It’s All in the Noticing

Jan 16th, 2010 | By | Category: Thoughts

Over a century ago, there was a great piece of scientific wisdom from the Dore Lectures on Mental Science by Thomas Troward, who stated: “The law of flotation will not be determined by the contemplation of the sinking of things but by contemplating the floating of things which floated naturally, and then intelligently asking why they did so.” Moving that same line of thinking into education, a universal wisdom about learning results – “The law of successful learning will not be determined by the contemplation of the failure of things, but by contemplating the learning of things, and then intelligently asking why.”

A great deal of successful teaching has to do with what and how teachers “notice” the outcomes of their well planned lessons and carefully chosen words (sometimes not so carefully chosen words). Educators must “notice” and comment on what is “right” more than noticing and commenting on errors and mistakes. This also applies to parents. We must be mind “full” of what “is” . . . and mind “less” of what “isn’t”. Many years ago, research shown that the ratio of negative-to-positive comments in American homes was greater than 10:1, which is 10 negative comments for every positive comment. Schools fared better in the data gathering, with a 3:1 ration of negative-to-positive. The study also determined the number of positive comments needed to balance things out – it took 8 positive comments for every negative comment just to come to a state of balance!

Mistakes, errors & misunderstandings can be powerful teaching opportunities as long as they are thought of as “teachable moments” vs. just “wrong”. A teachable moment is viewed as a positive event because it has provided an opportunity to “teach from where they are” . . . a chance to connect the dots (or throw out a life line). Some of the best teaching & learning can come from these “teachable moments”. This shift in thinking from “it’s either wrong or right” to “every occurrence presents a teaching/learning opportunity” is strongly supported by John Ratey, M.D., who said, “Confusion is positive when the outcome is positive.”

TV personality, Art Linkletter, once made this profound statement about life: “Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out. As educators, we have the power and the choice to make the best of the way things “turn up” so that we can facilitate how things “turn out”.

© 2010  Dave Krupke  All Rights Reserved

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