The Clear Word 

A Ministry Of Mid-State Ministries  


Seven Laws for Effectual Teaching


Lesson Seven



Our survey of the teaching art has thus far involved these four

considerations: the teacher, the learner, the language, and the

lesson. We are now to study these in action, and to observe the

conduct of the teacher and his pupil. The previous discussions have

already brought these partly into view, but as each of them has its

own law, each demands more careful consideration than has yet been

given it. In the laws of the teacher and the learner, we found

necessarily reflected the actions of both; but an actor and his part

are easily separated in thought, and each possesses aspects and

characteristics of its own. Following the natural order, the teaching

function comes first before us, and we are now to seek its law. The

law of the teacher was essentially a law of qualification; the law of

teaching is a law of function.

Thus far we have considered teaching as the communication of

knowledge or experience; more properly, we should say that this is a

RESULT of teaching. Whether by telling, demonstrating, or leading

pupils to discover for themselves, the teacher is transmitting

experience to his pupils; that is his aim and purpose, and his

teaching is conditioned by that aim. But the explanation of the work

of the teacher in terms of function is to be distinguished from the

definition in terms of purpose. The actual work of the teacher consists of the

awakening and setting in action the mind of the

pupil, the arousing of his self-activities. As already shown,knowledge

cannot  be passed from mind to mind like objects from one

receptacle to another, but must in every case be recognized and

rethought and relived by the receiving mind. All explanation and

exposition are useless except as they serve to excite and direct the

pupil in his own thinking. If the pupil himself does not think, there

are no results of the teaching; the words of the teacher are falling

upon deaf ears.


We are now ready to state the law of teaching:



The second clause in this law is of sufficient importance to

justify its position in the formulation of the law, although it is

negatively stated. There are cases in which it may be necessary to

disregard this caution in order to save time, or in the case of a

very weak or discouraged pupil, or sometimes when intense interest

has been aroused and there is a keen demand for information

that the teacher can give quickly and effectively, but its violation

is almost always a loss which should be compensated by a definite

gain. Considered affirmatively, this caution would read: "Make your

pupil a discoverer of truth -- make him find out for himself." The

great value of this law has been so often and so strongly stated as

to demand no further proof. No great writer on education has failed to consider it in

some form or another; if we were seeking the educational maxim most widely

received among good teachers, and the most extensive in its applications and

results, we should fix upon this law. It is the same fundamental truth as the one

found in such rules as the following: "Wake up your pupils' minds"; "Set the pupils

to thinking"; "Arouse the spirit of inquiry"; "Get your pupils to

work." All  these familiar maxims are different expressions of this

same law.

In discussing the principles of attention, language, and

knowledge, we have considered to some extent the operations of the

mind. We should now study these further.


We can learn without a teacher. Children learn hundreds of facts

before they ever see a school, sometimes with the aid of parents or

others, often by their own unaided efforts. In the greater part

of our acquisitions we are self-taught, and it is quite generally

conceded that knowledge is most permanent and best which is dug out

by unaided research. Everything, at the outset, must be learned by

the discoverer without an instructor, since no instructor knows it. If, then,

we can learn without being taught, it follows that the true

function of the teacher is to create the most favorable conditions

for self-learning. Essentially the acquisition of knowledge must be

brought about by the same agencies and through the use of the same

methods, whether with or without a teacher.

What, then, is the use of schools, and what is the necessity of a

teacher? The question is pertinent, but the answer is plain.Knowledge in its natural state

lies scattered and confused; it is connected, to be sure, in great systems, but these

connections are laws and relations unknown to the beginner, and they are to be

learned only through ages of observation and careful study. The

school selects for its curriculum what it regards as the most useful

of the experiences of the race, organizes these, and offers them to

the pupils along with its facilities for learning. It offers to these

pupils leisure and quiet for study, and through its books and other

materials of education the results of other people's labors, which

may serve as charts of the territories to be explored, and as beaten

paths through the fields of knowledge. True teaching, then, is

not that which GIVES knowledge, but that which stimulates pupils to

GAIN it. One might say that he teaches BEST who teaches LEAST; or

that he teaches best whose pupils learn most without being taught

directly. But we should bear in mind that in these epigrammatic

statements two meanings of the word TEACHING are involved: one,simply telling,

the other creating the conditions of real learning.

 That teacher is a sympathizing guide whose knowledge of the

subjects to be studied enables him properly to direct the efforts of

the pupil, to save him from a waste of time and strength, from

needless difficulties. But no aid of school or teacher can change the

operations of the mind, or take from the pupil his need of knowing for himself.

