Deliver instruction or produce learning?

“In many schools, teaching is expected to follow syllabi that lay out what students will learn, as well as when and how they will learn it. But in a real classroom, whether kindergarten, graduate school, or the school of life, there are live people with personal needs and knowledge. A particular tap in this direction will shift this person’s perspective; after today’s discussion you will know that this reading will be good to assign, based on what seems like the natural flow to the next step. You cannot plan these things. You have to teach each person, each class group, and each moment as a particular case that calls out for particular handling. Planning an agenda of learning without knowing who is going to be there, what their strengths and weaknesses are, how they interact, prevents surprises and prevents learning. The teacher’s art is to connect, in real time, the living bodies of the students with the living body of the knowledge.” (from Free Play, Stephen Nachmanovitch.)

The problem with much of higher education today is that it is designed to DELIVER INSTRUCTION rather than to PRODUCE LEARNING. As long as instruction is delivered by the knowledgeable professor, the system is working and it is incumbent on the student to learn (or not.) But if the system favors the production of learning, then professors must be sensitive and responsive to their students, paying close attention to the vagaries of knowledge acquisition. This takes an extravagant effort that few professors seem willing to expend. Perhaps we might consider the ethics of teaching to be analogous to the ethics of medicine, where we seek to cure ALL of our patients of the disease of their ignorance, feeling it a personal loss if any should perish for lack of our healing touch.

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3 comments on “Deliver instruction or produce learning?

  1. Bethany Deal says:

    AMEN, your pedagogy is what makes me sad that I can no longer take a “Craig Class”. I Believe that your methods and passion for inspiring your student to learn are very effective and I wish that there were more professors, educators, people like you. :) Thanks so much!

  2. While I am not currently in higher education (or the US), I am constantly searching for new methods and ideas to get around this dilemma. It is so taxing to be sure. I position myself on the edge of the proverbial fence of the teacher’s system, doing what is best for knowledge acquisition and barely keeping myself out of trouble inside the system. I have found, through what little experience I have, that passion and devotion in pedagogy is infectious to the learning acquisition process. As a previous student of yours, I have been infected for sure. Thank you for all its gloriousness!

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