Key Questions that Drive Instruction

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These are some of the Key Questions that drive instruction.  Without these questions answered, we cannot or should not begin teaching.

What is a child? Is a child a small adult lacking the intellect of an adult?  Are they just physical bodies lacking the knowledge they need?  Do children have souls? Spirits? Are they simply brains that we are programming like a computer? Is a child a hairless evolved monkey?  The paragon of animals?  A fallen angel?

A child is threefold: cognitive, affective, and psychomotoric (thinking, feeling, willing).  We have Bloom’s Taxonomy of Education for the cognition realm, Kohlberg for the affective realm, and sports, music, drama, fine arts, etc. for the psychomotoric realm. With Howard Gardner we see a broader perspective of what a human has as capacities for learning in his theory of intelligences.

Are there developmental stages that teachers need to know before approaching a specific aged child? Try to remember your earliest memories.  Do you have memories before age seven?  If so, describe.  If we learn how to stand upright and walk, speak and communicate, and think clearly long before age seven-then where are the memories of learning these things?

Language is the most difficult thing we learn and yet it was quite unconscious and done effortlessly.  The same is true for standing upright and speaking and thinking or creating concepts that help us navigate the world around us.  Did children get specific instruction in these most difficult of tasks?  Or did they learn them by imitating and modeling the caregivers in their environment? From birth to age seven, the fundamental force of education is Imitation.  All learning, even self-generated learning is a form of modeling.  Therefore, what the loving teacher does in front of the students is the example that students model their learning from.  Are you a good role model of clear thinking, organized work, clear communication, collaborative learning, life-long learning, open to new knowledge, creating new knowledge, researching questions, creating demonstrations of knowledge to share with others, and all of the rest of the learning skills we would like the students to embody?  If we are not, and if we are not displaying these characteristics – then how can we expect the students to do what we can’t or don’t?  Do you show students by example how to make mistakes and work through them? Are there real-life examples of conflict-resolution demonstrated in the class?  Are there examples of reaching the frustration level, and then developing the methods to cope with them? 

Fundamental Capacities and Human Development

Birth-7     – Imitation

7-14          – Love of Authority

14-21      – Development of good judgment

Do we teach differently to different ages? Are there different parts of the child that are strong at one age and weak at another?  Does a child whose grade level skills are at third or fourth grade but their chronological age is high school age still need to learn like a third or fourth grader?  Can we give a child what they needed in elementary school when they are in high school?  Have we found out what the age-appropriate (developmentally appropriate) methods are to naturally reach children?  Do all children need to learn the same thing at the same time?  Can we teach lessons that reach multi-age, multi-skill level students at once?  What would those lessons look like?  Can we create tiered lessons that reach all ages and skill level at one time?  Do differentiated lessons have to be taught as a tutoring lesson or can it be taught to the class as a whole?

Are there different strengths available at each age or stage of child development?  Are there appropriate things to teach children at a specific age?  Are there developmentally appropriate subjects that can easily be learned at one age but not another? 

Developmentally appropriate education is crucial when capitalizing on the strengths of a particular stage of development.  Imitation works up through age seven but becomes a different force after that.  What is natural and seemingly effortless in one stage must be taught a different way later.  Many students have trauma at early ages and the capacities they should have developed did not get the chance to grow.  That is why having the student’s “affective” buy-in is a crucial first step.  You may be teaching fractions but the student is remembering the abuse they suffered when they were supposed to be learning fractions in fourth grade.  Therefore, we must first develop an understanding and caring relationship with the students so they can help us help them.  We need to find out what stage the child is perceiving the world from in his learning perspective.  We can go back and stimulate some developmental aspects, but others we can do nothing about and must find a way to work around the weakness. 

Once we have found out what stage of development a student is in, we can create accommodations and modifications tailored to the students learning profile and learning preferences.  Some students may need to have math manipulatives used in to visualize fractions, decimals, and division.  Other students may need phonics or the whole language approach to learn what they missed in early elementary grades. The answers are in the students, not the method of instruction.

