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.