Passion not just pedagogy

By Andy Lancaster, Head of Learning and Development at CIPD

"A spark could be enough to set them ablaze"
Suzanne Collins, from "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"


Passion - an intense emotion compelling, enthusiasm, or desire for something.
Pedagogy - the science and art of education, specifically instructional theory.

I first came across the term pedagogy when I was training to become a design teacher at Brunel University. I suffered at the hands of a number of lecturers who knew their educational onions but not how to serve them in an appetising and digestible way! However, I was drawn to two lecturers; Brian Mayock in graphic design and Professor Duncan Harris, a guru in educational evaluation.

Their unifying feature was a notable enthusiasm, not primarily for lecturing and delivering content (pedagogy) but in engaging others to think and learn (passion).

Their spark created a fire in me which led to my successful Masters Degree in Instructional Design, for which they were my tutors, and fast track development and success that ended up with me also lecturing in the Faculty of Education and Design.

Passion is dangerously infectious!

There is often a misplaced focus in articles and seminars that the key to successful learning is primarily about a focus on the approach. However, any discussion of truly effective pedagogy must also focus on the learner by "bringing learning to life" [1]

Our primary goal as learning professionals is effectively engage with people not just theory or technology!

A recent example of this mismatch can be seen in the coverage of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). In a relatively short time the "mood tone" has gone from huge hopes to a bandwagon of criticism about learner dropout rates. There are cries that the approach doesn't work! However, thankfully some are now noting the crucial "people element"; learner isolation in MOOCs is the key dynamic.

So, MOOC designers need to ensure that their interest in the pedagogical approach is matched by a passion to understand and engage effectively with the learners! [2]

Many of us have been influenced by the thinking of Simon Sinek who maintains that for each of us to be effective and inspirational it is imperative to "Start With Why"; the passion underpinning the reason for being. This thinking is encapsulated in one of the most watched TED Lectures.

So to apply Sinek's model, successful MOOCs are not about the "what" (subject) and "how" (technology) but the "why" ... why learners would want to learn in this way and that is our key point of engagment and inspiration!

My early career role models, Mayock and Harris landed the "whys" long before Sinek's thinking. Their passion to engage with learners had a transformational impact on my personal development and set me on the path that has led me to where I am today. 

I have joined CIPD with a passion to help drive forward the Institute's vision for learning and development. And, what excites me is the opportunity to collaborate with others who have also a passion to shape and improve a "people-focussed" learning agenda.

So as we kick off this new CIPD "Leading in learning" learning blog a simple question; what is your "why" and what are you passionate about that can spark others?


[1] Smith, H., & Smith, M. (2008). The art of helping others: Being around, being there, being wise. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

[2] Online University Courses Information (2014) Meet-Ups Saving Dropout Rates Of MOOCs, accessed 29th January 2014

You can find out more about Andy on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter @AndyLancastertUK.


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  • Anonymous

    This couldn't be more true...xactly my thoughts put into meaningful words!! :-)

  • Anonymous

    I couldn't agree more with the above, Andy. The 'How' should flow from the 'Why' and the 'Why' should flow from passion. In a world where technology is changing the landscape for learning so quickly and user-experience is evolving relentlessly, capturing learners' passion and winning emotional engagement is a good way to stay focussed on what is actually effective. Pedagogy is of course important, but rather than blindly adopting or imposing an 'approach' we need to understand the emotional state and circumstances of our audience and let what they are already passionate about drive the learning experience.

  • Anonymous

    Pedagogy and L&D aren't really the most compatible, is L&D about instructional theory? I would have thought the term androgogy would be more compatible with teaching in an adult environment, Knowles, Holton, and Swanson (2005) described andragogy as the "art and science to teaching adults to learn".

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the blog post Andy and the interesting comments.

    R Greig pinpoints one of the concerns I have in L&D - what are we?

    I see many (possibly most) people who operate from a pedagogical premise; this comes in many cases from an organisational imperative to 'do something' about learning and the educational paradigm of courses/classes is accepted as a best practice model. In my mind this isn't necessarily best practice but a form of accepted practice; we see something that has traditionally worked so we don't/can/t/won't/shouldn't challenge it. As shifts happen across the workplace learning arena - technological, economic, social - we don't always reflect these quickly enough in L&D. This manitains a way of working which isn't any longer 'best'.

    When a disruption comes along (eg MOOCs) and people are learning in a different way, we then struggle to see how it fits within our model of the world. This explains the criticism of completion rates for MOOCs.

    Heutagogy and the way MOOCs support rhizomatic learning mean we can't ignore them any more. Pedagogy is dead, long live the new pedagogy.

  • Anonymous

    Being compliant - heres my Why

    I passionately believe that every person has greater potential than they even dream is possible and if I can reveal even a glimmer of that to them through my work, coaching or conversations  - what greater joy can their be?

  • I wholeheartedly agree with Gill, my why is fuelled in the same way.

    When Ken Robinson talks about eduction in schools he suggests that teachers need to 'mentor, stimulate, motivate and engage'. I would argue that that is true of any facilitator, trainer or coach, regardless of the age of the learner. Connection enables positive and effective learning and this stems from passion.

    I strive to be the connecting cog in the wheel of learning.