Copyright
Harry Lloyd Miller.

Directing study; educating for mastery through creative thinking online

. (page 3 of 28)
Online LibraryHarry Lloyd MillerDirecting study; educating for mastery through creative thinking → online text (page 3 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


for every member of the class was mastery. No primitive fool-
ishness was entertained about failing 13.3 per cent to make the
results conform to a "probability curve." In the five or six
specific challenges within the circle they all finally attained the
mastery agreed upon in the course, viz.: 100 per cent in each
challenge by the method described above (5). That was only
one of many elements entering into a judgment of the pupil's
power.

(n) Who is the "poorest" pupil anyhow? The system has
not been invented, the professor is still unborn, to tell us what
the "fitness" or "capacity" or "potential" is of whipsters 13,
14, 15, or 16, "running at large" intellectually, so to speak.
One of the "poorest" in this class the first six weeks became one
of the four or five top-notchers before the first half of the year
was up. He reminded one of an unassembled Ford at first.
He was given a motto, and he worked it out under vigorous
social criticism. The motto ran thus: "The thinker finds a
chairman in the mass-meeting of his mind whose duty it is to
command all other noisy facts to sit down and be in order. The
thinker finds some fact to do senatorial duty." This is only a hint
as to the desperate responsibility the new teacher will assume
in the task of making the individual, or in seeing to it that he
actually creates himself by his own activity. It has always been
easy to dismiss the loose-jointed, chattering adolescent from
the class and the school. That has been the disposition of
those interlopers in the profession who think it to be their duty
to take care of the "called and chosen" a curious survival in
this day of democratic ideals and in the light of the cry of the
adolescent.

(12) To make an even dozen observations, these pupils did
not work merely for the sake of the loaves and fishes. There
was developed a spirit of challenge and a zest for work and a
joy in achievement.



"A pair of compasses, being asked
why, in order to draw a circle, one
foot stood and the other moved, replied,

CONSTANCY AND WORK GO TO-
GETHER."

The underlying principles of procedure in relation
to subject-matter are discussed in Chapter IV. In-
stead of emphasizing "minimum essentials" under the
going machine of assimilation with the conventional
drive for uniformity, the aim in all these illustrative
exercises is to find a highest common multiple that
expresses a community of interests. This position is
diametrically opposed to current practices in which
the avowed purpose is to establish a least common
denominator of social and practical information.

The circle in the illustration stands for that highest
common multiple in any working group. The abso-
lutist in education may contend that the radius of
any given person is constant. We could agree only
on the assumption that it is the business of the absolute
to grow. The essential point in our view has been
stated. A complete circle can be described with a
radius of any length, if a centre of constancy is estab-
lished about which work may be done. This highly
colorful figure should find its analogue in all courses
in the curriculum.

VII

The new school will aim to delete two major types of
waste in our classrooms: (a) the waste resulting from
the recitation of anything perfectly well known by
any member of the class, or the recitation of things



26 DIRECTING STUDY

that are liable to become a bore to members of the
class expected to pay attention; (b) the waste resulting
from asking questions which the teacher knows per-
fectly well the pupil addressed cannot answer. Stating
the issue constructively, the new school will aim to set
up an environment in which every pupil has a real job
during the entire class period. The objective is the
work spirit. When that objective is clearly worked
out, pupils are not fatigued in the yo-minute class
period. Few pupils are overworked.

Exercise. Three or four paragraphs were written on the
board (or mimeographed) without punctuation, capitalization,
or paragraph arrangement.

Procedure. Pupils started at once to rewrite the material,
fashioning it into good, if not correct, form. The problem or
task was clear. There was continuity of meaning in the ma-
terial. The teacher had a chance to become a consulting expert
while the work was being done. The pupils emerging out of
the challenge found other work to do. When we organize our
courses under the problem-case method, there will be found many
opportunities for taking up "unfinished business" with pupils
about to "finish their education." No upper limit should be
set in such exercises.

In setting out the problem cases in courses of instruction, our
hope is that a mere bookkeeping procedure may be escaped.
Chapter IV is intended to be an illumination of a way of escap-
ing this dilemma.

It is not necessary to include illustrations of this type of pro-
cedure. Any teacher can select good material and cast it up
into this "general frame of reference."