Remedial cases underscore the necessity for remedial work to be done in early elementary grades with all students.  Exercises that involve large motor skills in rhythmic counting can be part of the daily morning exercises that students love to do.  We need to build in and emphasize good habits that may have been missed in early grades.  Plus, we must do all of this without drawing undue attention to the student’s skill level. 

What is the goal of education?  Is it to make good employees?  Good citizens?  Compliant citizens? Is it to teach a certain body of knowledge?  Can we simply list what needs to be known and have children memorize it?  Doesn’t the Internet have all knowledge immediately available by a simple query?  Will the knowledge we want children to know change over time? Is there any knowledge that is permanent truth?

What we teach is not knowledge — we create opportunities to develop capacities and faculties.  Knowledge and information comes and goes and is changed constantly. We are not trying to memorize knowledge, we are learning to research, analyze, and process knowledge and information in an age where information is measured in terabytes. A bright person can access about 5% of what they have memorized.  Information is changing daily and much of it is not even known by experts in the respective fields of knowledge.  Students can now create new information and add deep knowledge to the reservoir of information available on the Internet.  Learners can now interact instantly with experts on their websites and visit real-time laboratories and field projects to gain current knowledge where and when it is created.

Do we teach students to learn to type so they can input data, or do we teach them to program the computers and write software applications?  The speed of information is nearly instantaneous and the nature of human work and vocations in the future is hard to imagine.  We need more Bill Gates and less data inputers.  Plus, we don’t want machines to make us lazy and unable to do the work when the computers “go down.”  We need to give opportunities for relevant skill development that isn’t limited by today’s standards.  Flexibility and creativity are two of the most sought after employability skills.  To develop such skills requires lessons that enhance human capacities and faculties that may not even be known at this time.

Creativity studies agree that people who have challenges tend to rise to the challenge and muster the forces to overcome the obstacles.  We are doing little service in schools to make lessons easy.  Rigorous challenges help people go beyond their current capacities and can create a tremendous sense of satisfaction and self-esteem when the “undoable” project is completed. Therefore, we need to let student interests and student created questions drive learning to create meaning and relevance for the learner.  Then, as students grow ready for employability their developed interests and capacities can lead them to vocations of meaning and fulfillment.

What is learning?  And how do we learn?

Can you make a child learn?  What motivates a child to learn?  Are there intrinsic rewards to learning?  Who is the child learning for?  Is education memorizing, modeling, remembering, or perhaps a conditioned response to socialization? Nature versus nurture controversy.  Are children born with certain talents?  Does IQ ever change?  Can we add to IQ by teaching methods?  What does America’s philosophy of education say about learning?  What is your philosophy of education?  Can we have a philosophy of education without a complete picture of what a human is?  Can the picture of what a human is, change over time?

No one can make another person learn.  Learning is a free decision that cannot be forced on anyone.  But if your lessons are fun and engrossing, students will learn by doing and seemingly without effort.

The current concept of school is compulsory and resembles a prison system of control and manipulation.  Freedom is the last thing a school wants to instill in a student.  Compliance is the order of the day.  Research shows that students work harder and longer on self-created learning projects than on projects given from a textbook.  If we give the students some freedom to choose what they focus their efforts on at school, we will see better results and more learning will take place.

What is being taught at school anyway?  There is a State-approved list of content expectations that is based upon grade level criteria.  Most standardized tests are norm referenced.  Criteria testing of content expectations will never work because there are no textbooks that teach that criteria in the way the State tests that criteria.  Also, the content expectations are not “learning activities” but simply a list of isolated content that links to no tangible activity that will put the criteria in context.  Then add the fact that the content expectations and graduation pre-requisites keep rising in a steep curve that expect more from students each year but provide no support to help with the State testing mechanisms.  Subsequently, drop out rates increase and scores go down or are faked with cut scores.  Children are not getting dumber – the standards simply keep rising.  Algebra is taught in first grade now and every high school student must pass Algebra II and Geometry II to graduate.  We are simply putting the blame on students instead of the system.

