Teaching: Art, science, or architecture
Posted June 8, 2012on:
I recall the first time I was asked to define “pedagogy”.
It was not when I was a teacher trainee. It was not even while I was a teacher. It was when I was pursuing a Masters overseas 13 years ago and when I was no longer a classroom teacher.
Perhaps some wisdom had distilled from my experience as a teacher and so I defined pedagogy as the science and art of teaching. My instructor told me that she had never heard any of her students define it like that and asked if she could borrow that definition.
Here is what I really meant by the science and art of teaching. By science, I meant learning, applying, and testing theoretical principles much as a scientist would but with the classroom as an experimental laboratory.
By art, I simply meant practice, practice, practice. Not practice makes perfect as there was no perfect teacher. Practice as in honing the craft of teaching much like a painter or sculptor might get better by painting or sculpting.
That is why I like the video above that I discovered recently. It has helped me push my understanding of pedagogy one step further.
I liked how the narrator, Daniel Willingham, referred to the science of teaching as providing boundaries or markers of what teachers should do or could do [5min 54 sec mark].
So if you want a child to remember something, s/he should practice because that is a basic tenet of how we learn. The child could be drilled, play a game, or use mnemonics to remember. Those are just a few of many options.
That is why I like the analogy that teaching is like architecture. In designing buildings, an architect must operate by the rules of physics (should do), but s/he can also get creative (could do). And so creative sometimes that the rules seem to break.