Right Idea, Wrong Metaphor


There is a desire in education to get it right. We want to know how to teach and we want our students to learn the things they need to learn in order to be successful. In order to add rigor to the field of education, many have adopted the principles of science. Unfortunately, this metaphor (and while there are scientific aspects to education, the field as a whole cannot be called science, so science is a metaphor) doesn't work. I'm not entirely sure at this point why it doesn't work, but it isn't.

If we think of teaching as only an art, then we can easily talk ourselves out of being able to teach how to teach. In other words, while artists do learn techniques, some can do it and some cannot.

Surely there are artistic aspects to being a teacher and there are some people who are extremely gifted in this area. But everyone can become a decent teacher if we settle on a metaphor that is workable.

Engineering is a good metaphor because it suggests a learnable body of knowledge that teachers can access. This includes not only subject matter knowledge, but also teaching engineering knowledge. Engineers not only have a lot of knowledge about the materials they are working with, but they also have discretion--how to apply those materials to this particular project.

The behavioral science approach to teaching has been to franchise education via scripted programs.