Good teaching starts with an operational definition of teaching. There are three common views of what constitutes teaching: teaching as transmission, teaching as transaction, and teaching as transformation (Miller, 1996).
Teaching as Transmission
From this perspective, teaching is the act of transmitting knowledge from Point A (teacher’s head) to Point B (students’ heads). This is a teacher-centered approach in which the teacher is the dispenser of knowledge, the arbitrator of truth, and the final evaluator of learning. A teacher’s job from this perspective is to supply students with a designated body of knowledge or set of skills in a predetermined order. Academic achievement is seen as students’ ability to demonstrate, replicate, or retransmit this designated body of knowledge or set of skills back to the teacher or to some other measuring agency or entity. From this perspective standardized tests are considered to be an apt measure of students’ learning.
Teaching as Transaction
From this perspective, teaching is the process of creating situations whereby students are able to interact with the material to be learned in order to construct knowledge. Constructivism is an educational philosophy consistent with this view. Here, knowledge is not passively received; rather, it is actively built up or constructed by students as they connect their past knowledge and experiences with new information (Santrock, 2004). And just as each student’s past knowledge and experiences are different, so too is the interpretation, understanding, and meaning of the new information that each ultimately constructs.
Teachers are not expected to pour knowledge into the heads of learners; rather, they assist learners in their construction of knowledge and development of skills by creating experiences where students’ can use their current understand of knowledge and skills to learn new knowledge and skills. Academic achievement from a constructivist perspective is seen as students’ ability to use this knowledge and skills to solve real-world problems or to create products or performances that are valued in one or more cultural settings.
Teaching as Transformation
From this perspective, teaching is creating conditions that have the potential to transform the learner on many different levels (cognitive, emotional, social, intuitive, creative, transpersonal, and other). Transformational teaching invites both students and teachers to discover their full potential as learners, as members of society, and as human beings. The ultimate transformational goal is to help develop more nurturing human beings who are better able to perceive the interconnectedness of all human, plant, and animal life (Narve, 2001).
Learning is said to have occurred when educational experiences elicit a transformation of consciousness that leads to a greater understanding of and care for self, others, and the environment. Academic achievement from this perspective is similar to self-actualization. That is, it is perceived as discovering and developing each individual’s unique talents and capabilities to the fullest extent possible. Academic achievement also involves becoming aware of the multiple dimensions of self and expanding one’s consciousness.