The Pure Teaching Agenda

Whether it’s back in the past or going on right now, every one of us has experienced teacher-learner relationships. While school might immediately spring to mind, there are plenty of places where teaching and learning occur—at work, with our friends, at the computer…

After you’ve experienced different ways of learning, it might seem that it’s easier to learn outside of school than it ever was to learn in school.

This article is one in a series  on agendas.
You can find the first article in the series here.

For example, if your daughter wants to learn to text her friends, there’s no need to send her to a class! If your teenager wants to learn sky-diving, he’ll listen carefully to the instructor without being badgered to pay attention.

Ellen Gélinas, senior faculty at the William Glasser Institute, refers to “pure teaching” as sharing wanted information.

Anyone passionately engaged in a hobby can spend hours researching and creatively finding ways to get the information they want. Now there’s pure teaching, isn’t it?

Reality therapy is oriented toward relationships, so a reality therapy “teaching agenda” concerns behaviours that help make a teacher-learner relationship effective and satisfying. This agenda could apply anywhere that learning takes place.

For example, I handcraft soap as a hobby and sometimes teach the methods. My experience is that this type of teaching is the easiest of all, as the agenda is set by the desire of the learner to gain knowledge.

How does a pure teaching agenda work in practice? I’ve associated the following agenda items with soap-making, but they could apply to any activity where the learner is highly motivated to learn.

1. The teacher provides activities to build skills. To build the skills to make soap, make soap!

2. The methods and content correspond to the needs of the learner. If a learner simply wants to be able to make soap by following a recipe, then the teaching is directed to that end. As much as I—the teacher—might enjoy explaining how to design and calculate recipes, if all the learner needs or wants is to be able to follow an existing recipe, then that’s the content to teach.

3. All resources are made available to the learner. The learner’s want for information sets the agenda; the teacher avoids deliberately over-complicating or hiding information. The approach is an open one; there’s no holding back of the magic, even if the learner begins to outpace the teacher!

4. Coercion is unnecessary. When the learner wants to learn, the teacher doesn’t need to trick, manipulate, or threaten to get the learner’s attention.

Doesn’t that sound great? Of course, I deliberately chose a hobby for my example rather than topics normally associated with education. Why? It’s easier to picture a learner enthusiastically learning a hobby than it is to picture someone getting excited about, say, solving equations. Too bad, as the puzzles involved in equation-solving (and many other topics in “school learning”) are undoubtedly as much fun as sky-diving, if only the learner has a reason to want to learn the skill.

What do you think of the idea of pure teaching? What do you want to learn?

The next article in this series is here.
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