In this post, we shall consider the question of whether pedagogy is a science, a technology or an art of teaching but first we will define the three before we will come to an answer for the question.
What is “Science”?
Science is a “systematic study of anything that can be examined, tested and verified” (Burnie, 2009, p. 1). The word has its origin in the Latin word SCIRE, which means “to know”. From the above definition of science, we can infer that the characteristic features of a scientific study include the following, among others, that:
- it is systematic, implying that it is not done haphazardly;
- it is examinable or observable;
- it is testable or verifiable; and
- it is replicable.
Moreover, the scientific method is based on repeated experiments, data collection and analysis, as well as hypothesis formulation (Burnie, 2009). Some branches of science are the:
- Mathematical sciences, including: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, etc.
- Physical sciences, including: physics, chemistry, biochemistry, etc.
- Earth sciences, including: geology, geography, mineralogy, etc.
- Life sciences, including: biology, physiology, ecology, etc.
- Medical sciences, including: cardiology, urology, pathology, etc. and
- Social sciences, including: sociology, psychology, anthropology, etc.
What is “Technology”?
The word “TECHNOLOGY” can be traced back to two Latin words: “TEKHNE“, which means “a craft or an art”, and “LOGIA“, which means “an area of study”. Literally, therefore, “TECHNOLOGY” translates into “the study or the science of crafting” (Merritt, 2009, p.1). Generally, technology signifies “the process by which human beings fashion tools and machines to increase their control and understanding of the material environment”(Merritt, 2009, p.1). Beyond this, it also entails the building of systems. As “a science of crafting”, it thus unites with art, since crafting is in the realm of the arts.
What is “Art”?
The word “ART” signifies a creative human product, involving the shaping or moulding of specific objects, conveying a mood, an idea or an emotion. These could be expressed visually, in form of crafts, decorations, photography, painting, sculpture, and architecture, among other forms of visual expressions. Some writers include music, poetry, drama and even dance, in their definition of art. (Barnes, 2009, p.9). So far, we have gone through the meanings of three major concepts: Science, Technology, and Art. Based on the various definitions, the question now is where does Pedagogy belong? Where do you think it belongs? Ok, keep reading and find out!
Is Pedagogy Science, Technology or Art?
Pedagogy has been defined severally and simply as “the practice of teaching” or “the study of teaching” (Dictionary of Contemporary English for Advanced Learners, 2009, p. 1283). Even one of the most recent definitions of the concept states that “it is the study of teaching methods” (Peel, 2014, “pedagogy” in Encyclopedia Britannica, 2014, p.1). But, since there is an independent module devoted to teaching, a comprehensive discussion of the concept has been posted on this website. Click here and here to read about it. As regards our original question of whether Pedagogy is Science, Technology or Art, a critical review of our submissions under each of the concepts presented earlier, shows that although, Pedagogy is neither a purely scientific, nor a purely technological, nor a purely artistic discipline; it has a peculiar feature of combining the characteristics of each of the three main fields. Emphasizing the unique nature of teaching, as a process that is capable of accommodating the peculiarities of science, technology and art, Smith (2012) refers to pedagogy as partly involving:
- the art of teaching, because of its responsive, creative and intuitive components;
- the craft or technology of teaching, for the skills and techniques it involves and
- the science of teaching, because it is about research-informed decision making, and because of its theoretical underpinning
This is to say that Pedagogy has elements of science, technology and art because it is based on sound scientific research outcomes; it involves techniques and procedure; and it also involves being responsive and creative, and the use of intuition to back up underlying theoretical assumptions. It should also be recalled that educational technology is now an integral component of pedagogy.
In conclusion, we can raise the pertinent question of how the scientific, the technological and the artistic components of teaching interact harmoniously within the discipline of pedagogy.
The theoretical aspect of pedagogy refers to the pool of research findings of teaching since theories are evidence-based, they give rise to certain tenets and axioms regarded as the scientific foundations of teaching, which provide professional convergence among scholars of pedagogy. One such axiom is that effective and lasting teaching involves more of cultivation and less of inculcation or indoctrination.
The science of teaching gives rise to a body of time-honoured and time-tested principles which determine the craft or technology of teaching. One such principle is that teaching must proceed systematically from the known to the unknown so that learning can be facilitated, consolidated and inter-connected. However, pedagogical or educational technologists have less points or convergence than pedagogical scholars or scientists.
The art of teaching is the teacher’s actual classroom practice as influenced by the pedagogical principles. How the teacher applies research findings and interprets pedagogical principles in the complex context of the classroom depends on his/her level of education, creativity, resourcefulness, empathy and other aspects of his/her personality. The art of teaching therefore unfolds in the theatre of the classroom where the individual differences of teachers give rise to divergence in practice. In sum, teaching practitioners converge more or less in theory and principle, but diverge most in practice, when theories and principles are being implemented.
The feedback loop linking Practice back first to Principles and ultimately to theory implies that the classroom experience of committed and conscientious teachers can lead to constructive criticism of principles and theories so that they are either totally jettisoned or refined from time to time as new ideas and insights emerge.
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