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shown on another map. The lady in charge of that room ex-
plained that Wisconsin had been admitted to the Union in 1848
and that in 1858 the counties were indefinitely laid out.


We left this room then and went up to the reading-room,
but on the way out we glanced into a smaller room in which
were collected books and papers that had been collected or copied
by Draper. Up in the reading-room Mr. Burke told us that
the University subscribed to 1500 periodicals.

We left this room then and went to the stack-room, where we
were told that each floor had a capacity of 50,000 volumes of
books. There are five floors devoted to books. I learned that
we never need fear a fire here because the building was con-
structed fireproof. The University hires fourteen people at each
desk to handle us, and they get very tired doing it when the
students are studying for a quiz. At this moment a ray of light
came through the window. At this sign of coming day there was
a sudden rustle and then all was still.

Observations. Here is an excellent example of fur-
nishing the mind data to work on, of developing an in-
tellectual method or a way of thinking, and of stimu-
lating curiosity. Instead of asking pupils to go hence,
write a theme on this or that barren topic virtually
asking them to lift themselves by pulling on their
intellectual boot-straps or exhorting them to think
in a vacuum, the procedure starts with a gripping prob-
lem and a supply of material shaped up for further
elaboration. Provocative ideas and data are supplied,
not to be merely memorized or accepted as such, but
to be used in a learning or building process. It is not
a situation in which a lot of facts are learned and then
a command given to go off and try to think and write.

It is again an application of the essential principles
of a new general method of approach. It is in essence
the scientific way. Data are supplied. A way of
thinking is projected. An hypothesis is set up. As
the data are used, the way of thinking is redefined.
The goal is work with prospective intention.


The apprehension that pupils will not know things
of common, social, and practical import need not arise
if information is used in developing problem procedures
in the way indicated in this exercise. The essence of
the problem was disclosed by Einstein in his answer to
Edison's adult Binet-Simon test. Einstein said he
could not answer Edison's questions, but he said he
knew how to go about it to find the answers to every
one of them. The capacity and the disposition to use
information would seem to be of primary importance,
while the mere possession of any facts would seem to be
quite secondary indeed.

The illustration discloses the effectiveness of giving
artistic social starters. English composition, history,
any form of writing offers opportunities for this sort of
creativeness. Effective freedom and the release of
powers can be best worked out where there is guided
self-activity within a controlled environment.

A teacher assisted his class in developing the situa-
tions, color, background, and spirit of the poem
''Barbara Frietchie." He suggested that perhaps the
author had written other stanzas than those appearing
in the poem. The challenge to the pupils was to write
an additional stanza, or so, to this poem. They did it
admirably. There is creativeness in such a procedure.
It is a valuable thing to do, now and again.



The value of the film as an educational means is not clear.
There is need of careful experimentation in its use in connection
with courses of instruction. Confident acceptance of the va-


lidity and value of the film is met by honest scepticism in many

Perhaps a statement of the problem is about all we can safely
venture at this time. The passive attitude before the film may
be related to the passivity of the "learner" in many other
situations. In other words, the criticism against the moving
picture on the ground that visual instruction makes no demand
upon the audience to do any vital sort of creative thinking is an
indictment that may be lodged against many other forms of
objective representations of reality. Plato was impatient with
those who urged the use of geometrical figures. It seemed to
him to be an unnecessary accompaniment to pure thinking.
The student before a lecturer may take his mental siesta just
as certainly as the movie fan. The printed page is too often
viewed with a high degree of passivity. The reader may be a
victim of the dogma of acceptance, merely following the printed
page with as little productive thinking as the person who follows
the film presentation. Paying attention may be a passive, me-
chanical, inert acceptance of explanation. To parrot abstractions
and to absorb opinions may result in nothing more than idle
revery. The issue in all these situations is just this: Does the
individual behave as a recipient or a reacting agent? Is he a
spectator or a participant? The recitation, the lecture, the
printed page, the picture, the diagram, the stereopticon, the
film may all be considered in one of these aspects or the other.
The film, like any other objective means, may or not be used
in a sound educational way. It should be mentioned, in pass-
ing, that it is not essential in every situation that values be re-
duced to linguistic categories. There are educational values
lying in the realm of enjoyment and appreciation.

The constructive attitude toward all these accompaniments of
thinking from the simplest diagrammatic representation to the
film is to be found in relating these potential instruments of
education to the individual as a reacting agent. Otherwise
we may have a mere verbalism with no urge to creative think-
ing. The printed page is included in the series. There may
be an illusion in reading words or following a lecture just as in
the case of sitting in front of a moving picture. What we hope
to say here is that a common problem runs throughout the whole
series of objective symbols used to represent ideas.


Examples of procedure in this general field.

