Theory first, teaching later (2 of 2)

December 9, 2010

After teaching in several schools, both in the UK and other developed countries, I moved into teacher training. My students were tutors who taught in fields as diverse as physics and policing.

My experience has shown me three things. First, that it is impossible to discuss teaching sensibly, or to teach effectively, unless one has spent some time systematically studying learning and what this implies for teaching.

Second, that teaching is an activity quite separate from the subject being taught. Exactly as is the case in all other complex activities, it requires practice under sympathetic and trained supervision.

And third, that the majority of teachers in all kinds of establishment, from primary schools and library services right through to higher education, have at best only a very rudimentary understanding of the first two points and their implications.

Moving the training of teachers into schools, and using the metaphor of teaching hospitals, ignores all this. It also appears to be based on the common illusion that teaching is a self-evident activity, and hence largely a matter of practice in an appropriate environment.

Practice in the case of teaching is important, but, as is the case in medicine, it also requires disciplined study.

Eric Sotto, Haifa, Israel.

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