Several years ago I was fortunate to have gotten to hear Dr. Pedro Noguera speak; not just once, but twice within the same year. Dr. Noguera is professor of education at New York University, Steinhardt. His research centers mostly around the challenges of urban education.
While Dr. Noguera bumped my thinking along several fronts, he provoked me mightily to consider and reconsider my position on the teaching-learning process by offering these assertions:
“Teaching and learning are the same process, not two different ones. If there is no evidence of learning, then there is no evidence of teaching.”
As an educator and a school administrator I had for many years advocated vociferously about the need for a broadened array of instructional strategies, improved teaching methods, reflective practice, pedagogical deployments and the like, all aimed at increasing the level of student learning.
But Dr. Noguera’s assertion catapulted me way beyond my previous level of thinking. His pithy provocation forced me to rethink my fundamental view of teaching and learning. By cutting to the very core of my beliefs, his assertions reinforced in a fundamental way that LEARNING is the ONLY desired outcome in that singular process, and that teaching is no more than the vehicle that moves us toward that outcome.
Moreover, his declarations have caused me to understand that teaching can never stand apart from learning. Never again can I comfortably say, “I taught it, they just didn’t learn it.” Nope, if I am to charade as a teacher, then the learning MUST follow. If it doesn’t, then I must reflect deeply about how I should adapt as a teacher and take the necessary steps to try again (and again and again – until the learning happens). At whatever point I choose to give up, or begin blaming the learner for lack of learning, then I have ceased being a teacher.
Ouch! (Growing is sometimes painful...)