The National Teaching & Learning Forum

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Online ISSN: 2166-3327

Editor's Note, Volume 22 Number 1

I first met Libby Jones when I spoke at Berea College several years ago. During that visit I came across some excellent handouts on listening in Berea’s teaching and learning center that she’d created, and we began to talk about an article on listening for the FORUM. I’d been interested in the subject for a very long time. Years before I’d encountered an ad in LIFE magazine for a course on listening created by Xerox. I still wonder what it had to say. Time passed, and Libby and I lost contact until Parker Palmer’s visit to Berea earlier this year restored our connection when he brought back greetings. Those good handouts were still near the top of my potential article pile, and I asked Libby if she were still interested. She graciously agreed.

I’m especially happy to have this piece in this issue because I think it goes well with the Richard Davidson interview on his book, The Emotional Life Of Your Brain. Davidson’s work gives scientific support for and deeper understanding of aspects of being human that some have understood and explored for centuries in other non-scientific ways. His study of the biological truths of positive emotion, contemplation, meditation on the development of mindfulness and compassion offer persuasive and hopeful insights into our learning capacity as whole beings. We think, but we also feel, and, indeed, it seems we do not think in deeply meaningful ways without feeling. There are implications in his work for teaching and learning, for when we truly teach and truly learn we are calling on the whole being in ourselves and in our students. To do that, however unaccustomed we may be to acknowledging it, we must feel as well as think; we must listen as well as speak. Isn’t it true that when we learn we feel expansion, joy, relief, an enlargement of being that gives us delight and encouragement? And when we have taught, truly taught, do we not feel something similar combined perhaps with the comforting embrace of humility? It’s always been that way for me.

But in speaking of listening, let’s not forget seeing. Seeing, it’s long been said, is believing. And it may be if not “the key” at least “a key” to effectively teaching the basic truths and some of the skills of critical thinking. Young-Kyung Min’s article on teaching critical thinking as part of the writing program at the University of Washington-Bothell certainly opened my eyes. The Visual Thinking Exercise employed seems so commonsensical and effective I don’t know why I never thought of it. Just being able to have students experience the difference between Critical Thinking and Rhetorical Thinking seems a huge advance.

The question lurking behind even the strongest encouragement, the most positive news about teaching and learning remains this: Can we teach everybody? Do the advances (changes?) in technology really allow us to teach more effectively and to teach large numbers of students at once via the Internet. Perhaps they do, but there are critical questions to be asked even as more and more schools rush forward to make their MOOCs. Marilla Svinicki raises a number of the questions we need to think about in her AD REM … column that concludes this issue.

We’ll take up more of these questions about technology in our first issue of the coming year. Until then, happy holidays to all.

Access the full issue of The National Teaching & Learning Forum Volume 22 Issue 1, December 2012 here.