Tuesday, January 11, 2011

About 'Teaching'

Responding to a comment on my post from yesterday:

> Have you ever taught someone something?

> Lots of people have learned from you and what you have written, but have you ever actively taught someone?

Good question (and I understand that you do *not* mean "have you been in front of a classroom and been paid to help students get good grades on tests?" Because I have lots of experience doing that, which I know you know.)

I have *shown* people things.
I have *convinced* people of things through argumentation
I have *explained* things to people
I have *described* things to people
I have *demonstrated* what I do and how to do it
I have tried to act as a *model* of the values I hold

Have I therefore 'taught' people these things? It depends very much on what, precisely, you mean by 'taught'. And I think my view is that the verb 'to teach' is so vague that it is almost useless.

In fact, I would call it a 'success term'. It describes not what I did but the result of what I did. For example:

'I showed thing X to person Y' and 'Y learned X' = 'I taught X to Y'.
'I argued in favor of X to person Y' and 'Y learned X' = 'I taught X to Y'.

Even this is a bit too vague. Because, in this formulation, what do we mean by 'Y learned X'?

- Y *remembers* X?
- Y can *do* X?
- Y *believes* X?
- Y *understands* X?  (and so on, until we replicate Bloom's + a bunch of other verbs)

So, the question becomes: what type of succcess(es), in combination of what action(s), is required for action(s) to be called 'teaching'?

Well - I *could* spend time trying to answer that question. But I am rather more interested in the constituent parts. Which is why it seems like I have eliminated the term 'teaching' from my discourse.