Philosophy of Teaching Series: Postulate #3

Here is the third elaboration in this series.

3. Teaching is not something that is done to someone else. The adult is not taught. Instead, the adult learns.

This idea of course builds on the twin imperatives of agency and consent already mentioned in previous postulates. The student must decide to learn. He must consent to the activities that the teacher designs to help bring that about. The teacher cannot decide for the would-be learner; the teacher is powerless before a person who does not consent to learn. Again, it must be remembered that students are not raw and insensate material upon which teaching can be applied to useful effect.  No curriculum revision, no application of classroom technology, and no entertaining antics from the teacher will make any difference unless a student takes hold himself.

If there is a classroom analog to the caveman club, it’s the control a teacher has over “points,” scores, and letter grades. It is indeed a blunt instrument, and it can raise a bump on the teacher’s head as readily as on the student’s. In short, in has very little to do with learning. It doesn’t even measure very well whether or not it has taken place.

[Here is the original article, “My Philosophy of Teaching” (opens in new window).  For all the articles in this series, click on the Teaching Philosophy link below or under Categories to the right.]