Perhaps we need to change our philosophy of education so our approach to learning is more in sync with student needs.  When I have asked teachers in training, “What is America’s philosophy of education?”;  I usually get blank stares looking back at me.  Modern teachers don’t even notice the lack of philosophical underpinning in American education.  Teachers don’t realize that their “unspoken” philosophy controls the way they look at students and student outcomes.  You get what you expect.  So, if you have no philosophy – you get little or nothing, because you have nothing to aim at except scores.  If your philosophy is the standard scientific agnosticism (secular humanism) that is found in most teacher training colleges, then you will be as surprised as the State to find that students don’t seem to able to learn anymore.  The scientific answer is simple – give the students more of the same and that should work.  Unfortunately, more of the same is what has been given to students over the last few decades and the scores  have still gone down.  Now that NCLB is keeping track, some scores are going up.  Of course, Michigan’s MEAP/MME scores are going up quickly now (due to cut scores).  Unfortunately, the national test scores for Michigan remain some of the lowest in the country.  In other words, the Michigan tests are false.

What is modern education’s educational philosophy?  What is your personal educational philosophy?  What is the educational philosophy of Intuitive Learning?

Do you have to have an educational philosophy to attain good educational outcomes?  What is the point of an educational philosophy?

These questions are often forgotten in teacher training courses.  We look at the contributions to education and they seem to be piecemeal, haphazard circumstances that shaped American education.  Essentially, as you can see in the section of the this training called Framing Intuitive Learning, you can see a long list of the modern, piecemeal educational philosophies we tend to attribute to the person who rediscovered some component of education.  Often, the exact observation of the new “theorist” is divorced from history and blind to longitudinal studies.  New ideas often are focused on such a small part of education that the learner is lost in the equation.  We need a comprehensive philosophy of education that can frame the whole human being in its development stages throughout life.

The earlier question of, “What is a child”, “What is a human being” is at the foundation of educational philosophy, but often unspoken.  Everywhere you look people have insight but no framework to create a perspective.  Even religion defers to a lack of philosophy and therefore denies that a human being has a spirit.  Human character and individual personality create a spirit in the child that is unique.  If we do not recognize the individual spirit in each student, there would be no need for differentiating instruction and freedom and creativity would have no place in education.  But quite to the contrary, life is looking for and rewarding individually and personal creativity.

The human being is composed of body, soul and spirit.  We don’t have to get religious or sectarian to recognize that Gandhi and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had great spirits that touched humanity for the better.  That is the spirit Intuitive Learning is trying to nurture and grow.  If we don’t recognize the spirit in the child, then we may fall prey to the behaviorists and evolutionist who believe we are evolved apes.  This philosophy is inherent in the philosophy of secular humanism, which is the philosophy of science.  Basically, secular humanism believes the idea that science makes life better for the greatest good for the greatest number of people.  This philosophy does not work in exceptional cases.  History is a series of exceptional cases.

There are different ways to teach the body, the soul, and the spirit of a student.  All three must be considered together as a whole and then a comprehensive philosophy of education can to constructed that benefits all three components.  Each component works differently and with different natural laws that must be considered.  The body is taught through the educational force of willing.  This force is sleeping in the will and must be awakened slowly by good habits.  The soul is educated through the feelings of the student and these forces are dreaming in the student.  Slowly, and with respect we awaken these forces through memory, art, and music.  The student must first have the feeling that they want to learn before learning begins.  The spirit is educated by bringing out the natural forces of thinking in the student and aligning them with the forces of nature.  Once this is accomplished, the student is now empowered to master the world and bring their inherent giftedness and talents into the field of learning.

