Those who argue over the nature of teaching often are arguing about the appropriate metaphor: are teachers artists, craft workers, intellectuals, technicians, babysitters, ... ? In the long run, I am not sure that the metaphors are that useful. (Then again, I read Howard Becker's Writing for Social Scientists my first year as a grad student, so I may have imbibed a distrust of metaphors from that book.) Instead, I'd argue for a close examination of how teachers make decisions.
There are a variety of ways in which people can and do make decisions, and perhaps one way of looking at teaching is matching up decision-making against these templates, perhaps creating some others, and seeing what is required for each to work successfully. The list below is not an attempt to be comprehensive or even fair:
- Improvisation. Jazz musicians start with a basic melody that is repeated, and then improvise either a solo or background.
- Scripting. Actors follow a script that is thoroughly rehearsed (for stage productions) or recorded repeatedly until satisfaction (for television, movies, etc.).
- Clinical best practices. Medical practitioners diagnose a case and follow best-practice guidelines for making decisions based on data for an individual.
- Open-source software engineering. Programmers divide tasks into modules, try to make a reasonably-working module available as soon as possible, and then use feedback from the user community to fix bugs, decide on further development, etc.
- Throwaway sketches. Designers sketch multiple disposable options before anything is produced, subject the ideas behind those sketches to a social critique, and winnow the options down to what is interesting and workable.