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Fundamental Laws of TeachOlogy:
a Handbook For a Beginner Teacher
More Laws of TeachOlogy
Teaching is guiding students through an arrangement of learning experiences specifically designed for helping students with mastering the subject, including understanding the topics, developing skills, and feeling good about themselves.
Teaching = motivating + demonstrating + instructing + explaining
Learning = goal making + memorizing + reiterating + thinking
Understanding = making sense of the things by connecting the current experience with the previous knowledge, and – if needed – modifying the previous knowledge, or re-describing the current experience.
You are a teacher if there is at least one person in the world who says about you: “I learned from this person a thing or two which helped me in my life”.
To be a teacher one needs to be: knowledgeable and constantly learning; firm and tolerant; smart and inventive; serious and with a sense of humor (mostly about himself/herself); making decisions and accepting mistakes, being wise and not afraid to feel silly.
A science teacher teaching n-th grade students must be proficient in the material at least at the (n+3)-d grade (the minimum requirement, which is necessary and sufficient for beginning a teaching career).
Imagine that you've been training on a car with an automatic transmission but on a test you were told to drive “a stick”. This is the way how many quizzes, tests, exams are written.
An exam should not be an easy or hard – those are just wrong parameters for any exam. An exam should be (a) fair, and (b) informative – these are the parameters necessary for a good exam.
If a person can learn the multiplication table and the strategy for solving a quadratic equation, that person can learn any high level intellectual knowledge (e.g. quantum gravitation), and there are only two reasons for that not happening - no desire, or a wrong teacher.
If the only exercise students had been doing for twelve years is squats, they will not be good at push-ups and pull-ups. Do not expect from students an ability to think if all they had to do for twelve years was memorizing facts and rules (this is one of the specific formulations of the Second Law).
Everything takes time (“every process has inertia”). Every complicated process has stages and phases. Intellectual development (a.k.a. learning) is a complicated process, hence also has stages and phases. Alternating those stages (trying to skip or to speed up some of the them) will lead to damaging intellectual abilities of a student (similarly to: trying to skip or to speed up some stages of the development of a fetus will lead to damaging a baby).
True learning never happens by watching, it happens by doing.
You can watch for hours other people swimming, but if you want to learn how to swim you have to get yourself into water and start trying.
Reading (and watching, and listening) helps to form an initial vocabulary, and to set relationships between the current knowledge and the upcoming one. Doing (speaking, writing, solving, explaining) forms the skills.
The “learning space” of students in a class is (essentially) three dimensional: students might differ by their 1. background (previously learned knowledge and skills); 2. learnability (rate and volume of attaining knowledge and skills as a function of time and effort); 3. motivation (aspirations and willingness to learn).
Kids do not know anything and learn everything from scratch. When adults learn new skills, they repeat the same general steps and stages of learning they used to use when where learning as kids (but usually/hopefully faster).
Look at infants – they always try doing new things and want to learn something new! Now look at school graduates – so many of them do not want to learn anything new. A facility which does this to students cannot be called “a school”
The best gift a parent can give to a child is good habits; the best gift a teacher can give to a student is love for learning and confidence in ability to learn.
The art of teaching is based on the science of learning, the love for education, and the passion for sharing this love.
Everybody can drive, but not everyone is a good driver, everybody can cook, but not everyone is a chef. Anyone can talk, but it is wrong to think that anybody can be a good teacher.
A great teacher is not the one who just loves teaching, but the one who loves learning and is passionate in sharing this love.
If you are a good teacher, your students understand your way of thinking and copy what you do. If you are a great teacher, your students can generate their own ideas and do things impossible to you.
For a physics or math teacher.
If you are a good teacher, your students understand your solutions to problems, if you are a great teacher, your students generate their own solutions.
Teachers – like doctors – must take “a Hippocratic Oath” of a teacher. i.e. to promise “never do harm to anyone”, because there is always something more important in teaching than merely transmitting knowledge.
If a person does not like a challenge and does not like learning, that person should not go into the business of education in any form; she.he is not going to be a good teacher, or administrator, or a researcher in the field.
There are three kinds of human practices/projects with the goal of advancing human life: (a) scientific research - the goal of a scientific research is discovering new knowledge; (b) engineering and art - the goal of an engineering development is building new devices (and systems of devices), the goal of art is bringing/developing artifacts of art; (c) social advancement - the goal of a social advancement project is developing or adopting new collective practice(s) (new - for the given social group, but may have been used already by other people).
Social achievement requires bravery, willpower, intelligence, and wisdom.
Bravery = facing your own limits/weaknesses.
Willpower = pushing yourself beyond the limits set by your weaknesses.
Intelligence = finding a way around your own limits/weaknesses.
Wisdom = accepting the inevitability of your own limits/weaknesses. Since we all have our own limits/weaknesses, we all make mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable and unavoidable. The difference is how do we react to our mistakes: (a) trying to hide; trying to deny; trying to forget; or (b) using our mistakes as a learning opportunity.
Every human practice has some elements of a scientific research: when we start a project, we generally have some understanding of what we want to achieve and how we want to achieve that (“a hypothesis”), and how will we assess (measure) how close we are to the goal (“facts”).
