A Bottom Line re: Teaching and Learning
Adventures in the
by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
I challenge anyone here to meaningfully counter any of the four
theses below, or the conclusion I draw from them. I most cordially invite your
interaction with these points and with what you think ought to be done with
THESIS #1: What matters is what is learned, rather than what is taught.
Only bureaucrats and politicians might be expected to argue otherwise, certainly
not educators, psychologists, students and parents. Yet I have attended
education conferences where what happens to the learner was completely forgotten
or dismissed in favor of other considerations. As a human being, do you support
or reject this simple thesis, that it is the learning which matters?
THESIS #2: Learning-with-understanding is an associative process.
Indeed, little if any learning happens or can happen, except through
associations. We understand current experience only through previous
understandings and previous experience. Since the work of Jean Piaget, Jerome S.
Bruner and other great cognitive psychologists and developmentalists, and since
the work of Lev Vygotsky and other great psycholinguists, you may be hard put to
find any professional prepared to argue against this thesis, that just about all
human learning is through our prior experiences and associations.
THESIS #3: Each student has his own unique lifetime-accumulated wealth
of associations to draw upon, to engage and understand what he is being taught.
It is better - AND EASIER!!! - to have the student make and draw upon his own
associations for what is being learned.
teachers, trying to make learning meaningful to students, try to find and point
out to them associations which most students are likely to have experienced, yet
every student is unique and few teacher-or-text-cited experiences really grip
and engage everyone or even the majority of those in the classroom. The student
who supplies his own associations for a learning, is engaged thereby and finds
that learning to be meaningful and memorable. For a start on finding out how to
get the student to search out and find and engage his own experience,
understanding and associations with any learning, see Dynamic
Format, the instructions for highly-focused, well-structured, easily
sustained-on-target "buzz-grouping" or interactive learning, freely yours to use
from this website. See also the short article on
Socratic questioning in Winsights No. 63 (November/December 2002).
THESIS #4: We learn more and better through what we ourselves express
and gain feedback on, than by what we are directly taught.
See the work of great educators John Dewey (“learn by doing”) and Maria
Montessori (learning from a rigged environment), and of sociologist Omar K.
Moore, founder of the Clarifying Environments Foundation which further refined
Montessori’s theory and practice. See also the work of the father of
neuroanatomy, Santiago Ramon y Cajal, who demonstrated that while genetics,
proper nutrition and stimulus help, they are not the main thing which develops
neural and brain cells, circuits and the brain itself. What mainly developed
these is feedback upon the organism’s own activities. See also the work of the
greatest neurophysiologist of our time, Marion Diamond, who demonstrated that
stimulus without feedback has NO developmental value, it is not stimulus but
interactive environments providing feedback which develop the brain and nervous
system. See further discussion of these absolutely crucial-to-grasp points in Feeding the Loop
CONCLUSION: Socratic learning, especially modern forms of
Socratic method, whose
practice throughout 2400 years of history has ALWAYS resulted in higher-level
intellectual performance, does so by causing the student to examine his own
first-hand awarenesses, understandings and prior experiences and search out his
understandings from there. The best-demonstrated form of accelerated learning
ever known, Socratic Method
always produces such leaps of learning and understanding that most of its
practitioners became convinced that ALL knowledge and understanding are already
there in each learner and need merely be "drawn forth." (We don't have to assume
it's ALL there in order to acknowledge that a LOT is "there," and the leaps of
genius accompanying use of the method are so widespread an experience that "education" itself is named after that “educare - to draw forth" principle.
With Dynamic Format,
the start of an astonishingly easy way to get learners to dig for and make their
own, most-meaningful-to-them associations for what is being learned, modern
Socratic method is
profoundly easier to use and more effective than are the conventional teaching
methods now in current use.
POINT-OF-INFORMATION: We now have an entire school teaching by our modern
Socratic methods. Data is in from Spring 2009, where for two months a third of
the faculty was teaching by forms of modern Socratic method. See the remarkable Test Results.
BONUS POINTS: Currently there are hundred of different methods for
creatively and ingeniously solving problems, which are successfully in
professional use around the planet. (We originated some of them.) Unbeknownst to
most creativity professionals and unbeknownst to most educators: EVERY ONE of
these hundreds of creativity-related methods can also serve as a profoundly
accelerative/enhanced learning technique!
To turn any creativity-related or CPS (creative
problem-solving) method into an accelerated learning method, make as its
problem statement any one of these four or similar questions and start the
focused "buzz" a la Dynamic
For details on how to turn such methods into superlearning methods, see our
A Huge Untapped Resource.
- "What are the ramifications of the main point in this lesson?" or
- "What main point in this lesson do I most need to give further attention to,
and why?" or
- "How do the various points in this lesson relate to one another?"
- "What in my experience - or in my whole life thus far - does the main point
of this lesson somehow remind me of? I wonder why that somehow reminds me of
To more than double the rate of long-term retention of contents of any unit of
- As a classroom: invest 5 minutes at the end of class in a "buzz with the
person next to you" as to what YOU felt might be the most important point of
that lesson and as to why you think it is that you feel that way. And/or:
- As an individual learner, invest fifteen minutes of freenoting
generating ideas, rapidly as possible, uncritically,
flow-of-consciousness without pause or hesitation or editing, whatever comes to
mind in context of the lesson just absorbed. Don't worry about being right or
wrong, just bring out whatever comes to mind and, in so doing, getting to those
associations which are most meaningful to you.
COMING SOON the instructions for how YOU can get several times more
information and understanding from a given unit of learning than the instructor
or author put into it!!!
Sounds impossible, but think about it. Some of our brighter readers have already
figured it out from this current article above. I'll also spell it out here if
there is much interested discussion here on any of the above... otherwise, this
may remain a deep dark mystery to some of you. I can guarantee that if the
discussion here reaches that point, you will get to see how, precisely and
easily, you can get several times more understanding and learning from whatever
lecture, text, chapter, topic, etc., than the instructor or author put into it!
For further reading:
A Huge Untapped Resource
Super Skills for Students