chapter  7
11 Pages

What is teaching?

The question with which this chapter is concerned is simply ‘What is teaching?’. How do we distinguish teaching from other activities? This is, I think, a very important question for at least four reasons. First, a lot of new educational methods are now widely canvassed in which the significance of teaching is far from clear. Repeatedly one finds an almost exclusive emphasis on certain activities of the pupils, say those of enquiry, discovery and play, not on the activities of the teacher. In the discussion of such methods it seems to me there is much misunderstanding of what teaching is and therefore of what it involves, and this not infrequently leads to a very distorted view of the whole educational situation. Second, people are now aware of a range of activities, some of them thought to be morally undesirable, whose relation to teaching is by no means clear: activities like indoctrinating, preaching, advertising and propagandising. There are many terms that are as it were in the same logical band as ‘teaching’, and we are I think rightly getting more sensitive as to whether or not the activities these terms label ought to go on in school. If we can get clearer about the nature of teaching it will surely help us to see the character of these other processes and their inter-connections. Similar problems are raised by the use of teaching machines and other devices, not to mention sleep-teaching.