Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Being Taught Versus Learning

What is the primary function of a teacher?
Noted systems theorist, Russell Ackoff, states that the primary function of a teacher should be to facilitate learning how to learn and motivating students to do so.

It has been my position for many years that students should first be taught how to learn before they are taught any subject. Being taught how to learn improves the efficiency and efficacy of the future learning experience.

My book is, among other things, about teaching the reader how to learn the methods taught by activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter. It empowers the student and challenges the teachers to be better teachers. It encourages the student to manager their own learning experience if not become their own teachers.

Ackoff has an interesting method of facilitating learning. He suggests that teaching is a very good way to learn a subject. That teaching others encourages and enables students to learn on their own and consolidate what they have learned. This, he suggests, is common knowledge especially among those who have taught a subject that they themselves have not been taught.

I can personally vouch for the fact that my learning and the consolidation of what I learnt in the martial arts has come from teaching. I vividly remember the night when I showed understanding rather than knowledge when I taught a technique differently than my instructors with insights I'd personally gained.

Ackoff recommends that all students should be given the opportunity to teach others. So, Instructors, this is an innovate approach to teaching your students. Get your students to teach your students. Ackoff refers to an innovative teacher in the US who did just that with primary school children with considerable success. Students in the second grade taught those in the first grade, and students in the third grade taught those in the second.

I would qualify Ackoff's statement about teaching being a very good way to learn a subject. Teaching a large class is less effective in this regard than teaching a small class or teaching one-on-one. This understanding comes from personal experience teaching many people via private lessons. Each individual is different and you have to modify your teaching to suit their individual capabilities. This truly challenges your understanding of the subject and your ability to adapt what you'd been taught to suit the individual.

Food for thought.

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