A common expression says that it takes two to tango: Two partners are by definition understood to be essential to cooperate, to bargain, or to dance. The same is said to be true for learning: A teacher and a learner. One that guides and one that follows. Under certain circumstances by a series of rhythmic and patterned bodily movements. The more harmonious the better. However, our vision of learning goes beyond that. Conventional roles and rules are no longer appropriate when learning content is abundant while conditions where to apply this content are constantly changing.
Learning in the 21st century should promote engagement, curiosity, and experimentation. Those skills are not obtained by memorizing a piece of information but by developing a mental position towards an uncertain future or outcome. Less a matter of “knowing what” but of “knowing how.” Rather than being ‘instructed to’, learners should therefore be empowered to explore subjects by asking questions and creating solutions. This inquiry-based form of learning is more an adaptive philosophy than a strict set of how teaching is going to be conducted. However, that does not mean that learning happens in a free floating space. Despite the abundance of almost all learning content, self-education is a myth. Even the most dedicated autodidact needs a resonance space to apply her learnings. In fact, information only turns into knowledge through the interaction, the feedback and the guidance with the outside world. Learning is a social endeavor. That is how we are wired. The back and forth is essential to all successful personal development. In other words, teaching is not a one-way street but a rebound game in which the players alternately hit the ball into the other player’s half of the court. Just like tennis!
Tennis cannot be played alone. It needs a second player who brings her racket, accepts a few simple rules and then starts hitting the balls back that are served for her. The net in between is not a barrier but a metaphor for the shared and alternating responsibility of learning and teaching on both sides. There is no progress without effort. Struggle and discomfort is part of the game. Every player must own their game and is directly responsible for the outcome. However, it is not so much about winning or losing but about growing to become a better player. Learning, just like Tennis, is not a teamsport but a clubsport. A game played by committed individuals that share similar interests and gather in a club that provides the necessary framework for everybody to succeed.