(a) A teacher of English has made excellent use of pictures
collected from such periodicals as the Saturday Evening Post,
Ladies' Home Journal, Country Gentleman. When the challenge
was on to write two-character stories, such pictures as the old
man in the attitude of conveying to his pal the size of the fish
he was about to catch, David Harum in the horse-trading scene
(an old man and a boy), will prove suggestive after a mode of
building such stories is developed. The picture and the cartoon
can be utilized in productive ways in story writing.

(b) In geometry pupils should trace figures in the air now and
again to make sure that the figures drawn on paper or black-
board do not become excess baggage. A great deal of motion
can be put into mathematics. Seeing the figures with eyes
closed is an excellent practice in thinking in geometrical cate-
gories. A reliable thinker can make a clear demonstration with
a poor figure to "talk to." There is a place for an accurate
drawing of geometrical figures, but it is not the most important

(<:) A similar suggestion may be made about the use of the
diagram in English grammar.

(d) In the use of slides and stereopticcn sets, a very general
practice is now being followed in having the pupils themselves
work up a lantern talk. They select their own material and
are responsible for its presentation. Some four or five pupils may
co-operate in presenting the pictures. They should be encour-
aged to give their work orally without committing to memory
the phrasing which they employ. It is a good plan, as a rule,
to have all members of the class held responsible for discussion
of the topic thus presented. There are many possibilities in
this procedure. One boy made a study of sanitation in a class
in civic biology. He collected pictures as far back as ancient
Greece and combined them in a presentation of the conditions
in his own city, using his camera to complete the series.

(e) This experiment in the use of the film was conducted in
connection with English literature. The film used was "The
Lady of the Lake." Two class groups in English began the
study of it a week before the film was presented. Two other
class groups began the class work on it just after the running of
the film. It is not possible to speak with certitude about the


relative values of the film in these two situations. For the
former groups the film appeared to be an excellent and vivid
summarizing of "The Lady of the Lake." No doubt the situa-
tions, scenery, and characters were appreciated and appraised
much more vitally for those pupils in the first groups than was
the case for the second groups. On the other hand, it seems
valid to assume that the pupils who began their work on "The
Lady of the Lake" with the film presentation moved forward in
the reading of the poem with a keener interest and a better under-
standing than the former. It is impossible to compare these
values. Obviously the same pupil could not report in both situa-
tions. One may be strongly tempted to dismiss this particular
aspect of the experiment or seek to set up a scale of values and
indulge in the measurement movement. The only point of
interest we shall urge at this juncture is to assert that in both
situations the film seemed to be a valuable instrument. The use
of it in either way can be justified. The main fact is obvious:
the pupils made an essentially different use of the film in this
setting from that of the commercial playhouse. They tied it up
in a vital way in a course of instruction and made it serve a pur-
pose beyond that of the spectator. It is again recognized that
such a film may serve a legitimate educational purpose when
given out of context at the movie house. The general effect may
be wholesome and, in fact, contributory to the direct educational
processes in the implicit forms of enriching life through enjoy-
ment and appreciation.

(/) The film has far-reaching potential usefulness in the
study of geography, history, chemical and physical processes,
and manufacturing. The physiographic features, beauties of
nature, river systems, cities, modes of living, etc., are, beyond
question, presented in the film with high skill and incalculable
value. So in history. The entire series of processes involved
in the production of any one of a thousand substances "created"
by the chemist, and the phenomenal side of all sorts of revela-
tions by the physicist and other scientists, can be gripped up in
a film and used either as a summarizing statement after study
and experimentation or as a projected picture antedating an
interesting adventure into some one of these enticing fields. In
either situation the film can be utilized to tremendous educa-
tional advantage. Manufacturing processes and factory produc-


tion are thrown on the screen everywhere. More explicit use of
all such material may be made by a redirection of instructional
work in such ways as to make possible direct connections with
this new and potential tool of education. We are still pioneering
in this new field.

It seems reasonable to suppose that only one opinion
about the film as an educational instrument should be
given consideration. If it is used in any of the ways
suggested, it may be regarded as an invaluable instru-
ment. Perhaps something akin to this conclusion
should be said about the lecture. It, too, may be
employed in the secondary school to decided advantage.
The point to be safeguarded is to see to it that it is
used as a means in clarifying or economizing the pupil's
productive thinking. The lay of the land, a schemati-
zation of the search, a setting-up of the problem, a
summarization of the work of a challenge for perspec-
tive any one of these objectives may, now and again,
be best realized by a vital lecture procedure. The
pupil may be just as passive in the lecture as before
the film. If the pupil is transformed from the spec-
tator to the participant, or from the recipient to a
reacting agent, the evils of both film and lecture disap-



Assignment. Exercises, questions, or problems to be worked
out by the pupils both in class and out of class.

