I came across the Tao of Teaching and thought that much of what is stated here applies to the "art" of collaborative learning/teaching. I would love to hear your comments about the philosophy outlined in the statements presented below and their relation to CL.
THE TAO OF TEACHING
The Tao of Teaching, by Greta Nagel, New York, Donald I. Fine (Primus Paperback), 1994 ISBN 1-55611-416-8 (hardcover) 1-55611-415-X (paper)Adapted from "Tao Of Leadership", John Heider, Bantom Books, 1985
* A wise teacher lets others have the floor
* A good teacher is better than a spectacular teacher. Otherwise the teacher outshines the teachings.
* Facilitate what is happening, rather than what you think ought to be happening. Silence says more than words, pay much attention to it.
* Continual classroom drama clouds inner work.
* Allow time for genuine insight.
* A good reputation arises naturally from doing good work. But do not nourish the reputation, the anxiety will be endless; rather nourish the work.
* To know what is happening, relax and do not try to figure things out. Listen quietly, be calm and use reflection.
* Instead of trying hard, be easy; teach by example, and more will happen.
* Trying to appear brilliant does not work.
* The gift of a great teacher is creating an awareness of greatness in others.
* Because the teacher can see clearly, light is shed on others.
* Teach as a leader and a yielder. Constant force and intervention will backfire as will constant yielding.
* One cannot push the river. A leader's touch is light. Making others do what you want them to do can become a failure. While they may momentarily comply, their revenge may come in many forms. This is why your victory may become a loss.
* To manage others lives takes strength, to manage your own life is real power. Be happy and content at peace with yourself.
* Any over-determined behavior produces its opposite.
* The wise teacher does not make a show of holiness or pass out grades for good performance. That would create a climate of success and failure. Competition and jealousy follow.
* The wise teacher does not try to protect people from themselves.
* Learn to be open and receptive, quiet and without desires or the need to do something.
* The wise teacher keeps egocentricity in check and by doing so becomes even more effective.
* Allow regular time for silent reflection. Turn inward and digest what has happened. Let the senses rest and grow still.
* If you measure success in terms of praise and criticism, your anxiety will be endless.
*Do not lose sight of the single principle: how everything works.
* Forget those clever techniques and self-improvement programs, and everyone will be better off. If you wish to improve yourself, try silence or some other cleansing discipline that will gradually show you your true selfless self.
* The highly
educated teacher tends to respond in terms of one theoretical model or
another. It is better to simply respond directly to what is happening here
From: "John M. Balchunas" <wangchuk@UNM.EDU>
Subject: Re: The Tao of teaching
Some other Tao stuff:
* Any over-determined behavior
produces its opposite.
* The wise teacher does not make a show of holiness or pass out
grades for good performance. That would create a climate of success and
failure. Competition and jealousy follow.
* The wise teacher does not try to protect people from themselves.
* Learn to be open and receptive, quiet and without desires or the
need to do something.
* The wise teacher keeps egocentricity in check and by doing so
becomes even more effective.
* Allow regular time for silent reflection. Turn inward and digest
what has happened. Let the senses rest and grow still.
* If you measure success in terms of praise and criticism, your
anxiety will be endless.
*Do not lose sight of the single principle: how everything works.
* Forget those clever techniques and self-improvement programs, and
everyone will be better off. If you wish to improve yourself, try silence
or some other cleansing discipline that will gradually show you your true
* The highly educated teacher tends to respond in terms of one
theoretical model or another. It is better to simply respond directly to
what is happening here and now.
Tammy, I hope you find some of
this interesting. There is, of course, much
more. Good luck in your teaching career.
John Balchunas, AVS Principal
Gallup McKinley County Area Vocational School
University of New Mexico-Gallup Campus
200 College Drive
Gallup, NM 87301 Tel. (505) 863-7617
From: "Dr. David L. Smith" <email@example.com>
Ted's post sent me to my bookshelf where I found:
The Tao of Teaching, by Greta
Nagel, New York, Donald I. Fine (Primus
Paperback), 1994 ISBN 1-55611-416-8 (hardcover) 1-55611-415-X (paper)
This book contains 81 short chapters, each with a heading that is much
more cryptic and Zen-like than the ones Ted lists, but the idea is the
same. I have it, but haven't had time to really get into it, yet, so I
can't offer any evaluation.
