A problem that I have with theory is the ease of switching between theory as a framework for understanding the world and theory as a critical lens for evaluating the world. The former concept privileges epistemic claims, and the latter concept privileges ontologic claims. In “Is Teaching Still Possible?”, Ann Berthoff wants to clarify the ontologic errors of overusing cognitive theories to understand and to categorize students. This want is evident as Berthoff dismantles applications of Piaget and the theory of child development to students who ought not be considered children.
To counteract the effects of “development models uncritically deployed” (314), Berthoff proposes a pedagogy of knowing. The pedagogy emerges from an interesting triadic exercise. Hopefully, we have all sketched the two triangles after grappling with the distinctions. While I do not understand the visual, I desire to know how the pedagogy of knowing proposes to situate engagement in the classroom. For this pedagogy, the stage model is clearly a “muffin tin” (308) waste of time. Instead, “we will encourage the discovery of mind by assuring that language is seen not as a set of slots, not as an inert code to be mastered by drill, but as a means of naming the world; of holding the images by whose means we human beings recognize the forms of our experience; of reflecting those images, as we do on other words.” (320). This explanation prompts many questions for me, and the questions stem mostly from grappling with the theory underlying the pedagogy. Language as “fill in the blank” (slot filling) is an empty gesture. But I am not certain how to grasp language in Berthoff’s description. In part, I find the fault in my own conflating, perhaps mistakenly, of eliding between making ontologic claims (language is X) and epistemic claims (language permits X and Y).
Question: Berthoff creates a strong theoretical stance against empiricism by associating the concept with positivism. What is empiricism?
Question: The pedagogy of knowing depends greatly on the concept of engagement yet the term remains elusive. What is engagement?