In the Hawaiian language, A’o means both teaching and learning. Essentially, teaching is learning, and learning is teaching.  When you have truly mastered a new skills or information  you’re ability to teach someone else. Teaching is different than telling, it is different than explaining, it is a transfer of information from one person to another. When you teach someone else, you own understanding deepens, which reflects learning.

“How many fingers?” is a common formative assessment strategy used by teachers to quickly have learners self assess their level of confidence with new information.  One finger means the information is still new to you. Two fingers means you are starting to understand. Three fingers means you almost have it, but still need more practice. Four  fingers means you feel competent with the information or skill. Five fingers means you feel confident with the information or skill, and can teach someone else. The learner raises their hand, extending the number of fingers that represent their self-assessed level of learning. The art of teaching is facilitating the learners progress from one finger to five fingers.

Every time I teach a new subject, I realize that I still have more to learn. Even subjects where I have years of professional experience, and have earned advanced degrees. The process of teaching enhances my learning of the subject. This learning is driven by new questions that arise as I am teaching. These questions lead to new learning. This is the process of A’o. Teaching is learning, and learning is teaching.

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