Sage Advice: Art, or Science?

Is teaching an art, or a science?

Is teaching an art, or a science?

Teaching is an art; it involves emotions.

Ann Patterson

Hampton, Virginia

Of course the answer is both, but more art than science. A teacher can know all the best theories and methods, but applying them by relating to different personalities, keeping students engaged, building relationships, and balancing curriculum is definitely an art.

Jim Beyer

Warren Central Elementary School
West Lebanon, Indiana

Both. It is a science in that you can apply set principles and follow certain rules, but the real art comes when those principles and rules don't work on a student and you have to improvise.

Leigh Lewis

Special-education teacher
Los Altos High School
Los Altos, California

It depends on your philosophy of education -- behavioral, or humanistic? If behavioral, people can be conditioned to learn, and you only need to study the science behind that. If humanistic, you cannot be taught how to understand and connect with kids and adults, so it is an art. My answer: A good teacher is a work of art.

Kraig DeMatteis

Professional developer
Fordham University's RETC: Center for Professional Development
New York, New York

Certainly it is both -- part science and part art. But I suspect that it is the part that comes from the soul of a teacher that lingers in the learner, continuing to guide, inspire, and empower us as we forever strive to become better.

David F. Warlick

The Landmark Project
Raleigh, North Carolina

Teaching is a science because, as with an experiment, there are always variables to test; good teachers, like good scientists, are willing to adapt to doing their work in a different way if it doesn't work the first time. The goal is to learn -- even if by trial and error.

Brett Harvey

Science teacher
Crescenta Valley Science & Medicine Academy
La Crescenta, California

The best teachers are artists who know the science of teaching.

Richard Bankert

Eighth-grade science teacher
Waccamaw Middle School
Pawleys Island, South Carolina

Yes. As in science, theory and research build the foundation for what we as teachers do. However, it's the art that makes the difference between a good teacher and one who makes a lifelong impact on a student. That is the piece that's difficult to define.

Odin Jurkowski

Associate professor of library science and information services and educational-technology program coordinator
College of Education, University of Central Missouri
Warrensburg, Missouri

For me, teaching is both. You must be able to think like an artist to get the students truly engaged in what's being taught and have the skills of a scientist to analyze observations and assessment data to make sure learning is taking root.

Casey Landry

Third-grade teacher
Beard Elementary School
Fort Smith, Arkansas

Teaching is definitely a (performing) art: the gift and talent, the stage, the training, the commitment, the dedication, the script, the props, the audience, the responses, the spontaneity, the creativity, the flow, the adjustments, the supporting cast, and the exhilaration that comes from having performed exceedingly well.

Daryle D. Russell

Retired overseas educator
Bradenton, Florida

Good teachers are scientists. They have their college degree, state certification, lesson plans, and classroom-management procedures ready to go.

Great teachers are artists. They have "it." They make decisions based on the individual instructional needs of their students. They build relationships with students, parents, and colleagues.

The artists make an impression on our lives; the scientists fill our minds with facts. We remember the artists much more than the scientists.

Dan Murray

Wheatland-Chili Middle School
Scottsville, New York
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Jun 2007: The Daring Dozen
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Sage Advice