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Monday, June 22, 2015

What Is Teaching without Learning?

Dr. Maryellen Weimer, professor emerita at Penn State Berks writes, "When you take ideas to places of extremity, they become distorted. “It is not part of my job to make you learn,” Philosophy Professor Keith M. Parsons writes in his syllabus to first-year students. “At university, learning is your job—and yours alone. My job is to lead you to the fountain of knowledge. Whether you drink deeply or only gargle is entirely up to you.”"

Photo: The Teaching Professor Blog

Yes, students are responsible for learning. Teachers cannot learn anything for them. But what happens when the teaching and learning tasks are thought of as being separate—where I have my job and you have yours? That quickly pushes us to this place: If I do my job and you don’t do yours, it’s not my problem.

Photo: Keith M. Parsons
It’s a separation that raises the question of purpose: Does teaching have any reason for being if it doesn’t result in learning or promotes it intermittently? Learners don’t need teachers the same way teachers need learners. Learning can occur without a teacher, but teaching in the absence of learners is an activity without justification, it seems to me. In his Huffington Post article, Professor Parsons makes the point that teachers are paid the same whether students get As or Fs, but if many of a professor’s students are failing to learn, the larger issue is more moral than financial.

Moreover, when students enroll in a college or university, that’s at least a tacit acknowledgement that they want to learn from and with teachers. Professor Parsons is right—students come to learn from experts, those who can lead them to knowledge. But is that all students want or need? Is that all teachers have the responsibility to provide?
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Source: Faculty Focus


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