Thoughts on Teaching

Teaching is more than speaking. To teach means to pass on our knowledge about a subject to our audience, who might have less experience than us, in a way they can understand. The italicized part of the previous sentence is crucial: simply talking about a subject is not enough; we must talk about it in a way that makes sense to our audience. Audiences have different amount of experience in a subject so an explanation that might be clear for one audience can be confusing to another. As a result, to clearly communicate our knowledge, we adapt our teaching style to suit the degree of prior experience our audience has on the subject.



Imagine you were teaching C# to somebody who had never programmed before. How would your teaching style differ from explaining C# to someone with years of programming experience?
You might be a C# guru who understands the intricacies of C#’s garbage collector and JIT compilation but for teaching beginners, who will have a challenging time understanding what those means because they need more context, it is more suitable to introduce basic ideas, such as C#’s primitive data types and how to write strings to the Console. On the other hand, your guru-level knowledge is likely to delight C++ veterans who understand what it means for a language to be memory-managed and uses JIT compilation.​​


Adapting teaching style to accommodate our audience means changing our explanation and presentation medium to their comfort. This includes changing the number of examples, treating subjects as vertical silos or related groups, providing extra background information, and the amount of detail to cover.

Questions for pondering:

  1. How does a sales presentation to a large client differ from a technical presentation to a new team lead?
  2. What are the differences between a 10-mins presentation to a VP of Finance and a 10-mins presentation to a VP of HR?
  3. How does explaining a concept to a close friend in a cozy setting differ from explaining the same concept to a colleague in a professional setting?

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