Illustration. (One exercise to illustrate the danger of accepting
an answer and the possibilities of creative thinking.)


i. "Will it take more heat to start a ton of coal than a shovel-

Procedure. A boy of twelve began his task at home by asking
his aunt (a teacher, formerly) what the answer to the problem
was. In a very natural way the answer was about to be passed
on. It happened that a third person was present. He sug-
gested a more productive procedure than telling.

"Now talk to your question."

"Read it again very carefully."

The boy read it slowly. Then he began to "talk" to it. "I
should think a ton of coal would make more heat than a shovel-
ful," said he. "Now, read it again, and ask yourself whether
what you say and what you read have any connection."

A rereading brought the emphasis on the word start. "Oh,"
he said, "I see." "It would not take any more heat to start a
ton than a shovelful. I could prove it. I can take a match
and a bit of kindling and start each pile of coal with the same
amount of kindling. The amount of heat in each of the two
matches used to start the kindling in each case would be the
same. The heat in the two heaps of kindling would be the
same. And therefore the amount of heat required to start'
the two heaps of coal of different size would be the same. I think
I have a correct answer. Of course the conditions would have
to be the same."

Observations. (i) The boy could have readily assimilated
so much as his queasy stomach would bear out of the predi-
gested material (answer) gratuitously offered. Ready-made
answers can be transmitted. Pupils can learn to parrot ab-
stractions, but they will never become scientific-minded by that
method. They can develop a marvellous capacity to repeat
other peoples' opinions. They will not become cultured in
any true sense by so doing.

(2) The home-study problem is given a new emphasis in this
boy's experience. Work well done in class was about to be
nullified in home study by mere passing on of answers. This
boy was directed in his thinking by a turn of events.

(3) The correct answer in a thinking process is of minor im-
portance. In fact, an incorrect answer is not to be regarded
as educational tragedy in a building, creative process. The
penchant for "correct" answers has led to trick training. Trick


pupils are not being educated in any true sense. The capacity
merely to give responses of approved sort upon signals is cer-
tainly not our highest hope for the human mind. The puzzle
stage of education is solemnly perpetuated out of a false empha-
sis upon education as knowing. We have perhaps enough of
knowledge about some things, but altogether too meagre ac-
quaintance with vital matters of life and culture. The boy in
our illustration was developing power to think in creative terms
in a process of "fumbling and success." To be able to arrive
at a tentative answer to the question and to be able to support
that tentative position with some "real" reasons are steps the
thinker takes in his experimental questing. The correct answer
is not the crucial matter in this learning stage.

Summary. The purpose of these illustrative pro-
cedures will be realized if they prove suggestive and
provocative. " Methods," as ordinarily conceived, are
not offered. Further examples are included throughout
the argument in the following chapters.

It would be easy to indulge in destructive criticism.
That is not our purpose in any statement that may seem
to be an indictment of our educational establishment.
Every illustrative exercise is intended to reveal some
ways of removing inhibitions to thinking, stimulating
curiosity, overcoming defense reactions and fear, or
substituting for various forms of protective coloring a
genuine work spirit.

Instead of setting up a least common denominator
of common knowledge and institutionalized values for
a going machine of assimilation leading to uniformity,
we have sought to present a truer ideal of American life
by developing a workable programme within a highest
common multiple that expresses a genuine community
of interests for any working class group. In the latter
view we frankly choose to be dissimilar. Every pupil


is a person, not a number. Out of a guided self-ex-
pression, out of a creative self-activity, co-operations
are secured. No illusion is entertained about develop-
ing thinking capacity, curiosity, initiative co-operative-
ness, etc. Most of these desiderata will emerge if
inhibitions are removed and a controlled environment
is fabricated in which effective freedom is made possible.
The disposition to accept our system of education
uncritically, or the disposition to be critical and not
constructive concerning it, is dangerous. The problem
we are facing is not merely a classroom problem.
Parents are vitally concerned in the education of their
children. They do not deliberately become accom-
plices in a system of life and schooling that unwittingly
"buries curiosity alive."

