Core Messages from Win Wenger, Ph.D.
Accelerating Learning — a way to build and deepen understanding, not just rates of rote memorization.
Qualitative Learning — as distinct from quantitative learning; pursuing more effective understanding as distinct from memorization.
Project Renaissance has returned to the essential, Socratic meaning of education: “Education” as educare, drawing forth from learners their own understandings and perceptions. The effects are:
- Truly accelerated and enhanced learning. In most subjects, topics, or skills, you can readily build, within two days, levels of proficiency which normally would take years of sustained effort and study to achieve. Highly effective especially in the intellectually demanding sciences, arts and humanities, and in pursuits requiring physical skills such as athletic sports or in some of the performing arts.
- Heightened perceptivity and abilities in students. There is very good reason why — in classical Greece and in Renaissance Europe — practice of Socratic Method resulted, per capita, in a rate of production of world-class genius some ten million times greater than have our currently used schooling methods with all our advantages of information technology and all our scientific theories about learners and learning.
- A system and set of complementary methods. These methods wonderfully complement other accelerative techniques which are directed more towards quantities of learning as distinct from the Socratic, qualitative approach. Some subjects of study do need extensive memorization, or at least quantitative acquisition, such as in the original uses of Lozanov Suggestopedy in learning foreign languages. Taking in extensive content even in the sciences, unless the understanding bases are laid extremely well, does require some forms of quantitative acquisition, an excellent example being Kathy Carroll‘s uses of music as a mnemonic aid and motivator in learning scientific principles. But many, arguably most, courses in the curriculum do need a qualitative approach as well, so that all that content is not only useful and organized through a rational and empirical framework which transfuses meaning, but significantly aids all further learning as well.
Keys to the Socratic approach in the Project Renaissance system
The “drawing-forth” of each learner is so very productive of educational gains that Socratic practitioners believed that nearly all knowledge and understanding are already within each learner and need merely be “drawn forth.”
Socratic Method was so universally productive that the very practice and profession of “education” became named after that concept. Your profession.
The “miracle” results from what gets reinforced. Socratic learners are forced by question or argument (or by whatever means) to examine their awarenesses, inner and outer, and to try to respond from those awarenesses. Examining and responding to an awareness thereby reinforces each particular awareness.
More significantly, this examining and responding to one’s own awarenesses also reinforces each learner’s behavior or trait of being aware. This makes a huge difference in educational outcomes.
Project Renaissance has made further gains by distinguishing information, understanding, and perception (which the original Socratics had not distinguished), and by orienting learners toward their own first-hand perceptions. These perceptions are by far the most productive in those further educational effects.
A Project Renaissance Socrateur focuses as much learning as he or she can through the learner’s own first-hand perceptions, which in turn are the most direct route to conscious understandings, which in turn then support whatever other information needs assimilating.
Just as powerful among natural laws as is the law of gravity is what behavioral science calls “the Law of Effect.” Encyclopedias have been published in study of this law, but its description boils down to this: “You get more of what you reinforce.” The history of life itself is the pursuit and discovery of what works: in every generation stretching a million generations into our deep past, only those survived to become ancestors who found what was working and adapted accordingly; that is why we are so powerfully compelled to “obey” that law today, as is any living organism or complex system. Among the Law of Effect’s many great uses and consequences are these:
Look at any situation, especially look at any classroom situation. Examine what is actually being reinforced there and what is being extinguished through non-reinforcement. Such an examination can be remarkably instructive!
What’s there to be reinforced? Most awarenesses are either marginally conscious or unconscious, and not only in learners. We don’t have to assume a universal unconscious, as did the original Socratics. Previous reading, classroom exposures, and incidental contacts have equipped all students with a majority of the subject or skill or topic they are struggling to learn, to learn seemingly from scratch.
If they can be brought aware of what they already know in the subject, whatever learning still remains to be done there integrates quickly and easily around this already-known core. Most of the awarenesses they’ve ever had, past or present, conscious or unconscious, are still present in their memory banks, there for invaluable use if you know how to access it. Some hold that absolutely every such awareness is there; that is not yet proven, but that a vast quantity of these is there has been well demonstrated by researchers for more than a century. Yet we’ve done next to nothing with this extraordinarily rich resource during that entire century, and less than that nothing in our classrooms.
Look at the floor. Look at the little portion of the floor covered by your foot. Let that portion represent what’s in your conscious focus. Now look around at all the rest of that floor! Let that represent what else you have as resources for learning and for understanding! That is true for you, and it describes also each of your students. Even your lowliest students have genius resources untapped within them. Your most gifted students may be tapping a few more of their resources than the others are, but they, also, have nearly all of their resources offline, untapped. Yet they are readily tappable.
Problem — and Solution
One of the reasons that American and Prussian schools abandoned Socratic Method in the 19th Century: we went to large classrooms. If you have more than three or four students at a time, while you are Socratizing one student the other forty-seven become restless.