David L. Smith, Ph.D. Director
of Academic Operations
Institute for the Advancement of Mathematics and Science Teaching
La Salle University Philadelphia, PA 19141
(215) 951-1706 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.lasalle.edu/~dsmith
From: Louis_Schmier <lschmier@GRITS.VALDOSTA.PEACHNET.EDU>
Here's my response of agreement:
1. Don't tell students, ask them to discover. The more we tell them, the less they learn; the more they learn, the more we teach.
2. We are here to guide, to help, to goad, to irritate, to stimulate, to make suggestions, point out problems, above all, ask questions, and more questions, and more questions.
3. We are to help them become their own explorors, inquirers, questioners, experimenters.
4. We are here to help students learn how to learn and to learn to teach themselves.
5. We are here to raise questions, not provide answers; they are here to learn to question answers, not answer questions.
Learning takes place through discovery,
not when you're told something but when you figure it out for yourself.
From: Jon Davidson <jdavidso@SOUCC.SOUTHERN.CC.OH.US> commcoll
Subject: The Collaborative TAO of Math Poetry, Whatever . . .
I'm continually impressed with your enthusiasm for your collaborative learning projects, which you share on this network. But I also feel like you are trying to sell me and others on the benefits of a teaching method with which I have reservations, and which I do not think is a cure-all, not that you have directly claimed that. I'm sure you've heard and can meet my objections to CL, and I'd love to do that in an open forum with others jumping in, but long, extended discussions don't appear to be well-supported on this list, so maybe another day and another place. Perhaps I can coax a few comments, though.
I enjoyed the "Tao of Teaching", though I'm doubtful that the ol' wanderer Lao Tzu himself would endorse them all. The Tao is one of my favorites, but Lao Tzu is careful to avoid potential foolishness. Like you, I teach math, and there are many times that you simply can't turn the floor over to the amateurs. And because I am paid to be the expert in my classroom, I facilitate what I think ought to be happening.
Anyway, there is certainly some good advice in it, but for the life of me, I don't see how that ties right in with "art" of collaborative learning any more than with the "art" of effective teaching that is not CL based.
I'm still puzzled over the math poetry assignments you give that you mentioned last week. They were amusing, but if I tried that stuff I could see some students waltzing into the dean's office: "Davidson gave us a poetry assignment. I'm payin' for math. Why the hell do I have to do poetry? Huh??" Well, maybe I don't have your charm, Ted. While most people find me personable, cheery and jovial outside a classroom, some who walk into the classroom suddenly decide that because I do math, I must really be somewhere between Attila the Hun and Darth Vader in the charm department. They want their math and want to get out so they can tend to their full-time jobs and full-time families, not do poetry that distracts from learning what they need to know.
I do think writing can have a
potentially valuable place in the math classroom, CL based or not, but
only if it is directly related to learning math. The poetry is entertaining
and probably gives them a break, but if I tried it here I would no doubt
be accused of educational malpractice!
From: Michele Costabile Doney <email@example.com>
>5. We are here to raise questions,
not provide answers; they are here to learn to question answers, not answer
Surely we're here to do at least a little of both!
From: Diane Paulson <dipauls@JEFFNET.ORG> edstyle
I really like the Tao of Teaching.
My first thought was to give it out to all the teachers that I work with
at an elementary school, then my second thought is that I would have to
figure out which teachers could handle it without being defensive or get
down on themselves-sadly few too many could "handle" it. So I will give
it to the five inservice teachers that I know instead.
From: James Vanner <firstname.lastname@example.org> tcc-l
It seems to me that all of this TAO business is both discipline specific and student specific. (It may also even be teacher specific.) In other words, certain disciplines and certain students lend themselves well to this approach--at times. As M. Doney points out, "Surely we're here to do at least a little of both!" Meaning, of course, questioning and answering. In my opinion, the attempt by some to fit everything into the same mold is well-meaning, but misguided. All paradigms have their tragic flaws, just as all individuals have an Achilles' heel or two. If it were as simple as just waiting around for the students to discover the truth, we'd all be teachers of considerable merit. In fact, if the folks with the answers aren't important, why hire them? If you don't have the answers, you can't ask the questions. That applies to teachers AS WELL AS students. Gadzooks, it's the old chicken and egg problem all over again! In any case, teaching.
From: Louis_Schmier <email@example.com>
To: TCC <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Because the answers aren't absolute. They are as fallible and incomplete
as the presenters. And, if we "tell," how do they learn to discover for
themselves when there is no one around to talk and tell? Ted is talking
about an attitude of being and purpose and goal--which, when we think of
Socrates, Hillel, and Jesus, are not the sole perogative of Taoism--from
which flows everything we perceive--about ourselves and our craft and
And, let's put a strawman to rest.
