Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A few thoughts on ignorance and exploration in teaching

One may teach in a way that hides one's ignorance and showcases one's knowledge. Or the teacher may be honest about he knows and does not know, freely admitting ignorance when the situation suggests it. By admitting ignorance, one can explore new ideas along with the students.

Unless something like this ignorance-awareness-honesty happens in the classroom, one's teaching will not allow the teacher himself to learn from his own ignorance and from the responses of his students. Exploration means meeting the unknown with what one knows (or thinks one knows). One of the most thrilling things I experience in the classroom is when new ideas emerge in my mind in real time through the act of teaching. It must be akin to the joy a great jazz improviser (such as Sonny Rollins) feels when he finds open sky and ascends accordingly.

The kind of ignorance I am considering is not that of being ill-prepared for class; rather, it pertains to how a well-educated and well-prepared pedagogue comports himself in light of what he does not know. That sort of ignorance is nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide.


pgepps said...

I always love teaching two sections of the same class back-to-back for just this reason. I often enjoy reporting the connections made in the first class, and unforeseen turns of discussion, to the second class while they're still fresh enough to have some sparkle.

Doug Groothuis said...

Good comment.

The only things close to this for me is when I preach back to back. But preaching doesn't usually allow for as much interaction with those you are addressing.

Anonymous said...

I think a similar sort of experience can come in re-reading a good book. This re-reading causes one to linger, to reconsider and to engage the material at a deeper level which can bring deeper insights.

WayneDawg said...

*That sort of ignorance is nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide.*

Cool........I don't feel so bad now!

David Strunk said...

Dr. G.,
Indeed, your intellectual epiphanies (that's not a great word for this concept- it's not sprung on you but rather refined through years of thinking) are a treat in class. I respect when you even say this phenomenon is happening. Something like, "Well, I haven't that completely through this yet because the idea is new, but I like the implications of it from the outset." It certainly enlivens class discussion.

David Strunk said...

"thought" instead of "that"

pgepps said...

I don't often preach, but my father being a preacher, and myself currently teaching Adult Sunday School and an evening young people's group, I do enjoy connecting from one thing to another as often as I can.

Unfortunately, very little about the church setting in our conservative churches encourages the kind of back-and-forth which I find absolutely vital to learning. Of course, this is not a secret, and lots of us are working on that.

Jim Pemberton said...

I read the Bible with the kids like this. Rather than have a cut and dry lesson prepared each night, I read the Bible with them and explore it like I would prepare for a cut and dry lesson:

"What do you think, kids? Nothing come to mind? Let's read this again. What do you think about what it says in verse 10? That reminds me of something we've read before. What do you think it means by the word _____ ? Let's look it up and find out. Is there something in the commentary about this? Look at the passage before this one. Why would this follow it? So if God meant for this to happen, what does that mean for us? Can you think of an example of this in your life? God did something like this in my life..."

I imagine a teacher could actively interact in some way with any good information to impart to students.