Friday, March 27, 2009

The Skillful Teacher

I came across this quotation from Confucius many months ago
and I have been waiting for an opportune time to include it in my blog.
Please forgive Confucius for his use of the term 'man' only in his description
of the skillful teacher. The most skillful teachers I know are women.
When a superior man knows the causes which make instruction successful,
and those which make it of no effect, he can be a teacher of others.
Thus in his teaching, he leads and does not drag;
he strengthens and does not discourage;
he opens the way but does not conduct to the end
without the learner's own efforts.

Leading and not dragging produces harmony.
Strengthening and not discouraging makes attainment easy.
Opening the way and not conducting to the end makes the learner thoughtful.
He who produces harmony, easy attainment,
and thoughtfulness may be pronounced a skillful teacher.

– Confucius,Book XVI – HSIO KI (Record on the Subject of Education)

Isn't it remarkable how Confucius seems to capture all that we would now
call best practice in teaching others.


She leads but does not drag
Most learning practitioners would agree with this - for adults the mantra
is adults learn what they want to learn and what they find useful.
One can facilitate, encourage and lead people in the pursuit of
learning outcomes but there are few situations where compulsory
learning is successful.


She strengthens and does not discourage
Positive affirmation and feedback when matched with realistic goals will
enable learning.


She opens the way but does not conduct to the end
without the learner's own efforts

This is wonderful advice. To 'open the way' could suggest something like 'scaffolding'
a term used in constructivist approaches to learning. What is suggested here is that a teacher
may provide just the appropriate level of support for learning but in the end the
outcomes will be achieved by the learner's own effort.


Leading and not dragging produces harmony
Yes!
Strengthening and not discouraging makes attainment easy
Absolutly!
Opening the way and not conducting to the end makes the learner thoughtful
and willing to invest the mental effort
She who produces harmony, easy attainment,
and thoughtfulness may be pronounced a skillful teacher

I know many who fit this description.

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