Our Pedagogy


"In spite of worldwide agreement that learners need skills such as critical thinking and the ability to communicate effectively, innovate, and solve problems through negotiation and collaboration, pedagogy has seldom adapted to address these challenges. Rethinking pedagogy for the twenty-first century is as crucial as identifying the new competencies that today’s learners need to develop."

-Cynthia Luna Scott, UNESCO: What Kind of Pedagogies for the 21st Century? (2015)


A real world, enquiry-based approach

There is a rapidly growing body of evidence which suggests that the traditional lecture-style classroom alone is of waning efficacy in preparing students to engage with real world problems. The students of today are not simply spectators, but active participants in the creation of new ideas (Leadbeater, 2008). If students are to move beyond being receivers of knowledge to become effective innovators and producers of knowledge, they must engage in relevant enquiry-based learning which holds meaning for them beyond the abstract. The best comprehensive opportunities for students to  construct knowledge through detailed enquiry is through real-world experiences in which that knowledge can be actively implemented and informed (Barron and Darling-Hammond, 2008).

Partners in Service has grown out of this ideal, providing an organizational structure and logistical support to aid educators in crafting problem-solving travel seminars which give real-world context to students' curriculum while addressing current pressing issues in Indigenous communities.

Our model embraces  "3 P's of Pedagogy" as outlined by McLoughlin and Lee (2008): personalization, participation and productivity

1. Personalization

Educators and students have the ability to develop experiences directly fitting to the scope, scale, and focus of their curriculum and specialization.

2. Participation

Students collaborate as active agents in solving complex, unique problems facing communities. This is an opportunity for students to apply what they have learned and adapt their thinking to fit a variety of contexts, exploring different applications for the knowledge and skills they have acquired.  Studies have shown that active and collaborative learning practices have a more significant impact on student performance than any other variable, including student background and prior achievement (Barron and Darling-Hammond 2008, p.  8).

3. Productivity

There is an additional depth of commitment and passion that comes from students when they are able to see the tangible results of their enquiry and implementation. Saavedra and Opfer (2012) emphasize that one of the main flaws of the "standard transmission" model is the lack of motivation bred by lack of relevance and personal connection. We seek to address this through ensuring that each project with our academic partners offers an experience well beyond the walls of the lecture hall that yields visible results, both in knowledge created by students and tangible development for our community partners.



"When students realize the connection between what they are learning and real world issues that matter to them, their motivation soars, and so does their learning"

-The Partnership for 21st Century Skills



Cross-cultural communication and meta-cognition

Metacognition describes an individual's ability to asses their own process of thinking and learning with a critical awareness in order to understand and improve their capacity for learning and thought; or more simply put, "thinking about thinking." Numerous studies have shown that individuals with strong metacognitive abilities are far more adept at integrating new knowledge into their conceptual framework (Lai, 2011).

Far from a "you have it or you don't" scenario, metacognitive abilities can be effectively developed through "problem-based learning activities that require peer collaboration," as they encourage students to find new applications for the knowledge they already possess while gaining an understanding of different ways of processing which they can incorporate into their own mental framework (NZME, 2007).

By encouraging students to apply their knowledge and skills through unique and challenging contexts, engaging with Indigenous modes of thought, and collaborating with partners of diverse cultural backgrounds, we seek to have them ask the questions they would never have thought to ask before. 

"[I]t is terribly important that in explicit and concerted ways we make students aware of themselves as learners. We must regularly ask, not only ‘What are you learning?’ but ‘How are you learning?’ We must confront them with the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of their approaches. We must offer alternatives and then challenge students to test the efficacy of those approaches." (Weimer, 2012, p. 1)

Through this pedagogy focused on global engagement and real-world investigative problem solving, Partners in Service fosters the "4 C's" of critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity to encourage and excite students to apply well the knowledge they have and produce the knowledge they seek.

See for yourself


Barron, B. and Darling-Hammond, L. 2008. Teaching for meaningful learning: a review of research on inquiry-based and cooperative learning. L. Darling-Hammond, B. Barron, P.D. Pearson, A.H. Schoenfeld, E.K. Stage, T.D. Zimmerman, G.N. Cervetti and J.L. Tilson (eds), Powerful Learning: What We Know About Teaching for Understanding. San Francisco, Calif., Jossey-Bass/John Wiley & Sons. www.edutopia. org/pdfs/edutopia-teaching-for-meaningful-learning.pdf (Accessed 21 June 2014).

Lai, E.R. 2011. Metacognition: A Literature Review. Pearson Research Report. Upper Saddle River, NJ, Pearson Education. http://images.pearsonassessments.com/ images/tmrs/Metacognition_Literature_Review_Final.pdf (Accessed 30 July 2014).

Leadbeater, C. and Wong, A. 2010. Learning from the Extremes: A White Paper. San Jose, Calif., Cisco Systems Inc. www. cisco.com/web/about/citizenship/socio-economic/docs/ Learning fromExtremes_WhitePaper.pdf (Accessed 24 May 2014).

McLoughlin, C. and Lee, M.J.W. 2008. The three p’s of pedagogy for the networked society: personalization, participation, and productivity. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 10-27. http://files.eric.ed.gov/ fulltext/EJ895221.pdf (Accessed 20 March 2014).

NZME. 2007. The New Zealand Curriculum Online: Effective Pedagogy. Wellington, New Zealand Ministry of Education. http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/The-New-Zealand-Curriculum/ Effective-pedagogy (Accessed 12 July 2014).

Saavedra, A. and Opfer, V. 2012. Teaching and Learning 21st Century Skills: Lessons from the Learning Sciences. A Global Cities Education Network Report. New York, Asia Society. http://asiasociety.org/files/rand-0512report.pdf (Accessed 8 July 2014).

Weimer, M. 2012. Deep learning vs. surface learning: getting students to understand the difference. Maryellen Weimer: The Teaching Professor Blog (online). www.facultyfocus.com/ articles/teaching-professor-blog/deep-learning-vs-surfacelearning-getting-students-to-understand-the-difference/ (Accessed 3 August 2014).