If the attempt to fit everyone into
the same mould is well-founded, but misguided as you say--and I agree--why
do so many defend fitting every student into a traditional
lecture/note-taking mould. It seems that too often the subtextual
arguement against change--albeit non-traditional lecture techniques and
methods--is to resist change and keep on what you're doing. Can't have it
both ways, a wise and degreeless man once told me. But, I think we've
gone down this road before. Maybe, it's worth retracing our steps and
walk it again.
From: Patricia R Palmerton <email@example.com>
Ted -- I'm a list (STLHE) lurker
for the most part, and wanted to thank
you for sending on the Tao of teaching. I've seldom seen a statement that
encapsulates my philosophy of teaching so well. I do a substantial
amount of faculty development, and much of what is on the list you
forwarded is essential to what I do.
You asked about reactions as the
"Tao of Teaching" as it pertains to
collaborative learning (and I've read with great interest the compilations
you have sent). I have seen collaborative approaches to learning used for
a variety of purposes. Not everyone uses collaborative learning
approaches in order to try to help students become empowered learners and
producers of knowledge. They may use collaboration because an
administration mandated it. Even when used because "putting people in
groups is supposed to make them learn," thought is often not given to
ways to empower the learner to be able to function in collaborative
settings. Some learners can find it quite punishing, especially when
there is a disjuncture between what the instructor says s/he wants and the
kinds of things that can make collaborative approaches work well.
No educational approach is magic. Some grab on to an idea thinking that
the magic will happen, but don't rethink how to truly help students deal
with whatever educational approach they find themselves experiencing.
Somehow the structure is supposed to magically make it happen. It
doesn't, in part because many students are not prepared to be able to
function productively in group settings, or in settings where learning
depends upon the students finding their own voice or understanding the
communicative and interpretive framework of others. Sometimes it does not
work because the instructor is still trying to be the star, or attempting
"to push the river."
Many instructors find it difficult
to facilitate, and are threatened by facilitating
"what is happening rather than what [they] think ought to be happening.
" Many don't understand the need to help students see the connection
between "what is happening" and what you as an instructor believes
also needs to be happening. Some, if they do see the need, don't know
how to facilitate that connection. Some instructors just don't know how
to understand what is happening so that they can facilitate it. Neither do
some students, and they often have few opportunities to explicitly gain
an understanding of the learning process so they can undertake it on
their own -- without their instructor or their group.
Some instructors use collaborative
learning approaches wonderfully,
thoughtfully, carefully, and in ways that truly empower students as
learners. To them I say: look at how you are doing this. It is not
magic. Understand it. Be explicit with your students about how you ALL
are making this work, so your students can replicate it without you, in
other settings, at other times.
It is imperative that we listen
to our students, but listening to students
is not enough. We must hear them. That means that we also must help
them find ways to express, and we must work to recognize that expression
what it happens. Increased cultural heterogeneity in classrooms has
emphasized the need for faculty to be prepared to figure out how to
hear, and how to help their students hear each other.
From: Ed Ketz <ketz@HCC.HAWAII.EDU>
The Tao is wonderful! It's got brain neurons I didn't even know I had
firing off in all sorts of directions. Lots to think about.
This particular item [>* Because the teacher can see clearly, light is shed
on others.] had me bothered for a bit because I simetimes suffer from
tunnel vision [sound ouf shocked gasp]. It seems to me that just because
we teachers CAN see clearly doesn't mean we DO see clearly, and what we DO
see clearly may only be our own truth. As an old army buddy of mine was
fond of saying (particularly about officers), "_____ ain't a [expletive
deleted] synonym for infallible." Neither is "Ed."
From: Keith Engelhardt <ah376@DAYTON.WRIGHT.EDU>
One if the basic principles of
the Tao is that everything in life has its own
process and timing. And that when the process is left alone its will seek its
own level of balance and harmony.
IMHO that is wise advice in our
hectic need to control society. Ask
any farmer if they can accelerate the rate of growth of a field of corn.
One can nurture the environment (providing fertilizer and water so to speak);
but, the harvest will arrive in its own time frame.
A basic belief of the Tao is that
we achieve better success if we let the
processes of life (can apply to just about every thing) take their own natural
I resently read a facinating and
insightful book titled "The Tao of Money" by
Ivan Hoffman that applies the priciples to money and the economy. He also has
another book "The Tao of Love".