> What are the most important things in teaching?
> Richard V. Mancuso
This question was posted at the listserv for the AAPT Committee on Teacher Preparation (subscription is available at
I’ve been searching for the answer to this question since 1989, when I started my teaching career.
October, 29; I am reading CTP-L letters, the thought suddenly strikes me – The answer to the question is - There is no answer to this question.
As well as to questions like “what are the most important qualities for being a good teacher?”, or “what is the best teaching approach or technique?”
The quest for an answer to questions like that is similar to the quest for a philosopher’s stone. And the answer is the same, i.e., an educational philosopher’s stone does not exist.
And my PhD in Education is a PhD in educational Alchemy (which is nice to have too).
There a many different and mainly equally important components of teaching, but constructing an “educational periodic table” would be much more complicated task than constructing the periodic table in chemistry, because the system is much more complicated and (at least) not two dimensional. We can extract underlying principles and fundamental components of a teaching practice (knowledge of the subject one teachers, knowledge or the mental processes happening into a brain of a learner; knowledge of the laws underlining psychological processes during communication between a teacher and a learner or between learners; ability to motivate; ability to understand an inner world of a learner; ability to understand obstacles a learner is experiencing when learning; ability to offer an effective help; ability to construct an effective learning path; ability to manage learning and communicative processes in the class; ability reflect on the own practice; desire to give the maximum to every student – just for a beginning), but we cannot construct one universal and perfect teaching ensemble working for everybody and in any learning environment.
We have urban schools and suburban schools; in turn they can be big and small or medium; racially uniform (with a major specific racial component), racially non-uniform (50% by 50%; 30% by 70%; 30% by 35% by 35%); with a relatively stable-at-the-town or fluent parents; we can have many different types of classes, a class with 100 % of highly motivate students; a class of 30 % highly motivated – 30 % mildly motivated – 30 % unmotivated - and 10 % actively opposing; in turn we can have a class of 50 % fast thinking students and 50 % slow thinking; a class of 25 % fast-memorizing-and-fast-forgetting - 25 % fast-memorizing-and-slow-forgetting - 25 % slow-memorizing-and-fast-forgetting – and 25 % slow-memorizing-and-slow-forgetting; - I bet, everybody can add more parameters to this many dimensional Venn diagram.
Probably, the question “What are the most important things in teaching the class of …… students in ….. school” could have been answered, but it seems to me that we (me, at least) still have some troubles even to post the question itself, which seems to me as an interesting problem.