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Approach to Learning

Posted Jul 01 2011 5:46pm

As I browse through a seminar catalog for some courses I want to take, I got to thinking of other massage continuing education seminars I’ve been to and the instructors/teachers who taught me. 

It’s very interesting watching others and their approach to how they pass information along.  This also caused me to reminisce a bit concerning my first attempts at ‘teaching.’  Here’s a reflection of what I came up with.

In whatever it is we do, there are many who set their sights on becoming teachers and instructors. It is marvelous that they wish to be of service in the world by putting the things they have learned into practice.

Those who work with me that are aiming to become instructors often ask me to show them how to instruct. Although I would like to satisfy their desire to know this, I must tell them that I cannot.

This is because it is not any ‘method of teaching’ that is the important thing in being an instructor; the important thing is to master one’s own approach towards learning.

After we have a meeting and I give a lecture, I occasionally ask those in attendance questions such as these:

With what facial expression did I conduct this lecture?

In what order did I explain things in the lecture?

Where did I stand while I was instructing?

Can you tell me roughly the size of my writing on the whiteboard?

The vast majority of the participants cannot answer these at all. For beginners, it may be difficult to notice that much detail. However, it is another story for all those aiming to become instructors/teachers.

Since I am actually demonstrating instruction in front of them, it is a great waste not to be observing it. Because they have the learning approach of a student they are not observing my method of instruction. Most of all it is indispensable to have the learning approach of an instructor/teacher.

I would like to share with you an experience that had great value for me.

It was when I was first receiving instruction while in the military.  My CO (Commanding Officer) had just finished giving us a lecture on certain maneuvers.  

Afterwards, there was a request for a lecture from a person who had attended this lecture. As we could not adjust the CO’s schedule for him to give this lecture, they asked us to send a lecturer from headquarters in his place, or failing this, anyone at all. My CO turned and said to me, "Right. You go."

I replied, "Sir, Thank you. But I don’t have any lecturing experience."

Then I was told by the CO, "But I just demonstrated for you, didn’t I?"

I received a terrible shock.

I had not been watching HOW he was giving his lecture!  My CO said, "You have to become able to do things when they are shown to you once."

I remember him explaining this to me and the confusion I felt. 

Since then, whenever I have the opportunity to attend a lecture, I have paid close attention to those giving the lectures way of instruction: with what state of mind does s/he lecture, in what position does s/he stand, how does s/he look at the audience, in what order does s/he deliver the lecture, how loud is his/her voice?  Does s/he engage the audience?

There has not been a single time when someone instructed me in lecturing and instructing methodologies. The one and only thing that I was taught was the learning approach of an instructor. I am very grateful that I was able to be taught this learning approach right from the start.

Not being ready to learn is like collecting water in a sieve. No matter how much water you pour in, the water does not accumulate.

First of all, fix your approach to learning and then pour in the water. You will be in the state where the water will accumulate. For that purpose, what I am conveying to all those who aim to become instructors is not any method of instruction, but the learning approach of an instructor.

Even for those who are not instructors their approach to learning is very important. Although it is important to decide on what to study for the acquisition of degrees, the most important thing is to fix your approach to learning.

Las Vegas Massage Therapist Kris Kelley

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