While issues associated with pedagogy have been a focus of my research over a number of years, this chapter was sparked by a recent exchange with my teenage son whose offhand comment whilst playing the guitar set me wondering about the nature of the pedagogic relation. I was impressed by a guitar riff he had been playing from a song by his latest favourite band and asked him how he had managed to learn it. ‘I’ve been teaching myself ’, he said. Seeking clarification given he was attending weekly guitar lessons I replied, ‘So you’re not learning this with Matt?’. ‘Nope, I taught myself ’, he repeated. Despite mastering the guitar riff independently of his teacher I was interested that he’d chosen to say he was teaching himself rather than that he had simply learnt the riff himself. Hoping he could shed some light on the pedagogic relation of teaching and learning, I asked him about his choice of words and what was different about these two processes: teaching and learning. He pointed out that ‘you learn from somebody and it seemed a bit passive and teaching was more active’. So I said ‘If you can teach yourself why do you need Matt?’. ‘Without him’, he replied ‘I wouldn’t be as disciplined to learn. I’d have to rely on my own will power’. Though my son had taught himself the riff, it seemed Matt, his teacher, still figured in the process. His ability to teach himself was a product of having been taught. His teacher had not only taught him the necessary skills to play, he also appeared to have instilled the discipline and desire to do so. The independent act of teaching himself the riff was predicated on a prior dependence. While my son summed this up as ‘being passive’, this passivity amounted to an openness to instruction and an active engagement with what he was learning whereby he acquired the skill, interest and drive to persist in teaching himself; at the same time knowing that Matt was there to support him. As a result of the issues raised in this exchange I began to think about whether a teasing out of what constitutes teaching and learning, and the relation between the two, really matter in understanding pedagogy. Do they help in unpacking pedagogy or, more specifically, broader notions of cultural pedagogies that are our focus here? Debates around pedagogy ultimately rest upon the question of the role of an other and the self in
the production of the self, with the other entailing the human and nonhuman, animate and inanimate. In the case of my son mastering a guitar riff, for example, there is not only his prior and ongoing pedagogic exchanges with his teacher to consider but those with his guitar and a range of pedagogic tools: online instructional videos, YouTube clips, sheet music, together with the advice of his friends with whom he would often jam, mimicking their favourite bands. Teaching may not necessarily result in learning but can learning occur without teaching and how semantically flexible are these terms? This chapter engages with these questions. Through an examination of different conceptions of pedagogy, it aims to shed light on the teaching/learning relation, before considering the utility of ‘the pedagogic’ as a tool for explicating aspects of cultural practice more broadly.