Word of the Week! Pedagogy


Special thanks to Lisa Bayard, Manger of Tyler’s at UR, for this excellent pick. After the Bacchanalia ends, we must return to our studies.

I teach a course entitled “Composition Theory and Pedagogy,” and students rightly assume that the final word has something to do with the theory of teaching. For many years, poor student of Classical languages that I am, I mistakenly assumed that the “peda” in our word related to the Latin pedestere, to go around on foot. One often follows a mentor, like ducklings following mom. So that was that, as far as my defining the origins of “pedagogy.”

How wrong I was! While pedestere gives us the modern “pedestrian,” my thinking was rather pedestrian indeed, not have have checked a few good dictionaries.

During Spring Break, I am far from my printed dictionaries in Boatwright Library on campus, but I have the OED Online to follow me, like those ducklings, wherever I go. Their entry shows a history stretching back to Ancient Greece and, later in the Mediterranean world, LatinĀ paedagogia. In English, by the 17th Century a “pedagogy” could mean not only the art of teaching but also the profession itself or a place where teaching gets done.

Today we generally refer to the system or theory of teaching when we use the word as a noun or adjective, as in “we practiced several pedagogical techniques for teaching the history of language.” I have heard teachers called “pedagogues” in older books; that term has faded from common usage.

Nominate a word by e-mailing me (jessid -at- richmond -dot- edu) or leaving a comment below.

See all of our Words of the Week here.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.