VIII

yxH GRADE, JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL, SOCIAL STUDIES

Challenge. A study of Alaska and Hawaii.
Procedure. Pupils worked up advertisements to show some
of the possibilities of these countries. A bit of history was in-



A MANUAL OF SUGGESTIVE PROCEDURES 27

eluded. In some cases the pupils designed and produced their
posters together; some were done by individuals working alone.
The teacher was a consulting expert and a general director.
Two or three days were given to this work in class.

Illustrative material, in color at times, was employed, such as
a drawing of a mountain or volcano, an ocean liner, an oil-derrick.
There were signs of budding real-estate genius in these posters.
They were informing; they afforded opportunity for a func-
tional review; a basis for the need (social) of correct spelling and
good (effective) English was laid. In imagination these young-
sters were selling real estate, promoting interest in travel,
presenting in attractive forms the productions of these coun-
tries.

Review by repetition and mechanical drill was not stressed.
The posters were displayed. Every pupil had a vivid presenta-
tion of the leading features (as each conceived it) of the chal-
lenge. The pupils worked in a "controlled" environment, and
yet there was effective freedom.

Illustrative Posters :

(i)

OIL ! ! ! OIL ! ! ! OIL ! ! !

Come and Find Out.
GREAT OIL FIELDS IN ALASKA

FOR LOW PRICES
2000 ACRES FOR SALE

20 acres at $3000

TAKE THE SEATTLE AND PUGET SOUND

TRIP. WE PAY YOUR FARE ALL THE WAY.

SEE GREAT FALLS

OIL COMPANY
205 GAY BUILDING.

HARRY (n years).



28 DIRECTING STUDY

(Harry had spelled Puget Sound, "Pugut," and
"Youre Fair." The teacher remarked: "Harry, I fear
you will not sell your lots unless you mend your spell-
ing a bit." Harry made his own corrections.)

(2)

OFF FOR HAWAII!

The American South America

Just sail away, on a certain day

To the land where the sugar-canes grow,

Where we'll sell you a lot, you'll be glad you've got,

In the place where the soft breezes blow.

2OOO

Lots for sale

Swimming Surf-bathing

Fine Mountain Scenery

Where you can raise:

Sugar,
Temperature coffee,

67 pineapples,

all year Cattle

round

IMMENSE BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES
Write to Hawaiian Realty Co., Honolulu, Oahu Is.

MARJORIE (n years).

Note. Why not make this type of work a basis for
good English expression, instead of seeking to negotiate
the ritual of themes and the literary canon in the
conventional way?



A MANUAL OF SUGGESTIVE PROCEDURES 29

(3)

COME TO HONOLULU

The capital and chief sea-port

of the

Hawaiian Islands
Only 6 to 8 days from San Francisco

On the best steamship line.
From Honolulu come to the Pearl
Harbor Resort. Only a few miles.
Good swimming and golfing
And a mild climate

Not over 67
Many picturesque trips can be taken

from the Resort.

If you want to spend a good winter,
Write to the

Pearl Harbor Resort
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

ELEANOR (12 years).

IX

ABOUT gTH-GRADE ENGLISH

(The underlying procedure is applicable to any year. Through-
out the grades and high school some such approach as is illus-
trated in this exercise is helpful. Upon the introduction of
technical grammar this procedure may prove suggestive.)

Exercise or Problem. Building up the compound-sentence
idea.

Procedure. The approach is developed through the activity of
the pupil. The notion of independent and dependent clauses
is skilfully introduced in class discussion by having pupils
respond in terms of things they are actually doing. They are



30 DIRECTING STUDY

induced to make reactions of one sort and another, and then to
relate their activities in words. When two "independent"
ideas or actions are hit upon, the analysis is carried forward
until it is made clear that two full sentences might have been
employed, instead of one, joined by the conjunction. (By the
way, the parts of speech can be worked up in vitalizing dramatic
presentation. A little play was created by the class in this
account. The noun stands forth and presents his function.
The pronoun marches out to stand there as a substitute. The
conjunction performs a marriage ceremony, and the merry-
making ejaculators make the scene a comedy, etc.)

