Friday Focus!

Teaching : Art or Science

January 15, 2016

When you look at the truly effective teachers, you will also find caring, warm, lovable people. Years later, when the students remember their most significant teachers, the ones that they remember the most are the ones who really cared about them. Effective teachers know that they cannot get a student to learn unless that student knows that the teacher cares. (Wong & Wong, 1998)

Quotes like the one above from Wong and Wong relate to the art of teaching more than the science of teaching. This remains my primary passion related to education: the “artistic” abilities necessary to become and remain an outstanding educator and living “The Almadina Way” by caring deeply for our students. However, it is important to note that the subtitle to Wong and Wong’s now famous work that is accessible to every teacher at Almadina Ogden Campus, The First Days of School, is How to Be an Effective Teacher.

Although the art of teaching is my own primary area of interest, one which goes a long way toward making one an effective teacher, we must also examine the science of teaching—focusing on research that sheds light on what makes some teachers more effective, effi­cient, and relevant than other teachers. In one of the first graduate classes I ever took, I learned that teachers who were identified as ex­emplary possessed six common characteristics (Rice & Taylor, 2000):

  •       Knowledge of content
  •       Planning skills
  •       Use, after selection, of appropriate materials
  •       Classroom management skills
  •       Human relations skills
  •       Instructional skills

Obviously, the qualities listed above are not new. In addition, all but one is necessary for success in any line of work, not just teaching. The one characteristic unique to the teaching profession is instructional skills. What exactly are “instructional skills”? Rice and Taylor (2000) identified these five core instructional skills:

  •    Selecting an objective at or near the correct range of difficulty and level of complexity
  •    Teaching to the objective
  •    Maintaining the focus of the learner on the objective
  •    Monitoring and adjusting

The science of teaching, then, comprises these four instructional skills. No matter what subject or grade, these skills remain constant. Both the kindergarten teacher and the algebra teacher must select objectives at or near the correct range of difficulty and level of complexity. Elementary and secondary teachers need to teach the objectives while maintaining the focus of the learners on those objectives. The principles of learning are pres­ent in any instructional lesson, and all effective teachers monitor and adjust their lessons as situations arise.

An often debated topic in many of my education classes revolved around whether effective teaching is an art or a science. Personally, I have always focused more on the art of teaching than the science of teaching. However, in reality, the two are equally important as well as interrelated. Many of us at Almadina Middle School are artists at the craft of teaching.

Even the most sterling teaching performance may prove meaningless unless such a perfor­mance is based upon a sound scientific knowledge base. At the same time, the most scientifically sound lesson in the history of peda­gogy will prove fruitless in terms of student learning if the teacher is not proficient in the art of teaching. Because Almadina is staffed by teach­ers who are both artists and scientists, we are able to Teach with Pas­sion each day.

Happy Weekend!