Educators Ought to Listen
© 17 Nov 2011 Luther Tychonievich
Licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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A little extension of an earlier post.


A few days ago I wrote about my idea that teaching more than just information requires organizing thoughts inside another person’s head. If this postulate is true, then it seems there would be two ways to go about teaching well.

In the first, a teacher’d model how humans think well enough to prepare a presentation that organizes the thoughts of all students. But if that can be done, what is the value of repeating that presentation? Simply have the best teacher make a video and we’re done.

In the second, a teacher would take targeted actions that treat the thoughts of each student individually. But if that is to be done, then the teacher must know how the thoughts of each student differ. And, barring supernatural revelation, that means listening to the students.

It strikes me that I know a lot of instructors in many subjects at many levels of education that are noticeably poor listeners. A prevailing attitude seems to be “‍I’m in charge, think what I say.‍” I personally have some aptitude at thinking what people think they’re telling me to think To think what an instructor thinks that you will think is a great way to schmooze the instructor. ’Tis the appearance of being a good student, something quite different from actually being a good student. , and so I receive high marks in our present educational system, but it doesn’t seem to be a common skill.

I am thus left with an uncomfortable set of options. Perhaps educators generally disagree with my postulate that knowledge is organized, not disseminated—meaning either I am wrong or they don’t understand the process they are trying to facilitate. Perhaps lectures are just videos that haven’t been recorded yet. Perhaps many educators lack the aptitude or attitude required to listen, and thus to teach. None of them are options I relish.

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