Do you want to grow as a teacher and enhance the impact you have on those you teach?
One simple, three-letter word can help you do this. I’m not talking about some quack remedy or trendy term. Rather, it’s an everyday word whose power has emerged from mountains of research.
The mystery word is …
Let me explain. To do that, I need to go off on a bit of a tangent. Stick with me – it’s worth it. The insight that you will gain can have a profound effect on the way that you view learning, teaching and education in general.
Why AND Is Such A Powerful Word
Words affect the way we understand the world around us. They affect the way you think, and by doing so, they shape the way you perceive things.
For over 2,000 years (since the time of Aristotle), one, simple, two-letter word has dominated our thoughts and understandings. That word is OR.
Why is this important? The word OR implies that we have to choose one thing over another, and it often insinuates that one choice is inherently better than the other.
Historically, you can see this thinking in western society’s valuing of things such as reason over emotion.
You see it in philosophical questions such as, Are great leaders born OR made? (PS you could easily substitute the word leader for musician, athlete, artist or even teacher).
And you see it in education:
- Is school preparing teachers for the workforce, OR preparing them for life?
- Should teachers impart facts and knowledge OR should we develop deeper understandings?
- Should we go back to the basics, OR should we nurture creativity, personal development and critical thinking?
- Should teachers be caring OR demanding?
The reality is that this type of either-or thinking severely restricts our understanding and our options. Replacing the word OR with the word AND can enrich our understanding and expand our options.
We have now seen that reason AND emotion can work together to help us make better decisions, and research shows that nature AND nurture influence how effective leaders (or others) are.
AND Can Enhance Your Understanding & Options As A Teacher
Too many people see education as divided into two opposing camps. You can be traditional or you can be progressive. Interestingly, even the words themselves imply that one is better than the other.
However, the reality is that there are many cases where replacing the word OR with the word AND works well in schools.
For example, research shows that the most effective teachers:
- Are both caring AND demanding (see my article on High-Performance Relationships)
- Impart facts and knowledge AND develop deep understanding
- Tell kids stuff, show kids how to do stuff AND help the students do it themselves
- Teach the basics AND nurture creativity, personal development and critical thinking
Many aspects of teaching and learning are not opposed to each other at all. Rather, they complement, complete and balance each other.
- Being caring without being demanding leads to mediocrity
- Deep understanding requires foundational knowledge
- We need to prepare kids for work, AND we want to help them grow as people
Instead of pitting things against each other, you can start to explore how things could work in tandem.
- How can I use extrinsic AND intrinsic motivation to complement each other? (e.g. using extrinsic rewards for tasks that aren’t intrinsically motivating to start with)
- What is the best way to combine whole-class instruction, individual work AND group work?
- How can I make use of tests AND other forms of assessment?
These are just examples. The power of AND comes when you start applying it your own beliefs and situations. You will be surprised by how liberating it can be.
A NOTE OF CAUTION: This doesn’t mean that you should always replace the word OR with the word AND. There are times when one option is clearly superior to another. For example:
- Spaced and cumulative practice is clearly more effective than massed practice
- Visual perception programs have a substantial impact on student results while perceptual motor programs do not
- Tailoring your approach to where the students are at (e.g. novice, intermediate, advanced) has a major effect, trying to match your approach to different learning styles does not
It is always worth exploring the options opened up by the word AND, but you must still appraise them with a critical eye.