Another IRC conversation. alaric is Alaric Snell-Pym.

20:27 <@alaric> I am a dark master at taking a bespoke requirement, and coming up with a generic yet easily-implemented solution to it, that can be resold in future
20:27 <@DRMacIver> Teach me your ways, master alaric
20:27 <@alaric> I’ve been wondering how to do that, actually
20:28 <@alaric> Most of my software design-fu is intuition, but I know it should be extractable into a series of principles
20:28 <@alaric> So I’ve been wondering what they are…
20:29 <@DRMacIver> Extracting things into a set of principles is the wrong way to teach something anyway.
20:30 <@DRMacIver> You’re taking a thought process, creating a set of steps that you don’t actually use in that thought process, and then expecting people on the other end to somehow recreate the original process
20:31 <@alaric> Agreed, but in order to teach something, you need to know what it is
20:31 <@DRMacIver> Disagreed.
20:31 <@alaric> And my issue right now is that I have these Intuitions, which aren’t very communicable
20:31 <@DRMacIver> Knowledge is a very overrated feature for teaching and learning.
20:31 <@alaric> The best I could do right now is to set people a design exercise, look at their solutions, and point out how they could be done better
20:32 <@alaric> Which would get the point across eventually, but it’d take a while
20:32 <@alaric> Or I could list examples from my past
20:34 <@DRMacIver> Both of those sound more useful than a set of principles.
20:35 <@DRMacIver> I think interactive learning is really the best way though. Either set someone a problem or have them work on their own ones and interact with them as they do – ask and answer questions, point out alternatives, etc.
20:35 <@DRMacIver> Of course this is very time consuming.
20:36 <@DRMacIver> Which is why no one is never taught anything properly and has to learn it for themselves.
20:37 <@DRMacIver> There might be good ways to parallelise this though: e.g. give twopeople two different lessons, stick them in a room together and tell them to solve the problem together.
20:38 <@DRMacIver> This of course only works on motivated students.
20:38 <@DRMacIver> But unmotivated students can fuck off as far as I’m concerned :)
21:39 <@alaric> I’d like to figure out what principles I use, though, even if only to make sure that exercises I set end up covering them all
21:42 <@DRMacIver> Teaching people is also a good way to codify your knowledge I think.
21:42 <@DRMacIver> i have a friend who refers to my rules of interviewing.
21:42 <@DRMacIver> Thing is… I don’t *have* any rules of interviewing. I have a general body of advice and knowledge, which upon relating has become slightly more formalised.
21:43 <@alaric> Yes
21:43 <@alaric> That is a valid process, IMHO
21:43 <@DRMacIver> Agreed.

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3 thoughts on “Teaching

  1. Joseph Turian

    I would be interested to hear more *examples* of Alaric’s approach (“[of] taking a bespoke requirement, and coming up with a generic yet easily-implemented solution to it, that can be resold in future”).

  2. Dan

    Could you explain more about how you think one can teach something one doesn’t have any knowledge of? I’m pretty sure any teaching I did about quantum mechanics would have similar results as Homer Simpson teaching Apu Nahasapeemapetilon U.S. History.

    If I’ve strawman-ed your claim, please correct my question in addition to answering it.

  3. A passer-by

    The best book on this subject is certainly Ranciere’s “The Ignorant Schoolmaster” which provides a wonderful analysis of an educator little-remembered, Joseph Jacotot:

    “Knowing no Flemish, Jacotot found himself able to teach in French to Flemish students who know no French; knowledge, Jacotot concluded, was not necessary to teach, nor explication necessary to learn. The results of this unusual experiment in pedagogy led him to announce that all people were equally intelligent. From this postulate, Jacotot devised a philosophy and a method for what he called ‘intellectual emancipation’–a method that would allow, for instance, illiterate parents to themselves teach their children how to read. The greater part of the book is devoted to a description and analysis of Jacotot’s method, its premises, and (perhaps most important) its implications for understanding both the learning process and the emancipation that results when that most subtle of hierarchies, intelligence, is overturned.”

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