Tenth International School on Mind, Brain and Education

2015 September 8-12


Directors of the School: Antonio M. Battro and Kurt W. Fischer
Directors of the Course: Sidney Strauss and Elena Pasquinelli
Program officer: MarĂ­a Lourdes Majdalani

Abstract: Sidney Strauss
School of Education. Tel Aviv University. Israel

Towards a theory of the cognition of teaching
Teaching is one of the greatest of human achievements. It is partially responsible for cumulative culture which is apparently unique to humans. Despite its centrality to our humanity, it has been quite neglected in the cognitive sciences.
Given the above, my talk has three purposes.
First, I will argue for the need for a wide-ranging, multi-disciplinary approach to the cognition of teaching. Each domain has the potential to add to our growing knowledge of what is involved in the cognition of teaching. The domains are brain-to-brain coupling, AI, non-human teaching, the ontogenesis of teaching from infancy through adulthood, teaching in small-scale non-WEIRD societies such as hunter-gatherers, cognitive archeology, cultural and biological evolution and more.
Second, I will present the idea that human teaching is a natural cognitive ability on the part of humans. Teaching is one of many kinds of social communication. It involves, at a minimum, a sender of a communication (a teacher) and the recipient of that same communication (a learner).
I will then tease apart two approaches for teaching being natural to humans.
One emphasizing the recipient (a learner), is termed "natural pedagogy". Gergely Csibra and Gyorgy Gergely claim that infants come into the world prepared to receive teaching as seen by their responses to ostensive communication.
The second emphasizes the cognition of the teacher who attempts to transmit knowledge, ideas, information to a learner. This approach is called "teaching as a natural cognitive ability". As an advocate, I will discuss one its aspects: ontogeny.
I will then attempt to show how these two claims for natural teaching (as a learner and as a teacher) can be mutually informative without either losing its core.
And third, I will present initial ideas of what could be included in the cognition of the pragmatics of teaching.