Upon hearing the word ‘teach’, the first image most of us have is that of a class being ‘taught’ by a figure of authority. Inherent to this visual is the dichotomy of a student and a teacher.
It remains an unstated assumption that the teacher and student are mutually exclusive entities, bound by a classroom for an exercise of learning, and/or hints perhaps only subtly that one cannot play the other. It is often a term that symbolizes a knowledge divide. More deeply, it also symbolizes knowledge as a static entity that has been passed from generation to generation.
The setup positions teacher as merely a disseminator of knowledge. Thus, teachers are bound by pressures of knowing everything and also delivering effectively. The teacher’s own learning is in improving on these two dimensions: subject matter and presentation. Or a combination that leads to a new discipline called pedagogy.
The student in this scenario becomes a subject; losing autonomy over thinking, simply being the clay to be molded. The scope of learning is determined outside of his capacities to seek what s/he wants to learn. Institutionally, curriculum establishment confines the stretch of curiosity. The expectation from students is receptivity, ironically a subject on which they are not often trained.
Learning in this model is reduced to an academic exercise. Inspiring curiosity is among the delivery burden of the teachers, and effective learning is a function of students’ hardwork. Definitely. there is something amiss in this model.
In fact, there was one question that bothered several teachers I interacted with: “Why is it that the way you learn the subject is not the exact way you prescribe your students to learn?” Almost all teachers confirmed, positively, that they put in abundant hours into preparing to deliver a class. And through the exercise, they learn not just the subject matter, but also stuff that matters such as what is not subject matter, and what is the best way to reason and articulate. The teachers’ learning is self-directed, objective-driven, and therefore more comprehensive.
Just imagine what might happen if the teachers’ learning journey is tracked as it is, and shown to the students. It is a matter of conjecture now, but I place my bets on the possibility that students would at the least have more appreciation for teachers’ efforts, and, additionally, might learn more than just the subject matter: and that is learning to learn. And then, just imagine if the students had the opportunity to showcase their learning journey to peers and teachers.
If the learning journey is the common denominator for conversation, wouldn’t learning be more yielding? Now, more than ever, technology enables this perspective on learning journey. But to realize the fruit of technology, both students and teachers must embrace the perspective of being learners first, and shed their roles assigned institutionally.