The Causal Link between Teaching and Learning: Some Metaphysical, Ethical and Political Considerations
McDonnell, Cyril (2010) The Causal Link between Teaching and Learning: Some Metaphysical, Ethical and Political Considerations. In: Yearbook of the Irish Philosophical Society (2009). Irish Philosophical Society, pp. 43-63. ISBN 978-0-9531706-8-5
This article argues that whether we maintain that there is, or is not a causal link between teaching and learning has very important implications on both what we determine and how we identify as relevant, pertinent ethical considerations of responsibility and accountability for learners and teachers involved in the educational process. Much reflection on the relation between teaching and learning today, however, unfolds in the wake of the Humean critique of causality, denying any real causal link or ‘necessary connection’ between teaching and learning. This article explains firstly the application of the Humean critique to the analysis of the relation of teaching and learning and elaborates on some implications of this way of looking at teaching and learning. Against this Humean way of understanding and analysing the relation of teaching and learning, the article argues for the view that there is a causal link between teaching and learning, but it stresses the complexity of that causality and the need for drawing a distinction between principal and instrumental-secondary causality, a distinction that is found in the writings of St Thomas Aquinas and elaborated by H. C. McCauley. The activities of teaching and learning do not, however, unfold outside of the society in which and of which they are an integral part. Thus the final section of this article provides an evaluation of the analysis of teaching and learning, raising some questions about the way power is organised in society and its critical role in understanding the relation between teaching and learning.
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