working with

People are not machines or objects that can be worked on like motor cars. They have to be worked with.

Our relationships are human and as such involve all sorts of emotions and values. We engage with situations that are each different in some way, and often messy and unpredictable. The thing that makes us special as educators is the way we are able to draw on our skills and knowledge, to inform these by a commitment to work for what is good, and to improvise. It is this quality that we call artistry.

prodproc.jpg (9755 bytes)

To think about these matters we begin with a simple diagram that shows education as a sort of production line. If we think about something like health promotion we can see how this might work. The input might be people who have little or no knowledge about what makes for a healthy diet. Through engaging in a process with others (including us as educators) they become more aware of diet and different types of food. The outcome, hopefully, would be people who are more aware of what healthy eating comprises.

Looking at the diagram can help us focus on two very different approaches to educating. One is concerned with outcomes (a product approach) and the other with interaction (a process approach). The process approach can either be made formal via a curriculum or driven by dialogue. 

infedcov.jpg (18462 bytes)Taken from Tony Jeffs and Mark K. Smith (2005) Informal Education. Conversation, democracy and learning, Nottingham: Educational Heretics Press.

© Tony Jeffs and Mark K. Smith
First published November 1999. Last update: July 08, 2014