The Disappearing Teacher –& Teaching

A new, special issue of the free, online journal, Phenomenology & Practice, is out.

The theme of this issue is “the call of teaching.”

One excellent article in the issue is by Gert Biesta. It looks at a question that has long been of key importance in educational technology and in “learning theory.” This is the disappearance of teaching and the teacher (or his or her replacement by technology, as pictured above). Biesta develops some excellent points that are also related to arguments that I’ve made elsewhere regarding “the animal method of learning” and the new “language of learning.” He writes of

the disappearance—or at least the erosion—of a certain understanding of teaching and the teacher, [and of] an understanding in which it can be acknowledged that teachers are there to teach… [This is due, in part to] the language of learning and with the wider ‘learnification’ (Biesta, 2010a) of educational discourse …that… makes it far more difficult, if not impossible, to ask the crucial educational questions about content, purpose and relationships. The language of learning is unable to capture these dimensions partly because learning denotes a process that, in itself, is empty with regard to content and direction; and partly because learning, at least in the English language, is an individualistic and individualising term….

The language of learning, Biesta says, locates the teacher “at the same level as a book, the internet or any other ‘learning resource’ in that when we learn from such resources we go to them with our questions in order to find (our) answers.”

Through a series of cogent arguments, Biesta concludes that “…rather than to think of the school as a place for learning… we should think of it as a place for teaching. One can, after all, learn anywhere, but  …teaching is only ‘available’ in a very small number of places and the school is definitely one of them.

School, for Biesta, and also IMHO, is a context where content of teaching, the purpose of education and the relationships involved (between teacher and students, and among students) are all brought together. That’s at least one reason why this “pre-industrial institution” is still around in a post-industrial world.

There’s also plenty of other excellent articles in this special issue (11 in total)!

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