Semiotic Pedagogy




Applying insights of Semiotics to formal education

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … scope of interpretive possibility
  • Knowing is … using signs
  • Learner is … a sign-using system (individual in/and cultural context)
  • Learning is … making meaning
  • Teaching is … interpreting




Semiotic Pedagogy starts with (1) the assertion that schools should be defined as places of learning rather than places of teaching and (2) the assumption that Semiotics, with its foci of meaning and communication, is especially well fitted to understanding and informing formal education. Semiotic Pedagogy thus regards the educational setting in terms involving students in a community of established-but-maleable interpretation/practice. Semiotic Pedagogy is most focused on the appropriate of meaning through the interpretation of visual signifiers, which are seen as means for maintaining, propagating, and modifying cultures.


Semiotic Pedagogy has not attracted much critical attention, apart from a few notes of disdain from a subset of semioticians who regard Semiotics as a descriptive domain that eschews prescriptive advice.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Source of the term is unclear; although authorship is fairly limited

Status as a Theory of Learning

In its title, Semiotic Pedagogy explicitly signals teaching/pedagogy, but learning (i.e., the appropriation of meaning by the individual) is what is foregrounded in its self-descriptions. That seeming contradiction can be resolved through close readings of publications on the topic. Semiotic Pedagogy invokes principles of learning that are compatible with most Embodiment Discourses and Embeddedness Discourses, but it doesn’t interrogate or elaborate those principles. Consequently, it does not meet our criteria for a theory of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Semiotic Pedagogy is a theory of teaching that focuses more on rethinking the nature and role of teaching than the actual practice of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Semiotic Pedagogy is not associated with a substantial body of research.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2021). “Semiotic Pedagogy” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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