Good Teaching is about Tact, not Interaction or Scaffolding

Pedagogical tact has been a topic of significant international interest in educational discourse since it was initially defined by J.F. Herbart in 1802—specifically as a “quick judgment and decision” able to address “the true requirements of the individual case.” This paper begins by tracing the conceptual roots of pedagogical tact in Kant’s description of “logical tact” from 1789, and brings these into connection with more recent accounts, particularly those that stress importance of reserve, of holding back for the sake of the student’s independence. It then explores manifestations of this at once active and passive character of tact in terms of body’s own aporias—its simultaneity as physical and lived (Leib and Körper), as a “visible seer,” as “hearing and heard, touching and touched, moving and moved” (Merleau-Ponty 1968, p. 260; Waldenfels 2014, p. 49). By reflecting on a short video clip of pedagogical engagement (above), this paper develops the conclusion that this dual corporeal character is mirrored in the “reserved action” characteristic of pedagogical tact; and as such presents an alternative way of understanding questions of “interaction,” scaffolding and “proximal development.” It casts the teacher’s action not so much in terms of questioning, development and answering but about giving space for the student as an autonomous individual. Read the full proposal (3 pages).

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