Teaching is...

We did this activity through-out my M.Ed program. We did it recursively so we could see how our opinions and ideas were changing. It was a huge component of the course (in my opinion, the most important aspect). You might enjoy it. I do it several times a year. Keeps me grounded in my philosophical beliefs (which are evolving).

A little background...

Teaching is a hard thing to define. Get a 20 teachers in a room to define teaching and you will get 20 different definitions. That shows that teaching is highly personalized endeavour. The one thing that everybody will agree on is that teaching is about learning. Learning is another minefield to define. There is no consensus and shared idea of what it means. What we can agree on though, is that it has something to do with knowing. Knowing is one of the major battlegrounds (why all the war metaphors?) of philosophy, and has been debated from the time of Aristotle (and likely before). What does it mean to know something? How do you know you know (epistemology)?

So, teaching has something to do with learning, which has something to do with knownig.

The activity is this...

Define teaching, and let that definition define learning, and let that definition define knowing. Let your understanding of one transfer and reflect through the others. Or you can start with knowing and work up, but trust me, that is much harder! Knowing is the hardest one....

An example, overly simplistic for the sake of example (and a highly erroneous one), though I imagine you know some teachers who think this way:

Teaching is giving students information.

Learning is receiving information.

Knowing is giving the received information back.


If what we believe about teaching is more complex than this simplistic idea (and I hope we revel in the complexity and ambiguity of teaching, not shy away from it) then what does your definition of teaching say about learning and knowing?

I have my own definition which I won't share because it does not matter to you. It is personal to me, and in a language that I comprehend. I would never want to impose my definition onto others. That being said, it might be interesting to compare and see where the through lines are, the commonalities, and the differences. Once we understand those similarities and differences between how we philosophically define what we do, then we can start to work together to move forward and provoke the system of education we find ourselves in. Until we discover that space, we are just speaking to each other in different languages.

Teaching is....

Learning is....

Knowing is....


Let me know what you come up with. Would love to play.

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