Teaching and Education

I’ll probably upset a lot of teachers and education experts by using these terms in the way I’m about to – but I’m writing this for the rest of us.  I’m going to use them to focus on differences in approach in an attempt to show how we often undersell professional development.

Teaching, for my purpose here, is the transfer of information.  It can be in a classroom or on-the-job, one-to-one or one-to-many, delivered in person or by computer – the essential feature is that it is one-way and relies solely on the expertise and understanding of the teacher.  The student will learn no more than the teacher knows (and, given that learning will rarely be perfect, the teacher remains the “go-to” expert).

This technique is commonly used for short courses, skills training and CBT (computer based training).  The teacher imparts information to the student, who may then test it out and be examined on understanding.

Education, again for my purpose here, is the development of understanding.  As for teaching, it can achieved (in part) in the classroom or workplace, one-to-one or one-to-many, delivered in person or otherwise.  However, it does not rely solely on the teacher’s knowledge.  The teacher certainly needs to be able to impart key information but focus is then on the student using and developing it further.  If well managed, the student can graduate with a greater understanding (in some aspects) as the teacher.

This is most often, though not exclusively, the delivery mode for longer courses, often leading to a formal qualification, such as a diploma or degree.  In these, the course will cover cover a range of topics around a core theme, developing a broad understanding.  Also, whilst there may often be exams to assess understanding, these are accompanied (and sometimes totally replaced) by assignments and research projects – the pinnacle, perhaps, being the PhD thesis.

Teaching focuses on increasing the pool of what you know you know; education focuses on expanding the pool of knowing what you don’t know.  An expert is sometimes described as a person who knows a lot about a little (or more and more about less and less); to me, it’s somebody who knows his or her limitations!

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