Your Professor's philosophical perspective on Teaching and Learning
There are many ways to define, describe, or otherwise characterize teaching and learning. There was a time when one's standing, esteem, if not perceived wisdom in the eye of colleagues, if not society at large, was in proportion to the amount of knowledge one had accumulated and memorized over time.
In the digital information age, somehow we have picked up on the idea that information is the most important part of learning and education. The sheer volume of content to memorize in order to pass a board exam is one of the defining traits of the curriculum in many professional schools. Think Law School, Medical School, or Veterinary School. But regardless of your professional training, most of what you do in life is not about memorizing information, but rather put your knowledge and skills to good use.
Here is an silly but insightful example. Do you remember who taught you — or should I say, how you learned — to tie your shoes? When you tie your shoes it isn’t so important to explain what you do and why it works. You just need to know how to do it. … The learning process and the teaching process are the two sides of the same coin. Whether you are the teacher or the learner your goals will not be fully completed without (a) a motivation to change, (b) relevant disciplinary content, (d) set standards of achievment, and (d) the will to practice and experiment in order to reach the goals.
It may be very interesting to know the theories, the concepts and the principles at play to explain the world around us; How they work and how they have been used by others before us (or may be after us) to change human life and the life-sustaining planetary systems we all depend upon. Yet, that type of knowledge is not enough and it won’t really help you make a difference in this world until you make use of that knowledge in your own life — and in your own way — to achieve good practical purposes for the greater good of all.
Rather than knowledge per se, there is not doubt that our modern society increasingly value interpersonal and professional skills demonstrated by specific achievements (however big or small they might be). Just as your mom and dad were so proud of you when you twisted the shoe laces into a nice-looking knot, you future employer will be looking for evidence of future success in your past accomplishments (make sure to work on that CV of yours!)
My point is that to create happiness in life you need to find ways to generate desirable products and outcomes from the knowledge and skills you have gained. For effective teachers and educators, high levels of achievements come with many years of "continuing education" (i.e., accumulated knowledge) combined with many years of trying to make it better every time you teach a class (i.e., accumulated experience). Transforming the life of our students through the empowerment that comes with the love of unfettered pursue of knowledge and skills is both an art and a science.
Michel Wattiaux, Madison, WI September 2020.