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Monday, October 14, 2013

Pedagogy as the art of withholding information

I had a colleague who enjoyed great respect from his fellow teachers. He would often be the one who dared come up with a critical and often conservative view in meetings. He once complained about the practice of having the entire year visible on the school’s learning platform. “Pedagogy,” he said “Is sometime the art of withholding things.”

I must admit I didn’t understand him until much later. On a weekend climbing course, a participant asked about fall factor, a crucial theoretical concept in rock climbing. I felt obliged to give a full answer, and a full answer takes some time. Many of the other participants heard us talking and came over to hear, necessitating starting anew several times. An outspoken assistant objected to my explanation and then I really had my hands full with damage control.

The right thing to do would have been to say: “That’s a really good question. Fall factor is an important topic, so we’ll talk about it in detail tomorrow.” Tomorrow when it fits in with the progression of the course, tomorrow when I can create a situation that suits the topic, tomorrow when I've managed to awaken their curiosity and previous knowledge in advance. It’s not about taking things when it suits me, but about taking things when it suits the students. And the best person to judge the student’s needs is usually …the teacher.

The pedagogy of fall factor will be discussed in a different post.

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