Is Teaching an Art or a Science?

Updated on September 1, 2021 | by Alex Smith

The field of education is evolving rapidly. Every day we witness newer innovations in areas ranging from classroom technology, teaching methodologies, student evaluation and feedback, the role of teachers, and likewise. Newer modes of education have gained popularity in recent years. Especially, since the coronavirus pandemic, when schools and college campuses were shut down, locking millions of students and teachers out of the classroom, across the entire nation, the preferred mode of education has undergone a tectonic shift from traditional offline classrooms to online teaching apps. Within the span of a year or two, today we have many great online teaching platforms for teachers in India, which have largely simplified the task of teaching online through features like online teaching through mobile, digital whiteboards, teaching seamlessly even on low internet speed, automated attendance, automated fee collection system and likewise. One popular topic of discussion in pedagogy is whether teaching is an art or a science? I have heard people talk about this countless times, and I have participated in this discussion myself on quite a few occasions. The views have always been a mixed bag with some people considering it a science, while others consider teaching to be more of an art. As for me, I think that it has got a bit of both. Let us look at how teaching can be considered an art and a science at the same time, and what are the implications of each view on teaching styles and attitudes that a teacher should employ to enhance the student learning outcomes. 

Teaching As An Art

Teaching is certainly a creative undertaking that requires teachers to come up with innovative ways to manage their classrooms and achieve student engagement. Just as an artist or a sculptor meticulously chooses tools and materials to work with, an educator has the liberty to choose from a range of methods for teaching a class. The best of artists and teachers alike, often pose difficult questions through their art. A great artist uses his art to communicate his message to the audience and give them something to think about. Similarly, a good teacher has to be an effective communicator and always allow his students to ponder over his teachings. Just like an artist or a painter, the job of a teacher involves creating an orderly and organized whole from chaotic parts. As teaching is a job with deals with people, and a lot of them, therefore a teacher also needs personal skills as theoretical knowledge can’t help him out in every situation. This is where the comparison runs out of steam though. While looking at the finished work of an artist, we only look at it as a whole, the material and tools used by him in creating the art are not visible. However, the same can’t be said about teaching. Some people think that if teaching is an art, then teaching skills must be innate. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. First off, artists are not born that way but work their way to mastery through dedicated effort and willpower. Furthermore, teaching has nothing to do with any innate skill, it just requires educators to provide students an environment that is conducive to learning, empathy for students, an understanding of how humans learn, and a lot of hard work. 

Teaching As A Science-

The application of the scientific method in teaching is quite evident. The best teachers are very observant of their students and upon observation, they plan out a basic hypothesis about the best ways to teach the students. Further, they test their hypotheses through class activities, discussions, and assignments and assess their results. This is what the scientific method is all about, observe, hypothesize, experiment, and build upon the ideas which show positive results and discard the ones which do not. The scientific view of teaching is sometimes criticized as being impersonal as it reduces students to experimental subjects. After all, students have their own fears, strengths, weaknesses, joys, challenges, and sorrows. They can surprise us. The scientific view of teaching does take away some of the interpersonal interaction which makes teaching such a fruitful and amazing profession.

Therefore, it is evident that teaching is as much an art as it is science. It depends on the perspective of the individual and what he deems important.

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