So, i’ve seen the following proverb used a number of times for explaining how people teach:
Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.
For me, i see that as a good start. i think the first is a partial aim of most classes (show them what’s out there – summarize findings, explain terminology, etc.), and the second is a highly valuable aim as well (getting the students to figure out how to answer questions for themselves).
But i think it’s still missing something with respect to my aim(s) for most classes. i also want to try to get students to a place where they can formulate some new questions on their own. In case you can’t make out the picture at right, it’s two people standing in the middle of a grassy field with fishing rods.* At the risk of mixing metaphors – even with the most powerful hammer, not everything is a nail. So in addition to the thoughts from the proverb above, i like to think of my approach to teaching as often also engaging the aim of teaching students why we fish in the first place, and hopefully enabling them to consider when a rake/rifle/bow&arrow might be a more useful approach than fishing. Does that work (on the metaphorical level) for the aim of getting them to formulate new questions of their own?
In related news, today marked the start of the second time through my undergrad networks class. Last semester went ok (though i am glad it was small), and that experience (along with a number of comments i got on- and offline in response to my post here about it) will hopefully make this time around (with enrollment ~4x last semester’s!) go a bit more smoothly.
* i am aware that they may be practicing casting, but it’s much funnier and more appropriate to my point to think that they are waiting for something to bite.