Thinking about the technical and the personal in teaching
This article is about current discourse regarding teaching and its regulation and reform. I argue that underlying most positions in current debates are two competing visions of teaching—one technical and the other personal. Technical teaching is manifested in recent developments in English education—for example, the National Curriculum, National Primary Strategy, accountability measures, and the drive for evidence‐based practice. Advocates of personal teaching tend to oppose these developments, which they see as ‘deprofessionalising' teachers and ‘dehumanising' educational relationships. I explore these two competing visions, examining their assumptions and assessing their strengths and weaknesses. Technical teaching and personal teaching are manifestations of broader worldviews, which I call instrumental rationality and experiential wisdom, respectively. Each vision captures critical aspects of teaching, yet each is also partial and problematic: teaching cannot and should not be reduced to either. Moreover, seeing the world in terms of one vision often blinds us to the realities and possibilities revealed by the other. When discourse is polarized between these two visions, conceptions of teaching methods and expertise are distorted, and critical questions regarding the interaction of teachers and teaching methods are eclipsed. I conclude the article with an illustration of how technical and personal teaching could be integrated in the design of curricular materials.
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