The idea of the exercise is developed in class. Definitions
are avoided for the time being. Written exercises in text-
books are not used in the early stages. Later they may be used
for drill purposes caught up in the game or contest.

The essential matter in this creative procedure in which we
shall aim to work with prospective intention, rather than retro-
spective intention and reproduction of ready-made forms, is
clearly to present the work in a manner that calls for self-activity
in the building of sentences to illustrate the compound-sentence
idea. The same precautions should be taken at any level of
the child's experience in approaching the conventional or formal
ways of English expression. This self-creative process should
precede the practice of picking out sentences from the printed
page (in context) designed to illustrate the compound-sentence
idea, or any other grammar idea for that.

The most difficult task confronting the new teacher at this
juncture is the home study or out-of-class study or preparation
of "lessons." The disposition of "helpers" parents and
friendly counsellors is, in almost every case, to pass on or over
to the pupil a ready-made sentence, either out of a book or out
of their own construction, just as pieces of pie are passed around
at the table. It is easy to be filled up with the stuff of lessons.
It is so easy to engage in trick training (protect the word edu-
cation). In almost any subject, the "learner" can be trained
to respond to signals. Pupils can readily supply themselves
with an assortment of sentences for the next day, and remain
wholly innocent of the meaning of what they bring into the class
under the very common practices of our lesson-hearing schools.

An illustration will help to make clear the difference here be-



A MANUAL OF SUGGESTIVE PROCEDURES 31

tween intelligent home assistance and the corrupting practices
of "getting lessons." A little boy, twelve years old, apprised his
relatives at the dinner-table that he was expected to invent
several sentences for his class next day illustrating the com-
pound-sentence idea. He was inclined to engage his mind in
reaching out into space somewhere for his sentences. He was
trying to recall an image of the printed page where he might
have seen samples. It is a case of the mind reacting in a memo-
rizing school, trying to dig up an old movie film out of the rag-
bag of memory. This little fellow was guided in his dilemma.
He asked for a piece of bread. His mentor said: "Now, boy,
just frame up a sentence on the immediate things you are
doing or are about to do." "Just let your mind run on with
perfect freedom." This was his sentence: "The bread that I
want is white and the butter which I wish to spread on it is
yellow." Before the dinner was over the boy had discovered
that each member of his own sentence was complex. He dia-
grammed his sentence and worked out a half-dozen or more in a
brief time. He built his own sentences out of his activities.
Another illustration, all his own, in this list was: "The pencil
(that) I am using is yellow, and the paper which I am writing
on is white."

It requires no unique imagery to picture the home in which
the performances of parents and friends are conducted when
summoned to help Susan, Dick, Tom, and Mabel in the task of
getting lessons. The empty vessels are filled. Ready-made
facts are funnelled into the mind from without. The "lessons"
are handed in the next day. Teachers waste their time in cor-
recting the work of tired and confused parents. The value of
good teaching is nullified. There is need of legislation in the
nature of " Corrupt Practices Acts" in order to protect the minds
of pupils, intellectual "Innocents Abroad," against this per-
nicious system of acceptance of "educational" goods as a free
gift. The boy across the street in the illustration cited in this
exercise was corrupted to the very roots, intellectually and
spiritually, when his mother (a teacher of the old order) passed
over to her dear boy a full line of ready-made sentences for the
next day's "lesson." Of course this boy stood up and read his
fond "mama's" sentences with much gusto. He was being
victimized by a systematic general indulgence at home. (His



32 DIRECTING STUDY

"mama," by the way, took the sentences from an old text-book,
and there is irony in that performance too.)

Going back to the first boy again, we find another helpful
suggestion in the nature of extra-curricular guidance. One
morning in the dressing-room, his mentor recalled the work of his
class on the compound-sentence idea, and asked him to create
a few just for fun. The boy began to reach out again as if
something were to be found on the shelf, up in the medicine-
cabinet, or behind the radiator. "No, boy, just make them
up out of your activity." Soon he said: "The shirt I am put-
ting on is badly faded, and the socks I am about to put on are
holey." At once his chattering ran off on a condenser he had
made the night before. (All boys take to electricity, if they have
a ghost of a chance. It is silly nonsense to suppose interests in
radio are native.) "Now, boy, if you want to tell me about
your condenser, tell it in a good complex-compound-complex
sentence. He did it thus: "The condenser which I made last
night works very well indeed, and when I rub my feet (shoes
on) on the rug it is charged."

