Talking is not Teaching

I was having a discussion with student in on of my education classes the other day. They were telling me about some of their experiences in their practicum–which is when they spend 20 hours during the term visiting a classroom. Their time hopefully is a mixture of observing the classroom, sort of educational ethnography if you will, and interacting with students. This comes in the form of tutoring individual students, assisting the teacher during classroom activities like labs and group work, working with small groups, and so on.

It’s interesting, and sometimes disappointing to listen to them talk about their experiences. This is especially true for some of the students placed in high school classrooms. “I don’t get to do anything, because all that happens is the the teacher talks the entire time.”

We had an interesting discussion about the difference between talking and teaching, which concluded the statement, “remember, talking is not teaching.” Unfortunately, for all too many teachers I have known, and for some of the students I am working with, this is a revolutionary statement. During my years as an administrator and teacher, I’ve heard too many teachers say in exasperation, “But I talked about (fill in the concept) over and over again, and they still didn’t get it on the test.” Well, no wonder I’ve wanted to say. “What have the students done? Not what did you do. You already know it, but they don’t.”

When you as a teacher tell your students the information, at best they will rent the knew knowledge from you and give it back to you on a test. It isn’t until they have to do something with it, construct some understanding and make some meaning will they actually own it.

This reminds me of a quote that underscores the basic element of California Indian pedagogy that I got from a book titled Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World. “When you teach someone something, you’ve robbed them the person of the experience of learning it. You need to be cautious before you take that experience away from someone else.”

Talking is not teaching.