Pie-in-sky methods? 2

January 23, 2003

Richard Benefer writes that many students like being taught (Letters, THES , January 10). Sure they do, it allows three of them to doze while the fourth, coerced, member of the group writes his/her interpretation of the lecturer's words.

Many years ago, I attended the lectures of that fine zoologist C. C. Hentschel at Chelsea Polytechnic, London. Without notes and using just a bunch of coloured chalks, he lectured on, for example, the dissection of the dogfish. He drew on the blackboard a diagram of the dissection, explaining as he went, until a perfect representation of the dissected fish appeared before our eyes. But then came the crunch. I had to do the dissection in the laboratory. That was when I really learnt its anatomy.

A student once asked me if I would learn him something. He was right. After some 50 years at the chalkface, I regard teaching as the privilege of opening windows for willing learners, based on one's own hard work at mastering the subject. But they have to do the work.

Francis Diggins

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