The most powerful way known to build both perception and understanding is to get each person examining their own perceptions in depth and seeking to describe these or respond to them in some specific, articulated way (to reinforce both those perceptions and the behavior of being aware). But in modern classrooms even teachers astute enough to ask Socratic questions don’t have much chance to Socratize individual students.
Problem: how in large groups can one give every student extensive Socratic experience? Both to develop their perceptions and understandings in the subject being taught, and to heighten every student’s perceptivity? Solution: Dynamic Format, developed by Project Renaissance (see references below).
REFERENCES FOR EDUCATORS
A few teachers have indicated to us that this site is so overflowing with rich information that they don’t know where to start. So it might help for me to point to a selection of self-contained, simple “experience recipes” and procedures which are easy and pleasant to use in a classroom. Several of them, like Dynamic Format, are key procedures, but most of the following are just simple, easy, rewarding things to do and so might serve you as an easy way to work your way as a teacher gradually into the broader and more excitingly rewarding context.
Many of these procedures were first published in our continuing column, Winsights, archived here. All of these are complete and free to you. Have fun!
As a teacher, I especially hope you will read Winsights No. 33, “Add Depth and Richness to Every Facet of Our Mutual Lives.” And also read that article’s sequel, “Mutual Listening”.
Project Renaissance methods are designed to be simple, easily and quickly learned, safe, reliable, and effective. Many of these methods are provided in self-taught form, step by specific step. The professional training is specially designed to ensure that teachers can carry what they learn there into the context of their own classrooms. An entire section of this website, T&L; Techniques, presents a battery of the world’s best teaching and learning methods, to become a significant world resource for anyone to use.
- Dynamic Format — how to run better meetings, groups, and classes. free here on the Project Renaissance website.
- Dynamic Teaching — a specific and very brief practical CoreBook that exemplifies this approach throughout the curriculum.
- “Add Depth and Richness to Every Facet of Our Mutual Lives“ — a Winsights column which shows you how to turn your students into being Socratic to one another.
- Beyond Teaching And Learning — a major book focused on bringing hitherto unconscious understandings conscious. It is distinguished by the many ways in which one may turn virtually any learning topic or focus into a direct perceptual experience. More about its techniques is also provided free at The Innovation Center and Explore-It.
- Professional, In-Service Faculty Training — special professional courses are available for arrangement at your school, including the course titled Teach Smarter, Not Harder. Inquire to Project Renaissance.
- “How To Feel Better Instantly”, in Winsights No. 4, is a method easily done in classes. A far more comprehensive treatment of useful breathing patterns is found in Winsights No. 28 and No. 29, and can go a long way to helping you as a teacher to remove your own stresses. You might also be able to adapt some of these later procedures to help some or all of your students.
- You and your students will very much enjoy the simple little “How To See with Artistic Eyes” in Winsights No. 16.
- Another very enjoyable perception-developing procedure is found in Winsights No. 24, “Artist’s Eyes”.
- The World Next Door method contains three different levels of “Borrowed Genius”-type high-leverage learning technique, in Winsights No. 20, “A Little Something You Can Do for Your Own Children”.
- From Winsights No. 37, “The Game of Gotcha” is one of the neatest little social lessons you could hope to find anywhere!
- For anyone involved with music, this very simple practice is an exceptionally productive procedure: “In 900 Minutes, You Can Be Composing Very Fine Music”, in Winsights No. 13.
Some more demanding, but important, specific procedures are also free here in this site. These you can use for yourself for various practical purposes, and with older or more responsible students. These more involved procedures include:
- Image-Streaming, also taught in short form at Winsights No. 3 and in richer detail vis-a-vis young children in Winsights No. 20, and in fullest, richest detail in You Are Brighter Than You Think in my online books section.
- Over-the-Wall problem-solving, in the CPS Techniques section of this site.
- Gravel Gulch problem-solving, also in the CPS Techniques section. With humor and a bit of careful adaptation you can probably have a wonderful time with this also in your classroom.
- Borrowed Genius, my very remarkably powerful accelerated learning technique free online here. In Winsights No. 8 and No. 9, you may find ways to adapt it for use in your classroom, whatever level. (Note also the easier classroom versions of Borrowed Genius included in Winsights No. 20.)
The first group of references includes some self-contained little experiences which are enjoyable, productive, and let you get your toe wet before you take the plunge into the whole thing. I suggest you begin right now, however, because the events cited in my essay, The Shape of Things to Come, about the future of education, are not much longer in starting to spring upon us. Please note that that article defines a spectacularly positive opportunity for schools and teachers as much as it poses a challenge just about to break upon us….and that the teachers who handle this abrupt challenge successfully will finally be receiving remuneration commensurate with the so-essential role of our profession.
See also: The Ideal School
Access our comprehensive resource, Teaching & Learning Techniques
Win published Core Messages for specific audiences. Click the links below to view them.