A Note to All Teachers, in Any Context of Schooling or Business

I have been a teacher at the secondary level, and also at the tertiary and the quaternary levels. In all that time, I gravitated toward the insight produced by inductive teaching and learning. With this approach, the teacher is required to teach inductively.

Inductive learning is what happens in a responsive environment. I once wanted to set up such a laboratory, but I was coming up to the end of my teaching career, too late for such a large and expensive undertaking. An example of the responsive environment is a classroom bare of all but a keyboard and feedback sound and vision (tv) instruments. Enter the young learner. Naturally he or she would explore, as kids do. There was nothing but that keybord and all else was glassed off, untouchable. So the kid could only go to the keyboard and hit a key, let’s say the “c”. Instantly the tv and sound would react and show and pronounce the shape of a “c” on the screen and at he same time pronounce the “k” sound. All other sounds and letters would be locked out except the next letter to be learned, the “a” letter and its sound. The learner would keep punching keys until the “t” sound and shape on the screen would be given. The word “cat” having been finished, the voice would say “cat” and the three-letter word would be displayed on the screen under the picture of a “cat”. Other words would be taught in the same manner, and then put in a simple sentence, with other words so learned. The picture would then go away. The learner would aim to duplicate the experience and, eventually, the young learner would have learned the spelling and pronunciation of the word cat and the separate letters would have been learned and would be ready for use in other sentences. That was the idea of the responsive environment. Kids toys are being produced on that early responsive model.

There are enormous possibiities of teaching inductively, giving exploration experiences that lead to positively reinforced targets, conclusons arising from experience, rather than teaching by deductive methodology, giving the conclusions through lecturing and expecting mastery by way of a quite different strategy.

I think that another principle of expert teaching requires the learner to gain a kinesthetic sense of what is to be learned; that is, running what is to be learned through the learner’s kinesthetic sense, as much and as often as possible. “Kinesthetic” is the sensation of movement or strain in muscles, tendons, and joints; muscle sense. Getting the feel of the thing to be learned by doing.

One day I went to a class and stood there in lecture mode, but I vowed to myself to utter not one declarative sentence — say nothing but interrogatory sentences.

My final question to that class was, “What did I do today?”

They said I made them think, and variations of that, but, remarkably, not one student said that I only asked questions; that performance of mine was hidden there in plain sight (hearing). They got the effect but not the form that achieved that effect. That was a remarkable class period. What I had done was take a strictly inductive approach. My questions would build on the foundation of the students’ answers, reasoning from their premises.

That mode of conducting a class was one I used quite frequently. My presence was minimized, and the students’ presence became foremost. Their participation was magnified. I believe their learning came from very active involvement, and the kinesthetic, “hands-on” achievement deepened their joy in learning that had a longer-lasting effect.

Perhaps this is a case of operant conditioning, defined as a form of behaviorism based on the premise that reinforced behaviors tend to continue, while those that are punished or are not reinforced tend to gradually end. Punishment may simply be an absence of any reaction or of any positive reinforcement, praise or reward. Desired behavior getting smiles and praise. Think of any eager parent hovering over the infant, wanting praiseworthy good acts rather than undesired behavior.

What I did that day, and thereafter, is a technique, building on, and reinforcing, the students’ responses, that can be used in very many other contexts. The Platonic dialogue in ancient Greece exemplified that inductive approach. Business leaders would do well to adopt such an inductive approach when working with the employees. The questioning approach in leadership in many business, industrial, and service contexts will rattle the minds of those heads of business and the people working under their guidance. The boss will learn more and the workers will remember more with an indirect approach. “By indirection shall we find direction out.” (Recognize that quote? Shakespeare. Can you name the play?)

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

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