The Importance of Pragmatic Skills in Education

Pragmatic is an area of study that focuses on the contextual meaning of language. It goes beyond semantics, which deals with rules that determine literal linguistic meaning, and semiotics, which studies the use of signs and symbols. Pragmatics takes social, cultural, and situational factors into consideration when analyzing our uses of language. It’s what allows us to politely hedge a request, read between the lines in conversation, and navigate ambiguity.

Children develop pragmatic skills from a very young age. These skills help them express themselves, communicate with peers, and adhere to the social norms of their environments. Educators and psychologists can leverage pragmatic skills to facilitate typical child development and provide support for special needs kids. In this article, we’ll explore pragmatic skills, share seven examples of these critical communication and behavioral skills, and explain how you can incorporate them into your teaching and clinical work.

For those unfamiliar with pragmatism, it’s best to think of this philosophy as an approach that is flexible and adaptable to change. It embraces an attitude of learning by doing. Unlike some other approaches to education that are rooted in a specific theory or pedagogy, pragmatism does not seek to find definitive answers and solutions. It aims to learn through experimentation and experience and then adjust and modify as needed.

The idea behind pragmatism is that knowledge is essentially a construct, which means that it’s fallible. It is also action oriented and there’s a close link between pragmatic principles and educational action research (Hammond, 2015). However, for those who prefer certainty pragmatism is not a methodology to be embraced (Biesta and Burbules, 2003).

A major concern of pragmatists is that if people aren’t taught spiritual values they will become materialistic and selfish. The lack of a strong sense of spirituality makes it difficult for individuals to achieve human welfare, peace, and satisfaction. This is why pragmatists believe that it’s essential for educational systems to encourage the development of spiritual values.

Although pragmatism is often associated with American philosophers, Charles Sanders Pierce, John Dewey, and William James, its roots extend back to the early 1800s. As with other areas of philosophical inquiry, the fortunes of pragmatism have risen and fallen over time. In some instances, pragmatism has been eclipsed by more radical or traditional approaches to the issues it raises. Despite this, many analytic philosophers have a qualified enthusiasm for the pragmatic legacy of Peirce and other pragmatists.