We remember these great teachers who have taught us so much about the world. But did they really? Some educators firmly believe that you can’t teach someone anything — rather, they have to learn it for themselves. A great teacher is someone who helps make that happen. A great teacher is a facilitator of learning more than an explainer. I’ve often wondered about this, since I certainly remember the great explainers from my past. Did they really teach me nothing? Are great explainers like televisions of education — entertaining and interesting but we don’t actually retain what they try to channel into our brains? I do think this might be the case. When I’ve actively struggled with something already, and just can’t put two ideas together in the right way, a great explainer can help me make the connection that I’ve failed to make. But if I haven’t already struggled with that material, then the explanation is cool and beautiful, but quickly slips through my grasp. In EducationLand, this is called Preparation for Future Learning, or PFL. In PFL we make students struggle with an idea so that they’re prepared to listen to a lecture or to learn whatever material we want them to learn.
I just posted a new episode of my Science Teaching Tips podcast in which longtime educator Modesto Tamez shares some thoughts about how he helps students make ideas their own, so that students learn for themselves. It’s called, you guessed it, Nobody’s Ever Taught You Anything.