Education Freedom Manifesto – Section 6: Learning, Teaching, Evaluation, and Their Counterfeits

This is the seventh post in a series comprising my Education Freedom Manifesto (full PDF Download). For part six in this series, click here.

Education Freedom Manifesto

Section 6

Learning, Teaching, Evaluation, and Their Counterfeits

Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.

You teach who you are, you learn what you live, and you remember what matters to you.

Everyone knows, or certainly should know, that indoctrination is not genuine teaching
and that the results of indoctrination are the very opposite of genuine learning.
Yet, as a matter of fact, much that goes on in the classrooms of our schools is nothing but indoctrination.
The results that are measured by our standardized tests are not products of genuine learning.
Mortimer J. Adler

Learning is Not the Product of Teaching

The most important thing any teacher has to learn, not to be learned in any school of education I ever heard of,
can be expressed in seven words: Learning is not the product of teaching.
Learning is the product of the activity of learners.
John Holt

How can teachers be of value to learners? Not by deciding what they are to learn, but by encouraging and helping them to learn what they are already busy learning.

Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.
Charlotte Mason

You Teach Who You Are

No written word, no spoken plea
can teach our youth what they should be.
Nor all the books on all the shelves –
It’s what the teachers are themselves.

What you do speaks so loud I cannot hear what you say.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

My life is my message.
Mohandas Gandhi

How teachers live is more important than what they know. Only virtuous people should be trusted with positions of influence.

Good teachers are first of all good learners, who use their learning
to teach better and their teaching to learn more.
Geraldine Van Doren

He who dares to teach must never cease to learn.
Richard Henry Dann

Teaching made him accountable to his thoughts, and as he became accountable for
them he had more of them, and they became sharper and deeper.
Tobias Wolff

Teachers must show that learning is a means of life improvement. If you stop learning, your life stops improving.

I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn’t learn something from him.
Galileo Galilei

Everyone’s life is an example. Some examples are better than others, but they all have something to teach those who are listening.

True Students and Their Counterfeits

Accept no one’s definition of your life. Define yourself.
Harvey Fierstein

True students are self-motivated. They decide what they want to learn and why they want to learn it. They do not need someone else to manage their motivation, time, or priorities.

Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.
Chinese Proverb

True students work to exhaust their own efforts before relying on others. They have enough respect for their own abilities and the time of others to turn challenging situations into opportunities to clarify their own questions and optimize their time with a mentor.

The most valuable and indeed essential asset the student brings to any learning task is
a willingness to adventure, to take risks. Without that, he can’t learn anything.
The teacher must not kill this spirit, but honor and strengthen it.
John Holt

True students take responsibility for their learning. They are willing to ask sincere questions and explore alternative explanations. They determine trustworthiness of sources and verify and test conclusions for themselves.

Learning is not a spectator sport.

True students live according to the truth they find. They are busy living, not just observing the truth.

There is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.
Morpheus, The Matrix

To do is to be.

I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.

True Teachers and Their Counterfeits

The best teacher is the one who suggests rather than dogmatizes,
and inspires his listener with the wish to teach himself.
Edward Bulwer-Lytton

I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.
Albert Einstein

True teachers require commitment and engagement, not compliance. They know that personal motivation and personal responsibility can’t be delegated. They know how to guide students in making the most of their independent study time and how to make the most of personalized teaching opportunities.

A thing vitally important in my life … was brought home to me when one of my oldest friends said,
In my house I was a child. In your family’s house I was a person.”
Margaret Mead

True teachers influence others through a compact of trust, not from delegated or compulsory means. Authority is not enough to make people your partners.

To teach a man how he may learn to grow independently,
and for himself, is perhaps the greatest service that one man can do another.
Benjamin Jowett

A true teacher must always be trying to work himself out of a job.
John Holt

A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.
Thomas Carruthers

A leader is best when people barely know he exists,
when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.
Lao Tzu

True teachers liberate people from dependency. They do not condition them to rely on it. They do not assume responsibility for the choices of others or manipulate them. They know that the goal of teaching is to enable independence.

The normal curve is a distribution most appropriate to chance and random activity.
Education is a purposeful activity and we seek to have students learn what we would teach.
Therefore, if we are effective, the distribution of grades will be anything but a normal curve.
In fact, a normal curve is evidence of our failure to teach.
Benjamin Bloom

True teachers help people, not audit them. They are service oriented. They know how to best facilitate learning rather than simply sort students according to prepared criteria.

The best teachers ask many more questions than they answer;
ideally, perhaps, a teacher should never answer a direct question from a student,
but instead respond by asking another question that will aid the student to solve his own problem.
Charles Van Doren

True teachers know how to ask conscious questions. When talking, teachers should not try to elicit a certain response, but to invite others to reflect deeply on complicated issues. Rhetorical questions do not inspire a real exchange of ideas. True teachers ask questions that increase and consciously direct the powers or perception, reason, memory, imagination, judgment, and feeling. Repeated questioning will in time be internalized by true students and they will form the habit of questioning things for themselves for the rest of their lives.

If you want to build a ship,
don’t drum up men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders.
Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
Antoine De Saint-Exupery

True teachers exemplify wisdom. They are philosophers, not sophists; that is, they are lovers of wisdom, not vendors of wisdom. True teachers can demonstrate mastery, distill simplicity from complexity, and teach people how to recognize and internalize feedback for themselves. They do not manipulate students, but they can be recognized for inspiring them.

One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men.
No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.
Elbert Hubbard

Teachers that can be replaced by machines, should. Rather than lecturing to passive observers, teachers should act as facilitators, introducing individual students to new concepts based on their interests and developmental state. Individualized instruction should be the standard.

Worthwhile Evaluation and Its Counterfeits

Measurements are not to provide numbers but insight.
Ingrid Bucher

You must measure things of value rather than simply valuing things you can measure. Learning evaluation should be done on the basis of demonstrating mastery.

Success in school means remembering the answers to teachers’ questions,
getting clever about guessing what questions they ask,
and about how to fool them when you don’t know the answers.
John Holt

Multiple choice tests do not provide acceptable evidence of mastery. They are widely employed because machines can quickly provide comparable results. Even relatively well-designed multiple choice tests are vulnerable to a mixture of common sense, process of elimination, and educated guesses.

Description of a grade:
An inadequate report of an inaccurate judgment
by a biased and variable judge
of the extent to which a student has attained an undefined level of mastery
of an unknown proportion of an indefinite material.
P. Dressel

Evidence of mastery is best demonstrated by portfolios of work products and by open examination. Open examinations can be oral, written, or practical. Oral and written examinations should use questions that require examinees to reflect on what they have learned and done to formulate appropriate answers. Practical examinations require students to perform real tasks or solve real problems.

An approximate answer to the right question is worth
a good deal more than an exact answer to an approximate question.
J. W. Tukey

Next in this series: Section 7: Failure, Creativity, and Play

One thought on “Education Freedom Manifesto – Section 6: Learning, Teaching, Evaluation, and Their Counterfeits

  1. Pingback: Education Freedom Manifesto – Section 5: Knowledge and the Human Curriculum | Living Voluntary

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