Outline of a theory of teaching: What teaching is, what it is for, how it works, and why it requires artistry

Gert Biesta*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

This chapter provides an outline of a theory of teaching through a discussion of three questions: what teaching is, what it is for and how it works. I discuss two popular myths about teaching: that teaching is outdated and that teachers should rather focus on supporting students’ learning, and that teaching is the most important factor in the production of measurable learning outcomes. Both views see teaching as a form of control, which is either rejected or embraced. The theory of teaching I outline, sees teaching as an act of communication which seeks to focus the attention of students, without assuming that such attention or what students do with it can be or should be entirely controlled. The purpose of teaching is to contribute to students’ qualification, socialisation, and their existence as responsible subjects of their own lives. Teaching requires structure and direction, but too much structure and direction turns teaching into indoctrination. Teachers need the ability to make situation-specific judgements about how to act and what to act for, which requires artistry or craftsmanship. Attempts to turn teaching into an evidence-based profession not just undermine teachers’ professionalism but also misrepresent what teaching is and ought to be about.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTheorizing Teaching
Subtitle of host publicationCurrent Status and Open Issues
EditorsAnna-Katharina Praetorius , Charalambos Y. Charalambous
PublisherSpringer International Publishing Switzerland
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9783031256134
ISBN (Print)9783031256127
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • artistry
  • complexity reduction
  • educational purposes
  • indoctrination
  • teaching


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