Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Seven Laws of Teaching

The president of the Catholic Textbook Project, Michael Van Hecke, recently gave an in-service in Idaho as part of his work with the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education's Classical Schools Project. Here is a summary of one of the talks he gave, based on one of his favorite books on education - The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Milton Gregory.

...The book is a great examination of the laws of what it means to teach and learn. While these laws are basic and common sense, like the laws of nature in which seeds need soil and moisture and sun in order to grow, as you think, consider and process the laws, they are infinitely deep. The laws are divided into three sections: two elemental factors (teacher and student); two mental factors (a common language and a truth or lesson to be communicated); and three acts (teaching, learning and fixing the learning.)

1. A teacher must be one who knows the lesson or truth to be taught. This is why we teachers must be inexhaustibly committed to ongoing learning, within and outside of our particular field of study or interest. We want to broaden our universal knowledge in order to discover and convey the myriad profound connections between varied truths. Think of how we can expand math through an example from science, or how important geography was in the details of the pivotal battles in history.

2. A learner is one who attends, with interest, the lesson given. Notice the compulsion on the student to be attentive. It reminds me of the Suzuki method’s opening salvo from the teacher, “I am ready to teach”; to which the student replies, “I am ready to learn.”

3. The language used as a medium between teacher and learner must be common to both. Here, the teacher is required to make sure to they understand what is known by students and use that language to take them to the next step, with clear and vivid word usage.

4. The lesson to be learned must be explicable in terms of truth already known by the learner. This is the age-old principle that we come to the unknown by means of the known. As I explain to my 7th Grade Latin students, one cannot climb the ninth, tenth or eleventh feet of a ladder unless they have already grasped all the rungs below and stepped their way up. That being said, once we mount a new step, we can grasp that next rung.

5. Teaching is arousing and using the pupil’s mind to form in it a desired conception or thought. We teachers try to keep their thoughts and expressions ahead of our own expressions. This excites thought and discovery in students. Teaching is, ultimately, a matter of ordering scattered ideas, thoughts and experience so that the coiled springs of intellectual power are released. 

6. Learning is the thinking into one’s own understanding a new idea or truth to be acquired. This requires students to reproduce thinking, in their own mind, to where they understand in their own words and internal images, proofs, connections, applications, etc. We see this in the earliest ages when little ones grasp “carrying” numbers, or when phonics really clicks and the student really does utter, “ahhh!” This law is a profound burden on a student, as they get older, to put in the work necessary to be successful in learning – it takes hard work, and protracted interest. The result is great – it is a self-satisfying activity.

7. The final law is the fixing or fastening of the learning done. This involves review, re-thinking and re-producing. This is the beauty of certain homework exercises, tests, and exams. When we look at the body of material we have learned, or is being expected of us, we can tie together so many pieces to see the connections of the various elements of truth. It is a real quickening exercise in “coming to know.”

No comments:

Post a Comment