We are used to coming across the phrase “seeing is believing” on a pretty regular basis. It is assumed to mean that the most important basis for taking anything to be true is to have a direct experience of it. However, is there something to be said for a positive role for belief as a precursor to understanding and learning? Here I do not mean belief in the purely propositional sense, belief that; but belief in, a commitment to the value of a specific educational endeavour. St Augustine’s well known statement, credo ut intelligas (I believe that I may understand), may only originally refer to a theological context but its relevance to learning in general is worth exploring.
There is no shortage of evidence which suggests that believing in the value of what you are being taught is an essential prerequisite to high quality learning. This may seem like stating the obvious but as teachers we all know how the undervaluation of our subject may lead to consistent under-achievement. An acceptance of and commitment to the value of what is being taught and learned is too often taken for granted by the educational establishment but those assumptions can be detrimental to both the quality of teaching and learning taking place.
It is therefore imperative that as teachers we consistently demonstrate a commitment to the value of what we teach. Students will quickly spot those of us who are going through the motions, or who are delivering lessons as a matter of dull routine. This of course requires an ongoing dedication to the noble task of teaching and a determination to become ever more proficient masters of our craft. Students will not believe in our expertise and skill unless we embody that same self-belief ourselves.
Conversely, students will always learn better and more deeply if they believe in themselves. Inspiring young minds is one of the most common motivation for entering the teaching profession; continuing to inspire self-belief, self-confidence and self-esteem should be one of the key goals of everyone involved in education. This is the surest way of ensuring that students give themselves the best possible chance when it matters. TOK plays a unique role in this and, properly delivered, it will enhance students’ enjoyment of and appreciation for learning; TOK gives them the tools to understand the nature of knowledge and the confidence to use them in every subject and in every aspect of their lives.
Inspiring self confidence and self esteem is easier said than done I hear you say, especially when manifold pressures are constantly stemming the wellspring of energy and enthusiasm needed to produce inspiring lessons day in day out. This I grant you, but I would argue that inspiration is a state of mind. It is the decision to believe in ourselves as educators and to believe in our students as learners. To instil a love of learning for its own sake as well as for the achievements it can bring about is daily act of faith, so go on – take the leap.