Monday, September 27, 2010

What Makes a Good Teacher?

Today, President Obama announced his initiative to recruit 10,000 more Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teachers in the next two years.

That'll set you thinking: What makes a good teacher? Of course, teachers are necessary to guide the students to a particular learning goal, be it learning an algebra, a calculus, a quantum mechanics, how to program a computer, etc. However, in reaching these various goals, a student will need to successfully negotiate suitable, intermediate, learning milestones. Thus, an effective teacher will be able to define, and guide students through, these intermediate milestones too.

Therefore, once a learning goal is established, a teacher will have to define suitable, intermediate, learning milestones in reaching that goal, so that students can be helped. At a macro level, this is seen clearly in university curricula where a certain course cannot be taken by a student without his/her getting a passing grade in a prerequisite course.

If you now consider that the purpose of life is self-realization — See, for example, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs —, an immediate next step for self-realization teachers is to determine the intermediate learning milestones towards that goal. (Commentary on what those intermediate learning milestones can be is for another blog post).

A corollary: If we want self-realization as a goal to be applicable to all of humanity, it seems to me that a society or a community that incorporates such intermediate milestones into its everyday life is better poised to lead its members towards that goal.

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