exploring Confucius: hearing and forgetting 2

I’d like to spend time following up something I wrote some little time ago now.  Teaching has started here and is occupying a lot of my attention.  And a significant part of my attention is on the basic question:  given that I am lecturing, how can I as lecturer best act to ensure my students are getting value for the time they’re spending in lecture.

It’s an interesting question, in part because it’s a strange question to ask.  There is a common view that the question of value is essentially the same as the question of time.  If I as a lecturer am giving you the student my time, then I am providing you the student with something of value.  And yes, I do have to say that I believe this is true of me.  Though of course, it isn’t really my question to answer.

I don’t see that time is the same question as value.  We can extract value from time spent, but it is also possible to spend time but not create anything of value.  What I need to do in the lecture is to capture your attention.  In aikido, this is atemi, which I’ve spent a bit of time exploring in a completely different context.  But it’s not a concept that I’ve explored to any depth from the point of view of teaching.

But it is critical.  We each have busy minds.  When students come into the classroom, I as the lecturer need to do something to bring their attention into the room.  In the aikido dojo, we have a way of doing this, which is the ritual with which we begin every class.  This ritual helps me to leave behind the busyness and business of the day behind, and to focus my attention on the task at hand.  I don’t have such a ritual for my mathematics teaching, and perhaps I should.

And I can see that I’ve drifted a bit off topic, but not too far off.  I hear and I forget, so what I can I do to those who hear me, to help them remember.  This is akin to the stickiness of lectures.

So, what makes a lecture sticky?  And what do we even mean by sticky in this context?  I have an idea of what I mean.  What I want is that you, having heard me talk about something, remember what I’ve talked about.  Not that you can recall the lecture verbatim, but rather that as you go through the notes, you will on occasion read a sentence and hear it in my voice, speaking the words to you as you’re reading.  I want the enthusiasm with which I approach the topic of the day, to become a hum in the background.  And the reason I say this, is that I still have that background hum from some of the lectures I attended, as a graduate student, as an undergraduate, and even a few rare hums from high school.

But how to do this?    I’m sure there are ways.  One I think is to think of a lecture as a story to be told.  And so, I need to become more of a story teller.  This actually runs deep.  Because if I need to become a story teller, then first, I decide what is the story I want to tell.  And this is the rabbit hole into which I find that I have fallen.


~ by Jim Anderson on 8 October 2017.

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