The contrast is dwelt on here, because we are morally certain
that no aspect of directing study for creative thinking is more
crucial than the control and redirection of home study and out-
of-class work. The seemingly inevitable tendency is to fall back
upon acceptance of ready-made data. It will require years of
patient and persistent experimentation to eradicate the disposi-
tion to regard "learning" as the acceptance of facts, and to move
up to the level of viewing education as the process of analyzing
problems in the light of facts.

The important consideration in this exercise or problem is to
make sure that the pupil shall begin his sentence-building out
of his own (guided) activities. He should be guarded subse-
quently in any review or reference in order that he may not
deteriorate into the practice of the artificial schoolboy who
reports in terms of old movie films stored up in memory. The
creative work must not cease even in review or drill. Otherwise,
the process of instillation will intrude itself with all the dangers
of indoctrination. Text-books will not be deleted. They may
be used in the game, in the contest, under the spirit and genius
of the old spelling-bee of our fathers. The interesting side of
the problem lies in the fact that the pupils will be able to exhaust



A MANUAL OF SUGGESTIVE PROCEDURES 33

the material of more text-books than the ordinary school now
provides.

Up through self-activity by a creative process into text
material and supplementary matter indicates, in a way, the
direction of this procedure.

In this exercise or problem carried on for several days as a
part of the challenge in the classes studied, diagramming of
sentences was freely used. This practice may strike some
readers as a bit old fashioned. We are quite sure that boys and
girls find diagramming a fruitful practice. A "general frame of
reference" aids the mind in clarifying word functions in sen-
tence structure. If it results in a mechanical formalism, may
not that result be due to a much more fundamental error or
philosophy back of the whole system of education? Any
formula may be abused. Any pattern may become an empty
form. That fact does not invalidate the formula, either in
science or English expression. The psychological import of
representing relations in a diagram would seem to be sound.
Moreover, the new procedure calls for an enormous amount of
work in checking results. The teacher, by "a stroke of the
eye," can check the pupil's work on his sentences when they are
thrown into a good, clear, differentiating diagram. Besides
the economical aspects of the problem, youngsters find real
enjoyment in diagramming. The emerging masters in any
class group, dealing with the relative pronoun, need not stop
short of "Than whom Beelzebub, none higher sat," etc., as a
bit of a challenge to their powers, and, as pointed out in our
illustrative procedure (No. VI), the practice of scaling the Al-
pine peaks of difficulties will react beneficially upon every mem-
ber of a working, climbing, participating group.

The pupils were asked to explain the various forms of the
compound-sentence idea, taking it for granted that their audi-
ence did not understand the problem.

John, fourteen, wrote it thus: (Only a sample.)

"Seeing that you know what simple, complex, compound sen-
tences are, I will now try to show you how we arrive at a com-
plex-compound sentence.

First I will write a complex-compound sentence and then
take it apart and show you the relation of its parts to one an-
other.



34 DIRECTING STUDY

This book which has a green cover on it is torn and I will
make a new cover for it. (The boy diagrammed his sentence.)

This book is torn, I will number i.

Which has a cover on it, I will number 2.

I will make a new cover for it, I will number 3.

Now, i plus 2 together make a complex sentence.

i and 3 together make a compound sentence.

Therefore (i plus 2) plus 3 must make a complex-com-
pound sentence.

So we draw the conclusion that (a plus b) plus c = ?
So our definition of a compound-complex sentence is simple.
Any sentence, part of which is compound and the other part
complex, forms a compound-complex sentence. Or, if a part
of a sentence is complex and the other parts compound, then we
have a complex-compound sentence."

Out of the classes from which this illustrative procedure is
developed, some of the kiddies, John and others, made the dis-
covery that (a plus b) plus (c plus d) might be used to represent
a complex-compound-complex sentence, in which each member
of the compound sentence is complex. One is tempted to add
a word about the exhilaration of discovery and the penchant
for big words in these early, yeasty years of adolescence. Suffice
it to raise the query: Why should the "professor" think that
he alone has a "vested right" in coining new words? (Inci-
dentally, cross connections can be made between departments.
Algebra is not a useless abstraction in a vital school. The
teacher of geometry will do well to reciprocate, and make vivid
use of the dependent proposition and the independent proposition
when dealing with the hypothesis and conclusion.)

