Achieving Competence, Success, and Excellence in Teaching

By Mark Brundrett; Peter Silcock | Go to book overview

2

What is good teaching?

First principles and counter-arguments

Introduction: two types of teaching

From time to time, all of us who live within communities become teachers. Directly or indirectly, we teach friends, children, siblings, acquaintances, strangers who need our help, whatever situations demand. And although we will differ in how seriously we take our pedagogic roles, through practice and—sometimes—through necessity, we will develop talents for communication, relationship, empathy, tolerance and so on which mediate the process of passing on knowledge and skills to others. We will become good, mediocre or poor teachers. But we will be teachers of a sort.

Professional teaching can be judged a special case of that informal teaching which becomes a passing brief for most of us. For although professional teachers must presumably bank on the same human talents for helping and informing others resorted to in less formal settings, they will also adapt these talents to larger, more diverse cohorts of students. Over time, complexities of preparing different sorts of learners for their future lives modifies skills otherwise acquired naturally, making professional teaching both similar to and distinct from lay teaching in the way skills are refined and deployed. This conclusion reminds us of how context constrains teaching; but it also reminds us of how long-term intention affects skill, since the reason why we ask professional teachers to work in institutions like schools has to include the special purposes such institutions have.

Arguably, it is the special purposes of professional teaching which entail its having to be organised within institutions so it can be systematically programmed and linked directly to its goals. This is a fairly obvious conclusion to reach, as the product of any sort of teaching must, somehow, call into existence suitable processes. If I teach a friend how to use a woodwork tool, I must have in mind how that tool can be used skilfully.

-14-

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