Forensics for teachers: A tidbit

In the hydraulic approach to teaching, knowledge is poured into enthusiastic pupils, in much the same way that water is poured over enthusiastic coffee beans, before the dark rich liquid emerges inside a cup. Photo: Ikea

The hydraulic method of teaching consists of cutting open the craniums of pupils, and pouring in knowledge. This approach is fast, simple, effective and most importantly, cheap – because anyone can do it. There is no need to employ expensive teachers.

Information about hydraulics was included in one of my pedagogy textbooks. It struck me that some salient details were missing, such as detailed instructions on how to open a cranium, or pour in knowledge. At what rate should knowledge be poured? What type of knowledge should be used? Even if one advocates the hydraulic method, each and every pupil will require a personalized approach to maximize learning potential.

As strange as it may seem, instead of learning basic brain surgery, it might be more practical for a teacher to learn how to treat each student as an individual, and how to assign appropriate tasks and exercises. This actually eliminates the need for brain surgery, as well as text books – including pedagogy textbooks trying to be cute. Of course, it also assumes that the teacher is competent.

What happens when there is an incompetent teacher? Many situations arise where a teacher is teaching stuff he or she knows absolutely nothing about. Here is an example. Maritime deck officers in training arrived irregularly, at the prison where I worked. Given a choice of making pallets, working in the kitchen or attending school, they invariably opted to focus on learning more about their profession.

They usually express a desire to learn something about ship stability. It is perfectly understandable. Their textbook covering stability, is one of the worst anyone has ever encountered. Yes, even worse than the one about a hydraulic approach to teaching. Each topic is presented superficially, and then there are exercises to complete. No details about the methodology or algorithms used to solve these problems, are provided. At the back of the book, there are answers to some of the questions,  although these questions are never the ones the student needs to submit.

Officially, I had no competence to teach nautical subjects. However, I never let formalities stand in my way. All that was needed to do was to work back from the provided answers and the questions, to deduce the algorithms needed to solve that category of problem. With the algorithms reconstructed, I was then able to make up even more exercises for the student to solve.

Originally written as Textbooks, on 2019.01.12 04:55 / Modified 2019.05.14 10:09 and 2019.11.12 18:12.