Beginning with the kindergarten, it provides us (parents) a
few hours' relief from our responsibility toward our youngsters.
Curiously, the Americans most given to this evasion are the
Americans most inveterately sentimental about the "kiddies,"
and most loath to employ the nursery system, holding it some-
how an undemocratic invasion of the child's rights. Then
somewhere in the primary grades we begin to feel that we are
purchasing relief from the burden of fundamental instruction.
Ourselves mentally lazy, abstracted, and genuinely bewildered
by the flow of questions from one mouth, we blithely refer that
awakening curiosity to a harassed young woman, probably
less informed than we are, who has to answer, or silence, the
questions of from a score or threescore mouths. So begins the
long throttling of curiosity which later on will baffle the college
instructor, who will sometimes write a clever magazine essay
about the complacent ignorance of his pupils.*

The alternative is not to abolish the kindergarten,
school, or college. The challenge to forward-looking

* Britten, Clarence, Civilization in the United States. School and Col-
lege Life, p. 113.


thinkers is to build a new technic by which it will
be possible to release the powers of the human mind.
A redirection, not a destruction, of educational means
is imperative. We shall attempt to present both the
plea and a programme for a new general method in
terms of the learner transformed from a recipient to
a reacting agent and converted from a spectator to a
participant. We shall endeavor to locate the responsi-
bility of parents, supervisors, teachers, and pupils in a
community of interests. The organized means of edu-
cation the system itself, subject-matter, methods
will need to be vitally related to the proposed procedure.



A New Point of View. Supervised study has be-
come a familiar term in recent discussions of high-
school education. The literature of method is replete
with contributions on the various phases of teaching
pupils how to study. "Directing Activity," conceived
as a means of developing a new general method, is the
real title of this presentation. "Directing Study" is a
compromise title that will serve to emphasize the fact /
that the effort here is to present a working basis for a *
more productive classroom procedure than that which
usually obtains under the recitation system. Super-
vised study is too narrowly interpreted to serve this

One of the most hopeful departures in these dis-
cussions is the evident tendency to formulate methods
of teaching upon a study of the learning processes of
children. The conventional emphasis has been upon the
requirements of the logical organization of subject-
matter, irrespective of the subjective interests and ex-
periences of the learner.

Suggestive experiments have been made, the results
of which are illuminating and have already begun to
influence educational practice. As an example of the
effect of this type of analysis and experimentation it is
interesting to note the increasing disfavor in which
the term recitation is held. Hearing lessons recited is



coming to be considered stupid, mechanical, deadly
business. Home study, for the most part, is a myth
in so far as those pupils who need it most are concerned.
The practice of assigning lessons in a perfunctory man-
ner with the expectation that somehow the lessons will
be mastered is the corollary of the recitation system
which has been perpetuated in the American school
under the inertia of tradition.

Supervised study, intelligently directed, bids fair to
become the means by which a new and vital concep-
tion of classroom activities is to be gained. On ac-
count of the various uses of the term it is thought best
to limit the scope of directing study to that proce-
dure in the regular classroom which directs the ener-
gies of pupils working forward. If a distinction is drawn
between the recitation, as such, and directing study
these two activities constituting the major aspects of
the class period it will readily appear that the latter
is the more important when productively developed
and controlled. However, in this presentation and
interpretation of supervised study, no such separation
is contemplated. Directing activity (or study) is
meant to be descriptive of a totally different concep-
tion of the purpose of the classroom than that which
is meant by the recitation.

Before raising the problems suggested in the ad-
ministration and development of directing study, it
may be well to point out, in passing, other uses of the
term supervised study.

The General Study Room Merely an Administra-
tive Device. In all high schools having differentiated
curriculums it is necessary to make provision for the
free or unassigned periods which fall to pupils some-



iat promiscuously. The general study room or study
rooms are supervised either by a suitable person em-
ployed for that specific purpose or by members of the
instructional staff. Obviously, the pupils are concerned
with their several individual studies. The only posi-
tive direction of study would necessarily be general
in character. For the most part routine factors are
controlled, such as keeping the room orderly, manag-
ing the work of pupils in a general way, seeing to it
that each one attends to his own affairs. In so far as
this free period supplements home study it is valuable
and contributes definitely to the efficient management
of the school. Yet, as a rule, the general study room
is only a means intended to minister to the effective
internal organization of the school, rather than toward
the solution of the problem of teaching pupils how
best to use their powers in study. In rare cases a
supervisor of such a group might be competent to
assist a large number of pupils in their individual

It is conceivable that a teacher of conspicuous
ability, broad experience, and technical skill could
direct a relatively small group of pupils in a general
study period in which different subjects were being
pursued. This has been done successfully in isolated
instances. Certain general directions are given to
assist pupils in studying any kind of lesson. A teacher,
supervising study in this manner, may be able to give
specific and detailed assistance to pupils in many dif-
ferent courses, depending upon the extent of his experi-
ence and his breadth of scholarship. There is also in
this connection valid ground for the assumption that
generalized habits of application may be developed. As



a general administrative proposition, however, there
is little to be accomplished through the general study
room in the development of a special technic of super-
vising study. The general study room is set apart as
a convenient place for pupils to spend their free periods.

Online LibraryHarry Lloyd MillerDirecting study; educating for mastery through creative thinking → online text (page 5 of 28)