Is Teaching an Art or a Science?

When a pedagogy of ‘teaching by mentioning’ rewards formulaic learners, it can be easy to ignore that teaching is contextual and situational. When I teach I am often unaware of the value of my own experiential knowledge and, due to the complexity of the teaching process, I can struggle to express my practical knowledge in a precise professional vocabulary. On many occasions my body language, my content decisions, and my relationships with students are adjusted on the run due to subconscious cues that I could not recount or account for.

To teach well, I have to be able to learn from others. Teaching is a conversation with a learner. This means accepting learners as whole people and genuinely listening to their thoughts.

I think of all the times in class where I have short-circuited an avenue of inquiry by bringing a student’s wandering curiosity back to the immediate syllabus and the requirements of the approaching high-stakes test. “That’s an interesting question, but let’s stay focused on the topic at hand” is a refrain that I am all too guilty of overusing in my own teaching. Stable programs and a culture where curriculum is locked in are not the hallmarks of good pedagogy.

Each student departs a lesson with their own personal interpretation of what was taught. The teaching and learning process is an interaction with the environment, a mutual, reciprocal interaction which is experienced differently by each developing person. In the classroom this is rarely a one on one interaction. It is a tenuously forged group learning that weaves together the different understandings of each disparate individual. Rather than being a one-way transmission of information from the teacher to the students, it is a dynamically interactive relationship. Just as students learn from teachers, in the process of teaching, teachers also learn from students. Teaching is a process of permanent inquiry, perhaps best conceived of as a reflective conversation.

About cpaterso

Confusion is good and grades are overemphasised. Less us, more them. Working in a learning and teaching leadership role in a Sydney school.
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8 Responses to Is Teaching an Art or a Science?

  1. Oriana ramunno says:

    Your thinking about teaching parralels that of the Reggio Emilia approach where as teachers we debate about our approach to teaching and learning within the heart of inquiry. Each child in our classroom certainly has a different interpretation and symbolic understanding. When we listen carefully do we get to truely understand what it us we are on about. Thank you for your contribution

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  2. Paul Walker says:

    I also think good teaching is only possible with good relationships. A colleague of mine says students learn the teacher… Who we are is as important as what and how we teach.

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  3. ibdanmagie says:

    I agree whole-heartedly and am currently trying to let go of “my plan” to incorporate “their plan”. One way I am doing this with my G6 Language A English class is by dedicating at least one day in an eight day cycle to pursuing personal inquiries that have arisen as a result of our unit of inquiry. Then, sharing our learning with each other.

    My “fear” of dedicating more time to this type of learning experience come from my course objectives…my new art of teaching involves finding ways to ensure I am still developing the necessary skills in literacy for my students while allowing them to make their own educational path. As I get better at this, I hope to have more time for personal inquiries.

    In my G7 Language A English class, I’ve started this unit with my pre-planned unit question, but the students have developed their own lines of inquiry to help them find answers to the “big question”.

    Hopefully, I’ll update the “inquire within” community in the near future regarding my learning as a result of the plans mentioned above.

    Thanks for sharing cpaterso!

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  4. Naini Singh says:

    Just like the PYP is based on constructivism theory of learning, so is teaching. Teachers have their own ideas, assumptions, premises. Through teaching and dialogue with peers, we resconstruct our schemata and improve our teaching. Our style of teaching compounded with our experience make teaching an ‘art’. The methodical approach to teaching, the action research in the classroom, make teaching a ‘science’! So I guess it is both.

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  5. andy vasily says:

    As teachers, I think that once we commit to working in a PYP environment, we are as active a member in the inquiry as the students. How could we not be with the changing nature of the way inquiry rolls, bends, and twists during a unit. As a PE specialist, I am amazed at how much my lesson plan can change when I see students inventing, creating, exploring, and questioning. My job is to ensure that the learning experiences stay on course with the central idea and lines of inquiry and to help kids navigate their way through the inquiry. The science part of teaching are the methods we employ in our teaching practice while the ‘art’ side of it is all about the creativity. I love the process.

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  6. hasbullah says:

    I agree, that as a teacher we have to be creative in creating amusing learning process.

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  7. Pingback: Inquire into ‘Inquire Within’… | Inquire Within

  8. Pingback: Inquiry into ‘Inquire Within’… | Inquire Within

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