Decoding wheel, with steps 1-7 on top of rainbow colors.

Decoding is a pedagogical framework to guide teaching and learning practices.

We live in a world in which education is both a fundamental human right and a requirement for the success of democracy. Yet, many students encounter obstacles to learning that prevent them from succeeding in their courses. The Decoding the Disciplines approach was founded in an effort to help more students gain access to the essential tools that they need for success. It provides teachers with a framework for identifying common obstacles that prevent students from moving forward and for developing strategies for helping more of them overcome these bottlenecks.

How it works

Most instructors notice places in their courses where students find it difficult to learn. Decoding the Disciplines is a theory of pedagogy with principles for identifying where students get stuck ("bottlenecks" to learning), and asking questions to "decode" an expert's mental process, which allows us to better model the "critical thinking" of a discipline for students, and provide directed practice and feedback, and to better motivate and assess student learning.

Disrupting the Disciplines

At the twenty year anniversary of Decoding the Disciplines, Attas and Yeo have edited a volume on Disrupting the Disciplines. Decoding often focuses on content and motivational bottlenecks, but not the bottlenecks of colonialism, racism, and implicit bias. Disrupting the Disciplines aims to address these bottlenecks.

For more information on this new volume, and to compare the Decoding questions to Disrupting questions.

About this Content

The content appearing on this website is based on content written by Joan Middendorf, Leah Shopkow, David Pace and edited by Erika Lee. Some of the content is straight out of Middendorf, J., & Shopkow, L. (2018). Overcoming Student Learning Bottlenecks: Decode the Critical Thinking of Your Discipline. Stylus: Sterling, VA.