The nomenclature is not so desperately important, if a real
building process is being carried out in the mind of the learner.
We need to pay attention to conventional forms, but the main
thing in creative thinking is to see to it that mere definitions
are utterly useless, and that vital principles can be built up in a
moving-learning synthesis. Here, as in the case of a triangle
regarded as a thing to think with, so the diagram or any objective
representation in a "general frame of reference" comes to have
significance and economy as a thing to think with. There is no
danger of a mechanical formalism so long as the instruments oj
teaching and learning are used in creativeness.



A MANUAL OF SUGGESTIVE PROCEDURES 35

Starting with individual work in the building of the sentences
out of guided action and reaction to suggestion, an interesting
and productive procedure may be employed in the form of part-
nership teaching. The pupils may be paired in the class-
room and each may explain and expound to the other his own
list of sentences. (A little fellow, only twelve, in the class from
which the main points of this illustration are drawn, expounded
the compound sentence to a university professor. The professor
said it was most illuminating.) Each will profit by the other's
production. Variety will be evident, for the pupils have been
engaged in a creative opportunity. The teacher moves effec-
tively among the little groups stimulating, guiding, shifting this
one and that one into better and better working relations. The
visiting spectator will perhaps see nothing in this procedure
but a "bear garden." He will fail to appraise what he thinks
he sees. He may need to be told that it is the dust of industry
and a shared activity a consummation far exceeding the order
of a cemetery for boys and girls cured of the habits of "paying
attention" and loyally co-operating with the teacher to put the
hour out of its agony. Our spectators, both pupils and visitors,
need to be converted into participants. The next step up from
partnerships is a grouping of pupils under leaders chosen out
of their group. The whole class may come to concerted atten-
tion whenever there is need of clarification of organizing princi-
ples, or when there has been work enough to make a discussion
procedure profitable, or when the game is on for competitive
results. A pupil chairman may, now and again, be helpful in a
socializing procedure hardly ever in the recitation system or
any form of regimentation. Where the corporate spirit is made
the point of departure and the goal (flying goal) toward which
we are striving, there are many ways open for participation and
for the exercise of alternate forms of leadership. The spectator
will know next to nothing about all this so long as he sits on the
bleacher seats.

Two sets of text-books containing exercises upon a given prin-
ciple may be used in this partnership way. Two sets (dupli-
cated) of word lists may furnish the teacher a way of partner-
ship teaching and open up the highway to corporate responsi-
bility in the class. It is the way, also, toward a cultivation of
self-respect. Emerson can tell us about that. Each pupil in a



36 DIRECTING STUDY

partnership arrangement, especially in the sentences built up
as illustrated above, has something to contribute quite his own.
Uniformity of materials of assignment suggests identity of
opinion. That is a stupid thing in any conversational group
and equally futile in any situation directed to creative effort.



X

This exercise is selected to indicate procedure. It
will be noted that work is described for a period of five
or six days. The entire account is given in the form
of a diary by a college senior, participating in a Qth-
grade class in English. The reader will catch a glimpse
of the procedure employed in the school and also some
idea of the way of preparing the teacher through partici-
pation. The college senior in this procedure (not
practice teaching) is never allowed to be a spectator;
the purpose is to become a participant.

This class was composed of a staff teacher, thirty-
six pupils (gth grade), and three college seniors.



Miss H. is reporting. Mr. P. is the staff teacher.
At the close Miss P., another college senior, is given a
chance to talk.



Today at the beginning of the hour, Mr. P. handed each of us
(pupils included) a mimeographed class roll. After each name we put
the mark that we thought he was worth. The pupils were very hard
to mark. Some of them do not often bring themes to read but take an
active interest in the proceedings of the class, i. e., Russel never volun-
teers to read a story, but he comments readily on the themes of others.
Last Thursday when I was chairman I asked him to tell a story (he did
not volunteer) and he told one of the best that has been told in that



Online LibraryHarry Lloyd MillerDirecting study; educating for mastery through creative thinking → online text (page 3 of 28)