How are teaching and learning connected?

To some pedagogical experts, the connection between teaching and learning is quantifiable by standardization and can be measured. Curriculum theorists believe teaching and learning come from the experiences of a person. Essentially, for the most part, people are self-learners.

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There are many ways to think through the connection between teaching and learning.

One obvious way in which teaching and learning is connected is through the teacher doing the teaching and the students engaging in the learning process. Yet we can also see how students could become the teachers and the teachers become the learners.

In Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks writes about the importance of creating exciting classroom environments. She writes that such excitement "could not be generated without a full recognition of the fact that there could never be an absolute set agenda governing teaching practices."

In hooks’ theory on teaching, we might reason that who's doing the teaching and who's doing the learning is constantly changing. Perhaps there's even times when both students and teachers are simultaneously teaching and learning. That's part of what leads to an exciting learning environment. There's an unknown element—an element of suspense. As hooks says, "Agendas had to be flexible, had to allow for spontaneous shifts in direction."

Of course, we might see how in math or science it might be hard to constantly shift between teacher, learner, and directions. After all, ideally, the math teacher knows how to do something (like multiply fractions). Their job is to help the students learn how to do that something (like multiply fractions).

Yet there's probably a way to make math exciting. There's surely a way to make studying literature exciting. Here is where we can probably best apply hooks's ideas. Perhaps a student's perspective will change how a teacher thinks about a book. The student will help the teacher learn something new about a character or scene. Likewise, maybe a student was having trouble with a book and didn't like it until an engaged teacher helped the student learn how to better understand or grapple with the book.

We might say: the ideal connection between teaching and learning is a flexible connection where both learn and both teach.

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In hundreds of research studies of teachers, instruction, and pedagogical practice, the one clear finding is we do not know enough about how someone learns and to what extent teaching shapes learning. Generally, educators believe the advancement of learning comes when teachers consistently exhibit certain traits. There is a direct and positive correlation between teachers who exhibit these traits and student learning. No one argues that instructional strategies can enhance or detract from student learning. What is arguable is how to have consistency in teaching practice and measure student learning—the connection between teaching and learning.

The Core Curriculum movement and Standards-Based Classroom design was theoretically the bridge connecting teaching to learning. The theoretical driving concept is that every teacher adopts and consistently produces the exact same instructional environment by modeling exemplary teachers' practices. Once there is consistency in instructional practices or teacher efficacy (standardization), student learning becomes measurable by standardized assessments.

The correlation between instructional practice (teaching) and mastery of the curriculum (learning) is quantifiable. Quantifiable means educators can tweak instructional methods to maximize learning efficiency. If it all sounds very industrial, engineered, and manufactured, that's because it is! Nearly all of the teaching and learning concepts are behavioral theories. The theories have a historical basis in an industrialized notion of production and measurement of quality.

A more modern approach is the approach of curriculum theorists who believe the connection between teaching and learning is experiential. Learning is more than the assessment of discrete facts; it is how knowledge is applied to challenges presented daily. Think of it this way. The average student is in a classroom for approximately 1100 hours each academic year. If a student is in front of a teacher on task, 75% of the time, the student will have about 825 hours of actual instructional time.

The average teenager is on social media, computer, or watching television for approximately 1,560 hours per year (Some studies report significantly more.). Which do you think has a more significant influence on student learning? Curriculum theorists believe learning is a sum of all of a person's experiences. The connection to teaching occurs when the learning involves instruction directly related to a person's unique daily experience.

Experiential learning is much less quantifiable and assumes a person has a natural proclivity to learn even in the absence of direct instruction by a teacher. The old familiar adage is "experience is the best teacher." The connection between teaching and learning is personal and internalized by each unique person, as we all have different experiences. This in no way should be construed as denigrating towards teachers who improve their instructional practice. Next to classroom management, instructional practice is extraordinarily significant in developing students' academic and social learning needs.

Teaching is connected to learning when defined more broadly than what one gets in a classroom setting. Experience may be as relevant as, if not more important than, instructional practice if the practice is not related to how a student experiences life.

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Teaching and learning are closely interconnected in many ways. In some cases, a person learns when another person teaches them. The extent to which people learn, though, depends on the quality of the teaching. A good teacher is someone who takes the time to get to know their specific students and their needs and how they learn. In this way, the amount the students learn can be maximized. In this sense, a teacher is also always learning while teaching, as a teacher must learn how to reach their students most effectively.

In addition, a person can also learn something by teaching it. By teaching something to others, a person verifies that they understand the material very deeply. Only when someone understands a subject or material at this deep level are they able teach it to others. Therefore, teaching and learning are closely connected.

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