“A hypothesis” is “a questionable statement”, i.e. is a question about a statement, like “Is this statement ….. correct?” But not every questions is a hypothesis. Not every search is a scientific research. Some questions like “How to achieve this social goal?” do not have a scientific nature, but belong to a social project.
The difference between a scientific research and a social project is in “what utilizes what”.
In a scientific research, some social activity is being used as a vehicle to obtain new knowledge. In that case, some advancement in some social practice represents a “collateral” result of the research.
In a social project, some scientific knowledge is being used to achieve positive changes in a certain social situation. In this case, some newly recorded knowledge represents a “collateral” result of the project.
Every human practice presents a certain combination of pre-scientific activities, scientific activities, art, engineering, and chaotic trials. The activity which dominates the practice gives the name to the practice.
Physics represents the most developed scientific approach to study the Nature. When a physicist is trying to understand how the Nature works, he/she uses a scientific approach based on clear and uniformly used terminology, and on well-defined and uniformly used measuring tools and procedures. Everyone who teaches a science has to use the same scientific approach. Everyone who teaches how to teach a science has to use the same scientific approach.
A “Science” is a specifically organized human practice. Not every organized human practice is a science, but only the one which mission (a.k.a. an ultimate goal) is making predictions. Human practice with a different mission than making predictions is not a science. The ultimate test of a practice to identify if it is a science or not, is to asses its predictive power within the domain of the human activities (or natural phenomena) that practice claims to study.
There are human practices with the goal of study other human practices. For example, “a science of education” represents the practice of study of practice of education. However, currently “a science of education” is in its pre-science state, since it has no predictive power. At the beginning of a new school year no one can predict the learning outcomes of a given student.
At the beginning of each new school year every teacher should demand from a school principal a signed statement, where the principal guarantees that: (a) all student in the teacher's class have all necessary background (skills, knowledge, abilities) to succeed (get an A), and (b) all the instructional resources (a syllabus, a textbook, workbooks, etc.), all supplementary materials (notebooks, pens, …), and all the working conditions are sufficient for a qualified teacher to ensure the success of all students.
A science teachers has to be both: (a) a scientist, and (b) a teacher.
(I) As a scientists in the field he or she teaches, a teacher needs to be able to use a scientific method and to conduct a scientific study leading to a discovery of a scientific law. That law, of course, will not be the new one for a science; so the whole processes is a rediscovery of a known laws; but if applied to a knowledge laying at the frontier of a science would lead to the discovery of a new knowledge.
(II) As a teacher, he or she needs to be able to guide students through the process of rediscovery of the known scientific laws.
(III) As a scientist in the field of education, a teachers needs to be able to make a decision on which laws students need to rediscover “from scratch” and which laws should be presented to students in almost finalized form.
I) What is “a law”?
A law is a statement of an existing pattern. This statement usually has a verbal or a mathematical representation.
II) What does a law do?
A law allows to explain observed phenomena. But the most important application of a law is to predicting events. A law allows to make a statement about (a) what events will be possible for happening (within given limits, under given circumstances, within a given timeframe), and (b) among possible events, what is a chance for a given event to happen.
What is “a science”?
The definition of a science is multi-dimensional.
(I) A science is an internally consistent body of knowledge based on the scrupulous and logical analysis of a vast amount of data.
(II) A science is a specific human practice which mission is to obtain and describe natural and social patterns (a.k.a. laws) in order to use those patterns for making reliable predictions.
(shortly: the mission of a science is making predictions; if making reliable predictions is not yet possible, the field is still in a pre-science stage)
The development of a science usually has two stages:
1) a pre-science stage, when the main goals of human activities are:
* developing a language (mainly naming objects and processes), tools and procedures (including specifically designed experiments) for collecting and classifying data, and
* collecting and classifying data, and
* formulating the set of patterns describing the phenomena within a specific domain
2) a science stage, when the main goals of human activities are:
* using the developed set of patterns for improving human living, and
* using the developed set of pattern for advancing the science
A school environment is as good as the school principal is good at managing the school. A school principal is a manager. The job of a manager is to: (a) establish the mission of the organization; (b) set the timelines and goals and assessment measures and methods; (c) develop a plan of action for achieving the goals; (d) list the required material and procedural (legal) resources and employees; (e) manage employees (setting individual goals, plans, providing with the required resources, assessing the progress).
No knowledge is absolute (except this one!). Even the smatters people in the history of mankind made mistakes (e.g. Aristotle thought a fly has four legs). That is why a teacher should question everything coming from official or research authorities. That is why a teacher should encourage students to question everything coming form him or her.
People who praise the Socratic method should keep in mind how he ended his life.
For Socrates, knowledge a person has, defines that person as a whole. When Socrates said: “I know that I know nothing” he did not just accept limits of his knowledge, he accepted his limits as a human being. Unfortunately, expecting the same from others had lead Socrates to willingly drinking poison.
Often people who praise the Socratic method do not like when it is applied to them.
Often people who praise the Socratic method demonstrate differences between Socrates (as seen by historians) and themselves.
Click here for more on the Socratic method
P.S. No teacher should feel alone in his or her pursuit of teaching the best he or she can. Knowing what really smart people said about teaching is a good way of being a part of a community.
Here are some quotes from very smart people (more at www.simpleK12.com)
© 2006 - 2016 Valentin Voroshilov
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