Image

The goal of teaching, no matter the major field of study of the student, is to create a teacher. A student has reached the pinnacle of her field when that student has acquired the skill and motivation to become a self-sufficient learner, a teacher of self. That student has not only internalized the highest levels of critical thinking, but has also become the most valuable asset of the industry of her chosen career.  Business seeks, because it is vital to the competitive business edge, self-starting, creative, problem-solvers who thirst for a continuous stream of the latest research to enhance the company’s service, product quality or bottom line. A problem-solver assesses the situation at hand, considers a variety of alternative solutions, weighs benefits and drawbacks, considers consequences including ethical as well as economic, seeks advice, and makes confident decisions with an unwavering eye on the destination.  This person also understands the importance of assessment upon post-decision actions in order to close the cycle of problem solving by restarting the cycle of problem-solving. A person who can do those things within a given time frame (sometimes a nano-frame) while dealing flexibly with outside distractions is demonstrating all the qualities of a self-taught, mobilized person.  Whoever has helped that person to attain such a level of competency has done the job of a teacher.

The most common purpose of teaching is to add knowledge of subject to a student’s pre-existing inventory of ideas and concepts.  The method of introducing knowledge can range from pure lecture to pure Socratic questioning, but generally falls somewhere between.  All tools available are applied to the purpose, from blackboard and chalk, to libraries, computers and the vast potentials of the world wide web.  However, knowledge without sense of purpose is often stifling to the student and may ultimately result in frustration and resignation from the learning process.  Worse, a student restrained as it were to the bottom levels of Bloom can never achieve the skill of teaching, thus condemning the student to a lifetime of dependency, effectively excluding the possibility of productive management position opportunities. A teacher must give knowledge as well as a purpose for learning in order to encourage the traditional student to see beyond grades and credits or even diplomas as end-goals of classes. A person whose vision is limited to short timeline rewards has a narrower dynamic value in the business environment. In other words, the teacher’s purpose ought to be to show the student what to learn, as well as how to learn and why to learn, with the why being as far-reaching a vision as can be activated within the scope of a class or course’s syllabus. To paraphrase Nietzsche, a person with a why can get through pretty much anything, including school, but more importantly through the challenges of an ever-changing working world.

     How to apply learning tools, when to press forward with pure data, and when to work the aesthetics of learning, are decisions best based upon a consideration of  audience.  Faced with a kaleidoscope of skills, talents, interests, backgrounds, encumbrances and personalities within a single classroom, the teacher must seek a path that will promote general interest and enthusiasm.  That path, dictated by audience qualities, can inspire a majority of students to take on the tasks required of learners such as attendance, note-taking, homework, and attention to task and schedule.  It should be noted in this context that online class expectations remain similar to the brick and mortar classroom’s with the variance being that students are expected to be so much more self-reliant, self-disciplined, self-taught, and thus more evolved learners. A teacher who makes no concessions to audience is only providing data and assessment, the what of learning, without the how and why, especially online.

This consideration of the human qualities of the class, the audience, influences the tone and methods of the teacher, who makes an effort to couch curriculum within an approach that stimulates interest and motivates learning.  That tone can include praise as well as constructive criticism, but should also consider the benefits of learning disguised within group interaction and even entertainment.  Humor is a good example, when used without malice, of learning through entertainment.  Music might also be considered and applied as part of the teaching process in order to include a stimulating variety of approaches to keep the learning channels open in each individual student.

Finally, though it is impossible to be all things to all students while moving forward through a scheduled curriculum, a teacher ideally tries to keep in mind that students benefit from learning, but benefit more from wanting to learn. The teacher who has students who want to learn can mold students who know how to learn.  Those students are then well on their way to the ultimate goal of the teacher: students who want to know how to teach themselves, students who have become, no matter the field of study or career goal, teachers.

Advertisements