Lesson plans. Learning outcomes. Objectives. Assessments. Standards. Measures. One needs to look no further than the conventions of our contemporary educational practices in America to see evidence of our culture’s obsession with objectification, measurement, and standardization. Our students are products, mass-produced in schools that have more in common with factories than Socrates’s orchard.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to hold our schools, teachers, and students accountable, and to ensure quality “instruction” (another problematic word and concept). Although that still sounds a bit like “quality control” in manufacturing. I’m expecting to see students stamped with stickers on graduation day: “Quality Control: This student in Batch 9846 inspected by #37.” If the consumer finds parts missing or stains on the fabric, we know whom to blame.
I imagine a vision of education that acknowledges that our teachers and students are actual human beings. Beyond that, they are, in fact, artists. There is a role for inspiration, for spontaneity, and for play. Cutting-edge neuroscience continues to affirm what creative individuals have already understood for centuries: just because there are aspects of human experience that defy rational understanding (for the moment) doesn’t mean that they are not critically important to explore and utilize.
I’d like to introduce the world to a particular kind of experience that I continue to discover and rely upon in my teaching.
I call it Intuitive Teaching.
Intuitive Teaching means teaching meaningfully, productively, effectively without the use of clearly articulable, explicit learning outcomes. Rather, the teacher relies on a subjective intentionality to guide their interactions with students.
Intuitive teaching rejects the value and necessity of learning outcomes and confounds the notion of the teacher as expert and the student as empty vessel, while still drawing on the implicit expertise possessed by the teacher.
Intuitive teaching acknowledges that the primary conduit) for learning is subjective, embodied experience. We don’t learn through rote memorization or the transmission of bulleted points. Rather, we both live and learn through subjective experience: time spent, environments encountered, and changes felt.
Intuitive teaching makes use of the framework of M’s: Models, Mirrors, and Moments. I will write more on these in future essays.
Intuitive teaching emerged from my own lived experiences as a teacher and the lived-out dialectic that emerged from the time spent teaching college English and teaching dance at my studio. The going back and forth on a daily basis invited and inspired me to consider the ways in which we have conventionally taught each respective discipline. And the insights I glean from a reflective analysis of one helps to inform and transform the way I approach the other.
In the unfolding of that dialectic, my teaching of both disciplines becomes more transcendent. In other words, my teaching of dancing becomes less like the conventional teaching of dance and my teaching of writing because less like the conventional teaching of writing. And, perhaps most interestingly, my teaching of writing doesn’t become MORE like the teaching of dancing or vice versa. Rather, something truly new emerges from the sustained comparison, borrowing, and mutual influencing that I find myself engaged in on a daily basis. In this way, truly novel and universal possibilities of how we can envision teaching in general come to light.
I would like to share with you some of those emergent possibilities. Not only do I hope to share these approaches with you to enhance your teaching “effectiveness” (I place the word in quotation marks to emphasize its problematic nature when applied to the practice of teaching.). But I hope to open up a range of potential changes at multiple levels.
In sharing my insights with other teachers, I hope to establish of vision of education that:
- Considers subjective, embodied experience as the site/state where/when learning happens
- Sees the transformative effects of subjective experience as an end in and of itself (rather than the route to achieving an objective learning outcome)
- Recognizes teacher and student as autonomous, self-contained entities engaged in a dynamic and symbiotic partnership within a shared environment
- Acknowledges the transformative power of invisible, unconscious, and long-term shifts
- Values the unconscious, implicit, and instinctive knowledge of the teacher
- Utilizes the interrelated nature of the cognitive functions: thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuition
And, perhaps one of the most brilliant hallmarks of Intuitive Teaching is that, ultimately, our students still seem to hit the learning outcomes institutions expect.
In that regard, there is something counterintuitive (at least from the perspective of the dominant paradigm) about Intuitive Teaching: that in letting go of goals, pressures, and standards, we actually find ourselves able to surpass them.
Stay tuned as I take Intuitive Teaching and take it apart through anecdotes, concepts, and strategies that I am so excited to share with you!