How We Teach – How You Learn

How We Teach – How You Learn

Our founder, Ron Slee, is back this week with a blog post that goes straight to the heart of our mission here at Learning Without Scars: How We Teach – How You Learn.

I have taught for many decades. During that time, I was primarily in classrooms, although sometimes it was in swimming pools, or tennis courts or golf courses. Not only did the venue change but also the age group of students changed. From infants who were taught to be able to swim and survive when on the water from the age of six months old to senior citizens who were afraid to swim. However, primarily I was in classrooms or lecture halls or auditoriums. A typical class size ranged from twenty-four students at round tables to several hundred. 

I started teaching in the 1960’s so a lot of time has been involved in teaching and trying different methods to get students to “get it.”

I have always been interested in learning and understanding and not memorizing. I still want to be able to reconstruct my learning years and years later. If I don’t understand something, will I be able to remember it?

Which brings me to the specific subject of this blog. I want you to learn – to understand. So, I will never tell you the answer. I will ask questions of you. I will coax you into working it out on your own. I found out years later that this was called the “Socratic” way of teaching.

The Socratic method is a dialogue between individuals based on asking and answering questions. This method, attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, aims to probe, and examine beliefs, leading participants toward a deeper understanding of truth and coherence.

Here’s how it works – the following comes from a google search.

Questioning Common Beliefs. 

The Socratic method begins with commonly held beliefs. Socrates engages in dialogue with others, questioning these beliefs to uncover inconsistencies and contradictions.

Internal Consistency and Coherence. 

Through a series of questions, Socrates scrutinizes beliefs for internal consistency (whether they hold up logically) and their coherence with other beliefs. The goal is to bring everyone closer to the truth.

Midwifery of Understanding.

 Socrates likens his method to midwifery, helping interlocutors develop their understanding in a way analogous to a child developing in the womb.

Pedagogical Contexts.

  1.  Modified forms of the Socratic method are employed today in various educational contexts.

In summary, the Socratic method is a powerful tool for critical thinking, encouraging self-examination and intellectual growth. 

As Socrates famously said, “I know that I know nothing,” emphasizing the importance of questioning and seeking behavior. 

I am sure I drove my students crazy. I used textbooks but never followed the sequence of the textbook. The students, conscientiously, would ask at the end of a lecture what the section or pages were going to be that I would cover in the next class. They wanted to be prepared. I never told them. In fact, I used to jump around in the book deliberately so that they could not prepare. I wanted them to listen to the lesson. I wanted them to have to think.

That caused me problems as a student. I didn’t want to memorize, and it cost me. In High School I took Latin and Geometry. There are certain things you do have to memorize. Like Theorems in Geometry. Like words in a new language. I got 38% in the first semester in both. The family wasn’t happy. So, I lost some privileges. Like weekends at the lake. 

I spent the next three months with my grandmother. She worked my proverbial off. I completed the year with a 76% average. So, I learned a valuable lesson. One size doesn’t fit all.

Anyone who has been in a classroom with me knows how I work. I wander through the room. Watching everyone. I can see when people get it and when they are lost. I keep talking until I see the lights go on in everyone’s eyes. That really turns my crank. I still teach. Not every month like I used to but enough to know that things in the learning world are still the same. Once you get someone into a learning environment, they are subject to their teachers. They care about learning only if the teacher cares about teaching. 

All our subject specific classes cover five plus hours. They have around twenty segments. Class segments and Support Material Segments. Each segment has a quiz at the end. The student must achieve a 60% score on the quiz to proceed to the next segment. We start every class with a pretest to determine the knowledge and skill level of each student before they start. We end every class with a final assessment. The students must achieve an 80% score to earn a certificate. 

We are in the lifelong learning business. Learning is hard. It requires desire and discipline. If every person were to strive to be the best that they could be they would be learning every day.

The Time is Now.

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