Essay: Teaching without Numbers

Another Statement of Beliefs: My Philosophy of Teaching
Perhaps you've already read my essay Education as Life, a statement of beliefs and my philosophy of education. That essay addresses my thoughts about secondary education. The essay here addresses my thoughts about teaching in higher education.

THIS ESSAY IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION; OR, PERHAPS, I OUGHT TO SAY, THIS ESSAY IS IN DRAFT.
When I was a child, I was fascinated by the pant-by-numbers sets which sometimes made their way into our home. I thought it was remarkable that art could be reduced to lines and numbers and pre-mixed paint. Even with my untrained eye, however, I could tell that this wasn't art, truly. This was something masquerading as art, perhaps, even, trying too hard to be something it wasn't.

Fast forward a number of years and I find there are a number of people (a goodly number of people) who seem to be participating in the professional world as if were a paint-by-number set. Sadly, some of those are teachers who seem to think that some absolute formula will be good enough; they'll get through the day and be back tomorrow to do it again, one number at a time.

I never could figure out how to paint by the numbers.

When I think about teaching, a number of truths seem apparent. These aren't paint-by-number truths, mind you, but rather truths which seem to lead to multiple possibilities.


Students don't need hand holding, but they do need support. Okay, perhaps some of them do need hand holding, but generally that just means lots of support. One way to support students is to provide them with additional tools and pointers. I've built a website to provide supplemental materials for students; here is the page for a course, Introduction to Performance-Based Management, I taught for the National Graduate School. I also built an informal blog. Both of these tools supported the materials in the official blackboard site.
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