowledge. This is deeply connected to the intellectual quality and connectedness elements above.

Origins of the Framework

The framework is based on Newmann’s work on authentic pedagogy. The adapted ‘productive pedagogy’ (PP) framework was then developed by the Queensland Department of Education in Australia.

While authentic pedagogy was considered a more vague concept, PP represents a set of practical teaching strategies that can be used by teachers in the classroom.

Final Thoughts

productive pedagogiesProductive pedagogies are most common in learning and teaching in schools in Queensland, Australia. However, it is a valuable framework full of actionable strategies for all teachers in the 21st Century.

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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