The Learning and Teaching
"Teaching" as an activity does not exist: or at
least it is meaningless to think about it in isolation. There
is always an interaction between the Teacher, the Learner and
the Subject being taught.
This is not a wholly banal point, because;
- The Subject is not neutral: it imposes its
own discipline. Early mathematics is linear, for example,
because you have to learn to count before you
can do anything else. Some other subjects allow you
to sequence the curriculum with more freedom.
- The Learner has her or his own attributes,
motivation and style, and these may or may not "fit"
with the subject and/or the teacher. The Learner is
usually also part of a wider class group of other
learners, which may help or hinder (or indeed be
irrelevant to) the learning process.
- The Teacher, too has her or his own values,
preferred style of learning, history of learning the
Subject, and level of skill.
- All this takes place within a Context, which
may define the reasons for the teaching-learning (compulsory
schooling and the National Curriculum), the desired
outcome (expressive, as in "learning for its own
sake" or instrumental "I need the qualification
for a better job"), and the power relationship
between the Teacher and the Learner(s).
model is explored in much more detail on the Doceo site
In different situations, the balance between the three main
components may be represented through three points of a triangle
of varying configuration.
One basic model represents the common situation where
the Subject is at the top, indicating that it determines
the structure of the Teacher and Learner relationship, but
the Teacher comes next — the servant of the Subject, but
the master/mistress of the Learner. Very broadly speaking,
this may be consistent with cognitive approaches to learning.
In another variant, on the other hand, the Teacher
is clearly in the dominant position, managing the relationship
between the Subject and the Learner. Socially, either the interests
of the Learner or the demands of the Subject or both may be
subordinated to the requirements of the Teacher: this may be
the kind of situation which obtains in schools where there is
a substantial issue of control, and where the selection and
interpretation of the Subject matter may be in the hands of
the Teacher. The relatively greater importance of compliance
rather than understanding may suggest a behaviourist
approach. In contrast, however, it may also be the model of
apprenticeship, or of
learning, where the Teacher is the “community of
It can be contrasted with a further pattern, which is more
analogous to supervision of a dissertation or thesis: the relationship
between Learner and Subject is close, and the two are in a dominant
position. The role of the Teacher is simply to provide a service
to the Learner's work with the Subject. As you might expect,
this is consistent with humanist approaches.
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Clearly there are many other possible variations: it
is instructive to try to map out one's own work in this
way, perhaps starting by playing around with three different
coins. Proximity and dominance present two basic dimensions
to start with. One can look at the situation as it is, and
then how you would like it to be, and try to work out what
is involved in getting from one to the other!