In the ancient Chinese view of the universe, there are two principles that permeate nature: yin and yang. They exist in dynamic equilibrium, in a constant ebb and flow of continual changes. When in balance, yin and yang generate harmony, health, vitality. When their balance is ruptured, the vital energies are disturbed, and disease, deterioration, stagnation result.
I see teaching as composed of two processes: translation and transformation. Like yin and yang, they are the forces that animate what we do as teachers. When in balance and harmony, they yield teaching that is scholarly, vibrant, pulsating with life. If either one is disrupted, our teaching is impoverished.
The translation process consists of facilitating our students' access to our field of knowledge. Effective teachers enable the students to "read" the foreign text of a discipline, so that they understand not only the concepts (the "vocabulary" of the field), but also the laws that permeate their interaction (the "grammar" and "style" of the area). In order to be good "translators," we must strive for what Shulman calls the "pedagogy of substance." Knowledge of the field does not, by itself, make a master teacher; we must also achieve pedagogical mastery, the knowledge of how to translate the concepts and theories of a field in terms that can be understood by our students. Moreover, the pedagogy of substance requires flexibility: we should be able to teach our concrete, specific students, with their particular potentials and limitations, and not just an abstract, "ideal," hypothetical student.
Translation, in other words, is the yin of teaching, the process that leads to understanding. It is necessary for learning, but not sufficient. For true life-long learning to occur, we have to help our students to go beyond the mind, beyond understanding, and reach into their hearts. We have to become "match-makers," and help them fall in love with the discipline. We need transformation -- the yang of teaching.
In the transformation process, students capture the "zen" of the discipline. They become able to see the world through its special lenses, they perceive its connectedness with everything that exists. They not only read the "text," they create new text, by incorporating the concepts and theories of the field into their practical and intellectual lives. They learn to love the field, and teach us to see it through their eyes.
The yin of translation leads to understanding. The yang of transformation, to life-long learning. I seek, in scholarly teaching, the harmony of both. Understanding with love.