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Revisiting Comparative Pedagogy

Mon, April 15, 8:00 to 9:30am, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Atrium (Level 2), Waterfront D


Pedagogy is often understood as the sum of a teacher’s attention to instruction and the sociocultural contexts of teaching, learning, and schooling. As Alexander (2009) notes, it is the ‘the act of teaching together with its attendant discourse of educational theories, values, evidence and justifications’ (p. 928). Despite its immense importance in shaping the learning experiences of students and, by extension, their potential life outcomes, pedagogy is often overlooked or undertheorized in global contexts (Schweisfurth, 2015). This is due, at least in part, to the complexity of pedagogy, and the concomitant challenges of examining and comparing it.

This conceptual paper explores research on comparative pedagogy published between 2000-2018. It aims to achieve two purposes. First, the paper systematically surveys the landscape of extant empirical studies that compare pedagogies across contexts. Beyond a standard literature review, this scoping exercise acts as thermometer on the status of comparative pedagogy within and beyond comparative and international education (CIE) as it seeks to understand the ways in which comparative pedagogy has developed, or not, since Alexander’s seminal study in 2000. Second, the paper analyses the themes that emerge from the review, towards the production an analytical framework that examines the multi-dimensional nature of research on pedagogy, particularly in comparative contexts. The methods utilised include, first, utilising Boolean logic to search core journals in CIE (e.g., Comparative Education Review, Compare, Comparative Education), and second, to examine other related educational journals likely to publish research on comparative education. The initial search yielded more than 150 articles focused broadly on issues of pedagogy, with more than 100 of these articles conducted in single countries. Though the project is ongoing, to date 45 articles have been found to meet the core criteria for comparing pedagogy across national contexts.

In addition to highlighting the relatively minimal emphasis on pedagogy, the initial findings suggest that the majority of comparative pedagogy research has focused on comparisons across relatively similar contexts (e.g., between high-income countries). In addition, several nation-states emerged as dominant figures in comparative pedagogy; most notably Denmark and the United Kingdom. The findings also suggest that the ways in which pedagogy is conceptualised, addressed, measured, and compared vary widely. While some studies consider more utilitarian perspectives of pedagogy (i.e., pedagogy for teaching reading), others compared its interactions with aspects of social, political, or cultural engagement. In sum, this paper explores these and other fissures in the CIE research literature related to comparative pedagogy, and proposed a novel analytical framework for advancing comparative pedagogy beyond 2018.


Alexander, R. (2000). Culture and Pedagogy: international comparisons in primary education. Oxford: Blackwell.
Alexander, R. (2009). Towards a comparative pedagogy. In R. Cowen & A.M. Kazamias (Eds.), International handbook of comparative education (pp. 923-941). Dordrecht: Springer.
Schweisfurth, M. (2015). Learner-centred pedagogy: Towards a post-2015 agenda for teaching and learning. International Journal of Educational Development, 40, 259-266.


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