Written by: Greg Ellifritz
Daniel Coyle wrote a great book called The Talent Code. In it he describes the best practice, motivation, and coaching techniques to achieve greatness. I highly recommend the book for students of any endeavor.
When the book came out a few years ago, Mr. Coyle was writing some very informative blog posts to help publicize it. While reviewing some of those older posts, I found this gem of an article that is incredibly relevant to any instructor of the fighting arts.
10 Ways to Spot Great Teachers (and Avoid Crummy Ones)
In the article, the author discusses the epidemic problem of “pseudoteaching.” He defines that term as:
“…something you realize you’re doing after you’ve attempted a lesson which from the outset looks like it should result in student learning, but upon further reflection, you realize that the very lesson itself was flawed and involved minimal learning.“
I think all of us who have taught for a while have experienced this. Sometimes when you are teaching, the students just don’t pick up the material. Occasionally it is the fault of a poorly motivated student, but if a large percentage of the class isn’t learning, you may be “pseudoteaching.”
Coyle suggests that one should use the list below as a type of evaluation before, during, or after your presentation…
10 WAYS TO SPOT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PSEUDOTEACHING (PT) AND REAL TEACHING (RT)
- 1) PT delivers long, entertaining, inspiring lectures; RT designs short, intensive, learner-driven sessions
- 2) PT is eloquent and expansive; RT is concise and focused
- 3) PT addresses large groups; RT connects to individuals
- 4) PT doesn’t focus on small details; RT is all about details
- 5) PT is about talking more than watching or listening; RT is about listening and watching more than talking
- 6) PT is loudly charismatic; RT is quietly magnetic
- 7) PT is Robin Williams leaping atop desks in Dead Poets Society; RT is John Wooden, teaching his basketball players how to put on their socks properly (no wrinkles, because that causes blisters)
- 8) PT dismisses questions; RT craves them
- 9) PT treats everyone the same; RT tailors the message for each learner
- 10) PT delivers the exact same lecture over and over; RT customizes each session for its audience
Think back on the last class you taught. Were the characteristics more like the “Real Teaching” list or the “Pseudo Teaching” list?
In my mind, a list like this is merely a tool for reflection and evaluation. It isn’t an absolute guideline. Most of the classes you teach will likely have characteristics from both of the lists. Sometimes environmental conditions and audience size come into play. I would like all of my classes to contain “short, intensive, learner-driven lessons.” In reality, that may not always be possible. Sometimes a teacher just has to lecture. There may not be a viable way to change the format given the subject matter and the number of students one has to teach.
Take one more look at the list Daniel Coyle provided. What actions can you take to move your teaching style away from “Pseudo Teaching” and more toward “Real Teaching?”
Evaluate each class you teach. Is there anything you can change to make your teaching style more “real” for your students? The list above should give you some ideas. Start slowly. Commit to integrating one item from the “Real Teaching” descriptors above into your next class. If you make just one small positive change in each class you teach, you will soon be on the road to making your classes more “real” in general.
Better yet, your students will more effectively learn the material you are presenting. A small amount of additional effort on your part can pay big dividends in enhancing your reputation as a teacher. It can also ensure that your students retain the lessons you are teaching. When we are talking about teaching someone the skills they need to save lives in a hostile or predatory environment, making just a small change to your presentation style could have the massive “downstream” effect of saving your students lots of pain and suffering. It may even save someone’s life.
Try keeping it “real.”
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