All moments are teachable–opportunities for experiences that change subsequent behavior.  But learning experiences are quite variable and range from the establishing of a trivial connection through a deeply affecting change.  New information can reinforce established connections (Piaget’s “assimilation”) or trigger quite new ones (“accomodation”).  the deepest experiences have a conspicuous emotional element.  The “infovore’s feast”  (we are more or less passionate infovores). It is the AHA! or EUREKA! moment in which loose ends you might not have been aware of become woven together.  Beyond a mundane learning experience–it is TRANSFORMATIVE.

“The teachable moment is a rare opportunity for a transformative learning experience.  It is at such moments that inner and outer environments are aligned–in ways unique for each individual–to allow an extraordinary, unusually penetrating learning experience.   In traditional teaching we are too often and too easily satisfied by traditional metrics of successful teaching–usually memory of facts. At such times, we may neglect the higher calling of our profession: to engender meaning. [This is done by creating connections that result in course content being realized beyond mere knowing.  A realization that is owned by the student in ways that enable its creative applicability in other contexts. The difficulty is in the fact that meaning for us and for each individual student are never exactly the same. But as teachers we can launch students into the world where they can grab hold of the abstract knowledge we want them to realize by finding, in their own depths, the ties that bind content to life and foster a life of creative connections. Enabling students to do this is our self-actualization, this is our greatest legacy. “ (adapted from Chap 2 of The Phenomenological Heart of Teaching and Learning (Routledge 2019) Chap 2, p.29.  LOOK IN ON: “The Natural History of the Teachable Moment” (Greenberg et al., 2016) … emphasizing its DEEP ETHOLOGY)

As teachers (and we all teach each other) can we hope to create TEACHABLE MOMENTS during which TRANSFORMATIVE LEARNING is possible? [Phenomenologically-informed, We argue “yes!”] [more about this at the A&O webpage on The Transformative Learning Experience]

In many respects the teachable moment occurs when one is in THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME (to use a more familiar and intuitive)  This is reflected in the abundant discussions of innate/acquired (instinct/learning) amongst ethologists  

Of course, the windows of opportunity—sensitive periods, in ethology—for a learning experience—even a very rapid learning experience—vary with age (brain maturation) and experience such that a profound influence at one age may be impotent at another.  A good ethological model for neuro/behavioral plasticity might be the changes in sensitivity of some nestling birds to shadows of overflying birds in evoking an alarm response—the hawk/goose effect. –what is innate may be the possibility of making a connection, but that can only be provided by experience. 



  • CONNECTIONS CREATE, CONNECTIONS CHANGE (Phenomena have MEANING to the extent they are CONNECTED; they can alter the way in which cognitive processes (such as those in ART and SCIENCE) are coordinated)
  • CHANGE (all change involves connections and all changes in connection involve STRESS; the balance between disintegration and renewal) These have meaning ti the extent they are COMMUNICATED.
  • COMMUNICATION (…involves CREATING CONNECTIONS within and between individuals) information must be transmitted.  When information is communicated within or between levels of organization (as in within or between individuals) and coordinated with change, learning occurs.   Communication involves transmitting and receiving information.  Sounds like “teaching” and “learning.”
  • TEACHING/LEARNING (learning involves coping with STRESS; resolving cognitive dissonance; error detection and correction))
  • TRANSFORMATIVE LEARNING (some learning experiences are deeply affecting and we move from KNOWING to REALIZING)