Does learning need a teacher?  Can a student teach themselves without a teacher?

The initial questionnaire should frame this question to show that much of learning is directed by the learner.  Every teacher should be a learner who students can model learning from.  When the teacher stops learning, the students stop learning.  Learning is done by the learner, not applications of instructional methodologies.

What are the most effective learning tools for learning?

Intuitive Learning posits that the most powerful learning tools are aligned with the learning forces of thinking, feeling and willing and maximize on the strengths of the developmental stage the student is undergoing.  Intuitive Learning has highlighted 72 power tools for learning, but there are many more.  All good teachers have their special power tools but without an overarching philosophy, psychology, and methodology of application the power tool loses some of its effectiveness.  Teachers need to know how the power tool works, as well as its effectiveness.  When, where and with whom the tool is used is crucial.  Power tools are activated by proper timing and developmental leveraging.  Knowing the learning force that activates the power tool is the key.

Studying the power tools as a faculty during faculty meetings is a great way to empower teachers to identify, understand and use these tools in the classroom.  Often, the teacher simply sets up a learning environment (where the teacher is learning also) and then let the natural talents and gifts of the student unfold.  The real power of learning tools lie within the learner.  Activation of the power of learning tools is based upon the learner’s decision to learn.  Often, creating an environment where “learning risks” can be comfortably taken is the first rule of empowerment.

We need to ask teachers their favorite tools and include them in the list of power tools.  Modern students bring challenging issues that need new tools to meet these challenges.  Old tools can be repackaged in modern wrapping paper or new tools can be added to methods that have been around since humans first learned.

How do we activate learning?  How do we know that we know?  What can truly be known?

These questions sound like philosophy, and in fact are the philosophy of education.  Epistemologists have written volumes on this subject and nothing is agreed upon.  The very core question of education is yet to be tackled.  Many opinions and theories exist, but most are inadequate.  From Hegel to Aristotle, we get the secular view and from Augustine to Aquinas we get the religious view.  Every world religion has their own take on what is known and true.  So how can Intuitive Learning answer the question of knowing and the apparatus that makes it work.

Intuitive Learning is derived from direct observation of the learner.  We will not debate where perceptions, mental images, and concepts begin and end.  We will simply characterize observations.  For instance, knowing arises from doing.  We know this because practice reinforces the abilities to remember and recite what is known.  Knowing tends to lodge in the limbs, through activity and in the feelings through rhythm (knowing by heart).  We need not make conclusions about the nature of knowing to become familiar with its tracks.  Knowing makes the learner “light up” in a way that is almost tangible.  This is one of the most common observations about knowing, or learning.

We discuss the characteristics of a learner in Intuitive Learning in the section called, “What does a learner look like.”  These characteristics are universal from country to country, language to language.  Knowing is a lighting up that makes the learner excited, enthusiastic, and motivated to learn more.  Knowing introduces you to the forces behind natural law and their power and beauty become a revelation for the knower (learner).  True knowing puts you in contact with archetypes of knowledge (the essential core of a subject that is common to all manifestations of a type) that connect you to other correspondences and analogies.  All true knowledge is connected to other knowledge.  No knowledge stands alone.  When truth is found, it also illuminates other truths that are connected to it.  Scientific theory is changing all the time.  There is hardly a scientific theory that last hundred years.  Truth is very subjective and knowing is a process little understood.

One thing we are sure about is that each learner believes that their perceptions are informing them properly.  But if the learner is color-blind, we have to ask what the learner truly knows.  Also, the attitude of the learner colors all perception.  Therefore, when we try to answer the question of, “What we can know?” we are lead to more questions, not answers.  We must respect the concepts of the learner and give credence to their viewpoints.  The learner’s feelings can either open them to discovering their potential or turn them off to learning altogether.  Learning is a holistic process that requires that willing, feeling and thinking be aligned before learning blossoms.

Essential Questions to Ask (PDF Chart)

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