If you are a Teacher, or a beneficiary of Teaching, you intuitively know its importance and value. But have you ever systematically analyzed Teaching’s strategic purpose; its top-most goal?
You might well ask why should I understand the top-most goal – the strategic – objective of teaching? Well, generals, business leaders and leaders of all kinds know that their chances of succeeding are better if they understand the strategic goal, and all the steps and resources needed to achieve that goal. Teaching is no different.
Understanding the strategic purpose of which you are an important part is a necessity in any human endeavor: especially when it comes to educating the next generation. We all do a better job if we have figured out the overall strategy.
If you have not thought about the strategic goal of teaching, and you are teaching, coaching, instructing or training others you should consider proving to yourself what the ultimate purpose of teaching is, before delving into the specifics of how it works, or how to apply its principles, or what kind of teaching is more appropriate in a given set of circumstances.
A definition is always helpful as a starting point, and a generally accepted one is this: “Teaching is the practice of creating experiences which make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing.”
But what I would like to help explore is more than a definition – I would like to answer this question: What is the strategic objective of Teaching?
To begin I will propose two premises.
- First, all activities have a strategic purpose; the question is whether we know or are even aware of that strategic purpose.
- Second, thinking about something and identifying its strategic purpose should be a vital first principle of any human activity.
So, think of the strategic or top-most goal as the ‘What.’ As in ‘what are we doing?’ If a practitioner cannot identify what something does and clearly articulate its purpose then trust from other participants in the endeavor and good results will be harder to come by. No project ever gets far without the strategic ‘What’ being clearly identified. A series of complementary tactical steps – the ‘How’ – must be identified without which the strategy remains unattainable.
How does one go about identifying the strategic purpose of anything? The identification of the strategic goal and the supporting tactics can only be discovered by critically thinking about the issue. And a really good way to start is by asking why it matters.
To answer the question about why it matters, the best place to start critically thinking about any issue is 30,000 feet up. The bird’s eye view allows us to “zoom out” on an issue, ensuring we first see and take into account the surroundings or context of the issue, before “zooming in.”
If a commander planning an assault only sees the lie of the land at his own eye-level from at most six feet above the ground, even with binoculars, most information about the true contours of the battlefield will elude him. There is a reason why hot air balloons made their appearance on the field of battle very soon after being seen as mere entertaining curiosities floating above Paris in 1783: they revealed the context of the battle.
So, the obvious next question is this: By what means can one discover the strategic purpose – the topmost goal – of teaching, and thereby identify the tactics necessary to accomplishing that strategic purpose?
As I have said the answer is critical thinking. And critical thinking is all about deep questioning. The key is to ask and answer questions beginning with these six words: WHO. WHAT. WHY. WHERE. WHEN and HOW.
STEP ONE. Go up in the balloon by beginning with the “zoom-out” questions. The questions that identify the context, hierarchy or taxonomy of teaching before drilling down. Here goes.
- WHAT is teaching and learning a part of?
A. Those activities which educate, instruct and impart knowledge or skill.
Q. WHAT are those activities which educate, instruct and impart knowledge or skill a part of?
A. The human body of knowledge.
STEP TWO. Now you have “zoomed out” and established the context or hierarchy of what teaching is: namely, methods that help transmit the human body of knowledge. It is time to “zoom in.”
Again, the methodology is the same. First, ask and answer as many questions as you can beginning with the words WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHERE, WHEN and HOW.
Here is an example of how it could work. (Note, your questions and answers might differ and, since we are dealing with a subjective, not a factual, question your conclusion might be different, but equally valid. It’s the process that matters.)
- Q. WHO benefits from teaching?
A. The stakeholders in schools (students, families, teachers and society-at-large.)
Q. WHO is responsible for the teaching process?
A. Civic leaders and schools.
- Q. WHAT is the purpose of teaching?
To facilitate the transmission or sharing of existing knowledge and to help uncover new knowledge.
Q. WHAT is the value of transmitting or sharing existing knowledge and uncovering new knowledge?
A. It helps society survive and evolve.
- Q. WHY is teaching important?
A. Society is changing rapidly making rapid transfer of knowledge more important and more difficult. Changes also demand new ideas.
WHY is the transfer of knowledge and uncovering new ideas more difficult?
A. The volume of data is increasing exponentially, and more difficult to decipher.
- WHERE is teaching most valuable or important?
A. Wherever competition for resources exists.
Q. WHERE should teaching be implemented?
A. Wherever change is a constant and obstacles to success exist.
- Q. WHEN should teaching be deployed?
A. Whenever change is a constant and problems need to be solved.
- Q. HOW should teaching be deployed?
Optimally, by identifying and implementing the necessary tactical steps.
STEP THREE. Go back over the questions and answers above and highlight the handful of words or phrases that stand out as intuitively most important in formulating a strategic statement: the top-most goal of teaching. If this is a group exercise then the group votes for the most important answers.
- Teaching imparts knowledge or skill
- Adds to the human body of knowledge
- There are four stakeholders
- Sharing of existing knowledge
- Creating new knowledge
- The need for all entities – society and individuals – to survive and evolve
- Change is happening rapidly making the transfer of more important and more difficult
- The volume of data is increasing exponentially
STEP FOUR. Summarize the highlighted words and phrases into a coherent paragraph beginning with the words “The strategic purpose of Instruction is………….” (Like a poem the goal is to convey the most with the fewest words.) For example,
“The strategic purpose of teaching – the WHAT – is to systematically share knowledge and skills and discover new knowledge with a view to optimizing the interests of all education’s stakeholder’s. This is especially vital in this era of rapid data creation.”
Again, your questions, answers and strategic statement may be different and no less valid. The importance lies in the process of thinking critically and strategically.
I have just used my Ten Step Terego Method© to analyze an issue – Teaching – through deep questioning.
My method can be used to think critically – preferably in a group – to solve any problem and communicate solutions.
A CALL TO ACTION.
There is one thing teachers can do. BEFORE telling students to open their “textbooks,” organize them into self-directed teams and ask them to analyze through questioning why what they are doing is valuable to them.
If you teach algebra or history, ask your students to decide for themselves why algebra or history is important; that way they buy-in to the need for them to learn algebra or history. The same goes for any subject.
THE TEN-STEP TEREGO METHOD© FOR DISCOVERING AN AGREED POINT-OF-VIEW USING CRITICAL THINKING IN SELF-DIRECTED TEAMS.
Invest 7 minutes watching this narrated video of an actual session on the subject of “Why Thinking Is Important?”