by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
Better methods of Teaching and Learning
… they are here, free for you to use, self-taught step by easy, specific step. Some of the various methods are different enough from what you’re used to and from each other that you are certain to find one or more that work especially well for you — to make experiences of learning or teaching easy, rapid, and rewarding for you.
Be a far more effective learner, and/or teacher, than you’ve thought you could be. It still takes some effort and attention: we don’t have any magic pills you can swallow to “get” Economics 101 or whatever subject. But 2 to 3 days’ attention can now get you what years of effort had hitherto fallen short of: rewarding depths of understanding.
In part, this is because you have been a far better learner, deep in your past! Babies learn several thousand times more rapidly and effectively than most adults do; school was one of the things which slowed them down! And it slowed you down. We are finding out what slowed them down. We are also finding out some of what will restore, at least in part, that genius gift of superlearner that you were born with. Several of the methods you will find in this “T&L;” exhibit reflect this and will enable you to draw again on some of your natural gifts.
Understanding, not rote memorization
Most of the methods you will find here focus on getting at true understanding of a subject, field, or art. Understanding is more like the DNA which is at the core of every cell in your body — which, indeed, is the basis of each of your chromosomes. When you have that understanding, you can make more of that subject, you can be creative with it and generate new understandings in its context. Rote memorization is like sugar — it gets you by for the moment, but you need something more substantial for the long run.
Some subjects — foreign languages, the study of phyla and fauna in biology and geology, most of the names of chemicals and biochemicals — do need memorization. Most subjects need a more meaningful understanding as well. Most schools have settled for teaching a temporary memorization so “right answers” can show up in the busywork and tests, but YOU don’t have to settle for that. Make the time, attention and effort you are putting in count for something that means something, for the long haul. Nearly all the techniques you will find here go mainly for meaningful, long-term understanding.
What you can find here
We have assembled here some of the world’s best techniques for better learning and better teaching. They are presented here in self-taught form. You are welcome, indeed encouraged, to use them freely.
Some of these techniques come from Project Renaissance. As this site develops, some will come from other schools and programs and professionals. In each such instance you will find links back to the respective source. If you find a particular method especially helpful to you, you will be easily able to contact its source to learn what else is to be had from there. If we — and other participating programs and professionals — have or can find the necessary resources to complete this site, we will have developed a truly significant world resource. Anyone and everyone on the planet will have free access to “The World’s 101 Best Methods for Better Teaching and Learning.”
How some of these methods work
When you’re already an expert on a subject, it’s remarkable how easy it is for you to absorb new information on it, almost regardless of the method or technique you use in order to learn it. You have lots of mental associations ready and waiting for each piece of new information as it comes along. If you already know and understand the core of a subject, what remains to be learned about it, by whatever method, settles readily into place around that already-known core.
Surprisingly, that is actually your situation, for real — in almost any subject or skill area you might be struggling to learn in — including even “new” subjects you’re sure you’ve never even heard of! All your life you’ve absorbed experiences relating to whatever subject, but nearly all of them are unconscious, seemingly out of reach of your conscious use. How often have you had “the right answer” right “on the tip of your mind” but couldn’t seem to get at it?
Quick demo: please hold your hand out at arm’s length, hold up a finger at arm’s length, and look at that finger. While looking at that finger, notice everything else that you can that’s in your field of vision. You’re seeing it but not seeing it, right? There’s a lot there that you’re “seeing but not seeing,” right? We’re taking in enormous amounts of information all the time, but only a very little of it catches our attention and we become consciously aware of it. Yet all of it’s there…..and all of it remains there, in our forever-memory somewhere beyond our conscious focus.
And it’s not merely passively stored in memory; it’s being used. It is constantly being associated and sorted and related to what else is currently going on or being thought about. Our conscious, word-associating mind occupies two percent of our brain. Our sensory-image-associating mind, beyond our conscious focus, involves nearly all the rest of our brain! That is where nearly all of your real intelligence is, beyond your immediate conscious focus.
But our schools have attempted to teach us almost entirely through part of that two percent, and that is how we’ve thought we had to learn things. And we misuse even that two percent of the brain … rather than using it for its strength, expressing our awarenesses through it to pull them into focus, we try instead to pack all the information IN through there.
Most of these techniques are forms of Socratic Method
That is one of the reasons Socratic Method is so powerful: it leads us to search our awarenesses and — to respond to the current question or challenge or argument — to express ourselves from what we discover in those awarenesses.
Most of the methods you will find here are modern forms of Socratic Method, and that is why, if you are a teacher, the Dynamic Format procedure, which is also part of the Creative Problem Solving (CPS Techniques) exhibit, is so important.
Original forms of Socratic Method could only be used with one or a very few students at a time. In large classrooms, how could large numbers of students each get enough expressive “air time” to engage significant Socratic Effect? Dynamic Format, far easier for teachers to use than what 99% of teachers are using now and of course hugely more rewarding and effective, enables a teacher to give intense Socratic experiences to, if need be, hundreds of students at a time, while having much more time and attention freed for attending and teaching his/her students! And all that while holding the whole learning situation in much better focus…..
As a learner you will also find here ways to be Socratic to yourself! To get yourself past those first few trivial stock responses for whatever situation and into your richer, more meaningful perceptions and understandings. Those richer, more meaningful perceptions and understandings are, indeed, THERE!!! They just need to be drawn into the focus of your conscious awareness. As learning methods, much of what you find in this section enables you readily — nay, spectacularly! — to do precisely that. As teaching methods, they enable you to create this effect in others.
Overlap between creativity and learning
You will find a strong overlap between many of the methods here in this teaching and learning methods section and in the creative problem-solving methods section of this site. Creativity and learning, themselves, strongly overlap.
Few educators yet realize, and very few creativity practitioners yet realize, that both fields are nearly identical, involving the development of new information and new understandings from which one may draw for coping with future situations. What practitioners in either field have yet to realize is that virtually every successful creativity technique can readily be made into a profoundly accelerative enhanced learning technique….
Because creativity professionals have mostly been working where you really do sink or swim according to the results you get (while schools and school teachers have generally not been), there are literally hundreds of truly effective creativity-building techniques and methods for creative problem-solving, any one of which can be turned into a profoundly enhanced learning technique!
Unbeknownst to all but a very few creativity practitioners and professionals, apparently every one of the various hundreds of successful creativity techniques is, essentially, Socratic, and that is what makes it effective.
There are other principles as well which are involved in learning and teaching, and these also will be reflected as this array of techniques here continues to build toward our eventual “World’s 101 Best Techniques for Teaching and Learning,” freely available to anyone and everyone on the planet. If you have a successful good technique of your own, please send us a description. If it’s good enough, we will include it here with links leading back to you and your school or program, so that others who find it to be useful to them can come to you to learn more from the source. We hope that other programs and schools and professionals with something worth offering will in fact join us in helping to construct this array of the “101 best” such techniques as a significant world resource.
Once this exhibit becomes a significant world resource and a world reference point, individuals at large can freely draw upon the best of themselves without having to wait for their schools to make the very needed improvements which, for whatever reasons, have been impeded and deferred for so very long. This is freedom, very meaningful freedom. People at large will be able to draw more effectively upon all of themselves, many of them making a far greater contribution to civilization to enrich the lives of us all. People at large will freely have access to more of what they need to learn in order to, in turn, have wider access to the richness of 21st century culture and civilization.
Meanwhile, enjoy and make good use of the several techniques we already have up for your benefit and for the benefit of those people whom you care about…