When I did my teacher training back in 1986 I remember having my world rocked by a book called ‘Teaching as a Subversive Activity’ by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner. They make reference to a piece by Carl Rogers in ‘On Becoming a Person’.
- My experience has been that I cannot teach another person how to teach.
- It seems to me that anything that can be taught to another is relatively inconsequential, and has little or no significant impact on behavior.
- I realize increasingly that I am only interested in learnings which significantly influence behavior
- I have come to feel that the only learning which significantly influences behavior is self-discovered, self appropriated learning.
- Such self-discovered, truth that has been personally appropriated and assimilated in experience, cannot be directly communicated to another.
- As a consequence I have realised that I have lost interest in being a teacher
Rogers goes on to state that the outcomes of trying to teach are either unimportant or hurtful and that he is only interested in being a learner. Some of our students react to this statement snidely, claiming that Rogers feels this way because he is a bad teacher. Honest, but bad. Others seem deeply disturbed by it and seek clarification on what Rogers means by ‘significant learning’. We then produce Roger’s definition of the term, which is stated in the form of specific behaviours. They include:
The person comes to see himself differently.
He accepts himself and his feelings more fully.
He becomes more self-confident and self directing.
He becomes more the person he would like to be.
He becomes more flexible, less rigid in his perceptions.
He adopts more realistic goals for himself.
He behaves in a more mature fashion.
He becomes more open to the evidence, both of what is going on outside of himself and what is going on inside of himself.”
Powerful stuff. What Rogers seems to be saying is that what we can teach, in the traditional sense is more or less trivial. However what the student can learn from the process is potentially transformational.
I think Rogers was onto something here, something that is particularlypowerful for those of us charges with ‘teaching enterprise’. If we really want to develop more enterprising students then perhaps we should focus less on classes about marketing, branding, cash flow and taxation and more on providing and reviewing experiences that are designed to develop ‘Significant Learning’.
Because Rogers’ definition of ‘Significant Learning’ looks a lot like ‘more enterprising’ to me.