Learning Versus Teaching

Learning and teaching are the foundation of education and training.  Most of us tend to place teaching first in the paradigm and say teaching and learning.  It is as though there is a tacit belief that teaching is the more important of the two activities.  Both learning and teaching are extremely important and generally go together but it can be easily argued that learning is more important than teaching.  In fact, learning often occurs  without teachers in situations where students learn by experience or by their own efforts.  Here is a list of generally accepted reasons why learning is more important than teaching.

  • Teaching is not a goal in itself.  One does not teach for the sake of teaching a great lesson.  The purpose of teaching is to bring about learning and one can go as far as to say that teaching that does not increase learning or monitor learning is a waste of time.
  • Teachers do not control the entire learning process.  There are many other factors which determine whether students learn various subjects or not, such as future career goals, parental or peer influence, and how they feel about the teachers.
  • Students have to want to learn.  They must be motivated one way or another.  Teachers cannot teach those who are unwilling to learn.  Remember the old adage “you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.”
  • Teaching methodologies must be varied by teachers to accommodate the different individual learning styles of students.  There is no one-size-fits-all teaching method.  Student type dictates teaching method.
  • Teaching performance is generally measured by gains in student learning.  Not by the teaching itself.
  • The ultimate goal of teaching is to enable learners to teach themselves, in order to become life-long learners.
  • The best teachers remain perpetual learners.  They update their knowledge and teaching skills on a continuing basis.

It follows from the reasons above, that learning and students are the most important elements in any school.  Teaching should therefore be student and learning centred.  Teachers and school administrators exist because of students or learners.  This is the perspective and priority that schools need to project.  In some schools one can almost get the impression that learning and learners are of secondary importance in comparison with teachers and administrators.  This is not the right focus.  Decisions should be made on the basis of what is best for the learners.

Despite my contention that learning is more important than teaching, the two activities are closely connected and effective teaching is a vital component of education.  This post, Learning Versus Teaching is intended as a closer look at the relationship between the two.

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12 thoughts on “Learning Versus Teaching

  1. I am a lifelong learner. I have also been a teacher or trainer for much of my adult life. Your comments ring true. Teaching is leading and motivating others to learn. Learning is accomplished by the individual’s effort. I cannot make anyone learn. They must put in the work. I only wish more people would see the value and joy that comes from gaining knowledge of information and skills outside their norms.

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  2. Your comments are confusing! Although most of your statements are true–I think the issue of Leadership is what we ought to be discussing. Great leaders bring about results. Learning without “expert” leadership is haphazard “at best”. The goal of education must be to help students realize their “full” potential. Great teachers Inspire others to learn; perhaps teaching is … and learning is the …?

    Is the meal more important than the chef planning your dinning experience?

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    • I am glad that you accept that most of my statements are true and I value your professional opinion. I mentioned the vital importance of effective teaching in my post and commented on the connection between teaching and learning. However, I am sure that you have come across cases in which great teaching was lost on unmotivated or uninterested students. Furthermore, there are situations in which the students of poor teachers get good test results because they compensate for the teachers’ deficiencies by forming self-help study groups, asking others for assistance or taking private lessons. Many students also realize their full potential by learning to teach themselves through metacognitive and other means, in addition to following their teachers’ instruction. Indeed, these students are often ahead of the class and teachers’ lesson plans.

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  3. I love the comments and I must add that indeed learning is more important than teaching. we can learn different things without the assistance of the teacher, a teacher can come in the classroom and give instruction, whether knowledgeable or not, but still learners fail to understand what the teacher has said.

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  4. Its actually true. if learners are not willing to learn and that they do not put effort on what they are taught then learning cannot take place

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  5. learning is by far more important than teaching. It makes you discover many things while teaching depands always on skilful teachers to be understood.

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