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Course Detail

Course Name The DNA of Teaching
Course Code 24CLT661
Program M. Sc. Cognitive Sciences, Learning and Technology
Semester Elective
Credits 3
Campus Amritapuri


Teaching may be one of nature’s most remarkable inventions. In this course, we will explore potential answers to the questions: why do we teach in the first place? And what has to be in place intellectually, interpersonally, emotionally, ethically and more for teaching to occur?

Course Objectives and Outcomes

Course Objectives:

The main aims and objectives of the course are to investigate the underpinnings of teaching and enable students to gain an understanding of how various disciplines can help us better achieve this understanding.

  1. Identify main questions asked about teaching
  2. Identify issues in the various sciences that inform us about the ontology of teaching
  3. Be cognizant of answers to the questions provided by various sciences
  4. Recognize open questions and potential avenues of exploration to provide answers

Course Outcomes:

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • CO1: Understand why theories and research in the cognitive sciences are not independent of philosophical issues.
  • CO2: Recognize questions in the cognitive sciences and their philosophical underpinnings.
  • CO3: Have a working acquaintance with various solutions in philosophy that have been offered for issues in the cognitive sciences.

Course Outline

  • What is Teaching?
    • How do we define teaching?
    • What separates teaching from other forms of communication?
  • A Map of Philosophy’s Domains
    • What is the ontology of teaching?
  • What fields can help us understand teaching?
    • What does each field contribute to our understanding of teaching?

Course tools to deepen understanding and knowledge acquisition

  • Reading professional literature
  • Classroom discussions of readings
  • Students will present an issue in teaching in class and lead a discussion about it.
  • Students will write an essay on an issue about teaching.

Methods of Assessment

  • Class participation
  • Each student will give an oral presentation of an issue in teaching. The presentation will be based on professional literature in addition to the course’s compulsory readings.
  • Each student will write a paper on an issue in teaching

Assessment Weightings

Class participation 10%
Class oral presentation 40%
A paper about philosophical assumptions regarding research studies in a particular area. 50%

Compulsory Reading Material

SECOND READING (Between our second and third meetings)THIRD
READING (Between our third and fourth meetings)

Class Meetings (10 meetings, each for 1.5 hours for a total of 15 hours)

Meeting 1

  1. Course presentation. Discussions of some issues that will appear in the course.
  2. ASSIGNMENT: Read the article.

Meeting 2

  • Discussion of the article.
  • ASSIGNMENT: Read the article.

Meeting 3

  • Discussion of the article.
  • Student discussions and decisions about what each tentatively wants to present in a future meeting.
  • ASSIGNMENT: Read the articles

Meeting 4

  • Discussion of the article.
  • Student discussions and decisions about what each will be presenting in a future meeting.
  • ASSIGNMENT: Student begin preparing the topic they chose to present

Meeting 5

  • Student discussions and decisions about what each will be presenting in a future meeting.
  • ASSIGNMENT: Students create an outline of the topic they chose to present

Meeting 6
Students present their outline of the topic they chose to present.

Meeting 7
Two students present their topic with a 15-minute presentation, allowing for 25 minutes of discussion, questions and answers.

Meeting 8
Two students present their topic with a 15-minute presentation, allowing for 25 minutes of discussion, questions and answers.

Meeting 10
Group discussion summarizing the course.


Cognitive foundations of teaching

Pasquinelli, E., & Strauss, S. (2018). Introduction: Teaching and its building blocks. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 9, 719-749.

Biological evolution and teaching

Thornton, A., & Raihani, N. J. (2008) The evolution of teaching. Animal Behaviour, 75(6), 1823–36.

Nonhuman teaching

Caro, T. M., & Hauser, M. D. (1992) Is there teaching in nonhuman animals? Quarterly Review of Biology 67, 151–74.

Thornton, A., & McAuliffe, K. (2006) Teaching in wild meerkats. Science 313(5784), 227–29.

Teaching in prehistory as evidenced by cognitive archeology

Assaf, E., Nunziante-Cesaro, S., Gopher, A. & Venditti, F. (2023). Learning by doing: Investigating skill through techno-functional study of recycled lithic items from Qesem Cave (Israel). Journal

of Archaeological Method and Theory 30, 64–102.

Teaching in developing children

Strauss, S., & Ziv, M. (2012). Teaching is a natural cognitive ability among humans. Mind, Brain and Education, 6(4), 186-196. doi: 10.1111/j1751-228X.2012.01156.x

Bonawitz, E., Shafto P., Gweon, H., Goodman, N. D., Spelke, E. & Schultz, L. (2011) The double-edged sword of pedagogy: instruction limits spontaneous exploration and discovery. Cognition, 120, 322–330. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2010. 10.001

Cultural variations of teaching: Hunter and gatherers

Hewlett B. S. & Roulette C. J. (2016). Teaching in hunter– gatherer infancy. Royal Society of Open Science, 3, 150403.

Emotional and motivational underpinnings of teaching Teaching and cultural transmission

Laland, K. N., & Hoppitt, W. (2003). Do animals have culture? Evolutionary Anthropology, 12, 150–159. doi:10.1002/evan.10111

Caldwell C. A., Cornish, H. & Kandler, A. (2016). Identifying innovation in laboratory studies of cultural evolution: Rates of retention and measures of adaptation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, B 371: 20150193. 

Scalise Sugiyama, M. (2017) Oral storytelling as evidence of pedagogy in forager societies. Frontiers of Psychology, 8 (471). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00471

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