Saturday, January 12, 2013

Individualized teaching

variations on a theme.
Otto Salomon distinguished between class teaching and individual teaching as follows:
Class teaching comprises the teaching of two or more children. Individual teaching comprises the teaching of one or more students. The aims of the teacher are not the same in the two cases. They differ materially. In class teaching the teacher is apt to regard the class as a unit. It is not the development of the individual scholar, but of the individual class, that is aimed at. The minds of the scholars composing it are at various stages of intelligence; they differ also in ability. The efforts of the teacher are directed to assimilating these differences, and to securing a uniform rate of progress among all the members of the class. On the other hand, in individual teaching, the development of each child is the aim kept prominently in view. No effort is made to harmonize differences in ability, nor to advance the children with equal paces. The best teachers will make their methods approximate as much as possible to those employed in individual teaching.

A number of children who are being instructed and addressed at the same time by the teacher, may be regarded as being individually taught, when the intellects of all those under instruction are at the same stage of progress, and this is the limitation we must ad to the definition with which we stared. If for instance, a new subject is going to be taught to a number of children simultaneously, and none of the children know anything of it, the teaching is individual teaching, because there is equality o mind, which results from uniformity of ignorance about the new subject.

But after the first lesson has been given, this equality of mind no longer exists; for, of all the members of the class, some understood more and some less, while some retain more and others less.

The whole of the scholars, then, can no longer be regarded as an individual.
Salomon describes how a class can be divided into ever smaller groups of individuals each group sharing strong similarities, but that
"All good education must be based on the nature of the child... In nature there are no two things exactly alike... If this be granted, it readily follows that class teaching, as a means of education, is not good either in Sloyd or any other school subject."

"The more individual our teaching becomes, the nearer—other things being equal—it approximates to a good educational ideal."
I've been discussing the idea of educational tact in relation to this Salomon quote shared by Hans: “Educational tact is, strictly speaking, nothing but the teacher’s faculty/capacity to individualize his teaching”. (To the needs of each and every child.) I hope that my readers can understand from this that not only is educational Sloyd a system of woodworking education, it is also a system of educational philosophy that could, in the right hands, revolutionize American education.

I had a conversation at recess yesterday with our first, second and third grade teacher Miss Jenny. She noted that after she had given instructions to her class, one of the students asked, "Now what do I do?" For even when students are relatively equal in intellect and maturity, we all know from our own experience that minds can wander. A teacher that fails to address the needs of each child has missed the point.

My boxes shown in the photo above could be viewed as a class, and yet, each is individual and deliberately so. Can we design education so as to encourage the unique qualities of each child to come forth? The success of our species is not due to our being standardized.

Glue lining to 1/8 in. ply then trim to size
The photo at left shows the lined false bottom cut to hide the secret compartment routed in the floating panel base of a box.

With regards to individualized teaching, one cannot get closer to the principle than a one-on-one apprenticeship. In addition to teaching at Clear Spring School and writing another book on making boxes, I am taking on an apprentice for the next 6 months under the auspices of Arkansas State University's Arkansas Folk Life Program and funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. My objective is to help a fellow develop skills and confidence to launch himself into self-employment. There is no guarantee of success but growth is assured.  I've chosen a younger man with potential and interest.

Returning for the moment to the subject of gun violence, what is there about this that the NRA can't understand?  Kindness halted school shooting.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Doug, what a tremendously fortunate young man to be able to apprentice with you. We should ALL be so fortunate :) Hope your new year is going well.


  2. JD, my year seems to be off to a good start. I hope the same for you.We seem to be living in such interesting times. I was listening to a radio interview with a man who did a TED talk on the resilience of the Cerebral Cortex, both in imagining our futures and in contending with the past.

    Come hell or high water, it seems we are wired to make the best of things. Is the glass half full or half empty? In reading about Pestalozzi, I know that there is some advantage to trudging on regardless.

  3. Having an apprentice should be quite the adventure! Good for you, and good for him too. Every time I watch you work I feel like an apprentice.