chapter  20
Key aspects of teaching and learning in arts, humanities and social sciences
WithPhilip W. Martin
Pages 23

The purpose of this chapter is not to provide a catalogue of classroom techniques, but to ask a series of questions about what it is that we do in the classroom, and why we do it. Two axioms provide the basis for this chapter. First, at the centre is placed the student as active subject. That is to say that there is no presumption here, at any point, that passive learning, or the consumption of knowledge, is at all possible within the arts and humanities. No colleague teaching in these areas would demur from the legitimacy of this axiom, yet, at the same time, some would also see it as an ideal proposition. Second, arts, humanities and social sciences are disciplinary fields which are heavily value-laden. That all education may be value-laden is doubtless a contention to be taken seriously (see Rowland, 2000: 112-14) but the point to be stressed is that the academic subject areas addressed in this chapter are cored through and through with ethical issues, social concerns, judgement, and the recognition of human agency, in a way that hotel and catering management, for example, cannot be, and in a way that physics, for example, may not be. So discussion of teaching and learning in these subject areas consistently acknowledges the high degree of volatility that derives from a rich constitutional chemistry: in these classrooms the validity of personal opinion, subjectivity, individual experience and creative scepticism mix with judgements about right and wrong, truth and untruth, order and chaos. Our task as teachers is to ensure that such judgements as emerge are best provided for by being well informed, and that this threshold of information is also served by a schooling in argument, the careful presentation and interpretation of evidence, and the identification of the valuable questions that need to be asked.