Signature Pedagogies

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Signature pedagogy refers to the forms or styles of teaching and instruction that are common to specific disciplines, areas of study, or professions. Often cutting across individual courses and institutions, signature pedagogies help students build a “habit of minds” that allows them to think and act in the same manner as the experts in the field.

Why is it important to know about signature pedagogies in your discipline?

Signature pedagogies are important because they "implicitly define what counts as knowledge in a field and how things become known. They define how knowledge is analyzed, criticized, accepted or discarded. They define the functions of expertise in a field, the locus of authority, and the privileges of rank and standing". (Shulman, 2005). Understanding the how your teaching methods are guided by the discipline in which you are situated can help you understand and formulate learning outcomes suitable to your field and assessment strategies. Examining the signature pedagogy of your discipline can help you to better understand the means by which learning takes place in your program, and how well you are preparing your students to be the next generation of experts in their field.


Shulman (2005) has identified three dimensions of signature pedagogy:

Surface Structure

  • Concrete operational acts of teaching and learning
  • What the learning looks like
  • What actually goes on in the classroom

Deep Structure

  • Assumptions about how best to impart knowledge and know-how
  • Decisions about how the material will be taught or presented
  • The advantage of choosing certain methods and practices over others

implicit Structure

  • The "hidden curriculum" that includes moral dimensions
  • Beliefs about professional attitudes, values and dispositions
  • The limit and bounds of learning and application


  • Chick, N. L., Haynie, A., Gurung, R. A. R., & Ebrary Academic Complete (Canada) Subscription Collection. (2012). Exploring more signature pedagogies: Approaches to teaching disciplinary habits of mind. Sterling, Va: Stylus Pub.
  • Gurung, R. A. R., Chick, N. L., & Haynie, A. (2009). Exploring signature pedagogies: Approaches to teaching disciplinary habits of mind. Sterling, Va: Stylus.
  • Jenkins, D. M. (2012). Exploring signature pedagogies in undergraduate leadership education. Journal of Leadership Education, 11(1), 1.
  • Robinson, J. M. (2010). Exploring signature pedagogies: Approaches to teaching disciplinary habits of mind - edited by regan A. R. gurung, nancy L. chick, and aeron haynie: Reviews. Teaching Theology & Religion, 13(3), 286-287. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9647.2010.00631.x
  • Shulman, L. S. (2005). Signature pedagogies in the professions. Daedalus, 134(3), 52-59. doi:10.1162/0011526054622015

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