The eye must do its own seeing, the ear its own hearing,and the mind

its own thinking,  however much may be done to furnish

objects of sights, sounds for the ear and stimuli for the

intelligence. The innate capacities of the child produce the growth

of body or mind. "If childhood is educated according to the measure

of its powers," said Saint Augustine, "they will continually grow and

increase; while if forced beyond their strength, they decrease

instead of increasing." The sooner the teacher abandons the notion

that he can make his pupils intelligent by hard work upon their

passive receptivity, the sooner he will become a good teacher

and obtain the art, as Socrates said, of assisting the mind to shape

and put forth its own conceptions. It was to his skill in this that

the great Athenian owed his power and greatness among his

contemporaries, and it was this that gave him his place as one of the

foremost of the great teachers of mankind. It is the "forcing

process" in teaching which separates parrot

like and perfunctory LEARNING from KNOWING. A boy, having expressed

surprise at the shape of the earth when he was shown a globe, was asked:

"Did you not learn that in school?" He replied: "Yes. I learned it, but I never knew


The great aims of education are to acquire knowledge and ideals, and to develop

abilities and skills. Our law derives its significance

from both of these aims. The pupil must know for himself, or his

knowledge will be knowledge in name only. The very effort required in

the act of thus learning and knowing may do much to increase the

capacity to learn. The pupil who is taught without doing any studying

for himself will be like one who is fed without being given any

exercise: he will lose both his appetite and his strength.

Confidence in our own powers is an essential condition of their

successful use. This confidence can be gained only by self-prompted,voluntary,

and independent use of these capacities. We learn

to walk, not by seeing others walk, but by walking. The same is true

of mental abilities.

The self-activities or mental powers do not set themselves at

work without some motive or stimulus to put them in action. In early

life external stimuli are stronger, and in riper years the internal

excitements are the ones to which we respond more readily. To the young

child the objects of sense -- bright colors, live animals, and things

in motion -- are most attractive and exciting. Later in life, the

inner facts of thought and feeling are more engaging. The child's

mental life has in it an excess of sensation; the mental life of the

adult has more reflection.

But whatever the stimulus, the processes of cognition are largely

the same. There is the comparison of the new with the old, the

alternating analysis and synthesis of parts, wholes, classes, causes,

and effects; the action of memory and imagination, the use of

judgment and reason, and the effects upon thought of tastes and

prejudices as  they have been concerned with the previous knowledge

and experience of the learner. If thinking does not take place, the

teacher has applied the stimuli in vain. He perhaps will wonder that

his pupils do not understand, and will very likely consider them

stupid and incompetent, or at least lazy. Unfortunately the stupidity

is sometimes on the other side, and its sins against this law

of teaching in assuming that the teacher can MAKE the pupil learn by

dint of vigorous telling, or teaching as he calls it, whereas true

teaching only brings to bear on the pupil's mind certain natural

stimuli or excitants. If some of these fail, he must find others, and

not rest until he attains the desired result and sees the activity of

the child at work upon the lesson.

Comenius said, over two hundred years ago, "Most teachers sow

plants instead of seeds; instead of proceeding from the simplest

principles they introduce the pupil at once into a chaos of books and

miscellaneous studies." The figure of the seed is a good one, and is

much older than Comenius. The greatest of teachers said: "The seed is

the word." The true teacher stirs the ground and sows the seed. It is

the work of the soil, through its own forces, to develop the growth

and ripen the grain. [-1- Johann Amos Comenius (1592-1671) was a

Moravian clergyman, whose efforts to reform school practices have

given him an enduring place in the history of education.]

The difference between the pupil who works for himself and the

one who works only when he is driven is too obvious to need

explanation. The one is a free agent, the other is a machine. The

former is attracted by his work, and, prompted by his interest, he

works on until he meets some overwhelming difficulty or reaches the

end of his task. The latter moves only when he is urged. He

sees what is shown him, he hears what he is told, advances when his

teacher leads, and stops just where and when the teacher stops. The

one moves by his own activities, and the other by borrowed impulse. The former

is a  mountain stream fed by living springs, the latter a ditch filled from a pump

worked by anothers hand.


The action of the mind is limited practically to the field of its

acquired knowledge. The individual who knows nothing cannot think,for he has nothing to

think about. In comparing, imagining, judging,and reasoning, and in applying knowledge to plan, criticize, or execute one's own thoughts, the mind must necessarily work upon the

material in its possession. Hence the power of any object or fact as

a mental stimulus depends in each case upon the number of related

objects or facts which the individual already knows. A botanist will

be aroused to the keenest interest by the discovery of a hitherto

unknown plant, but will perhaps care little or nothing for a new

stone or a new star. The physician eagerly studies new diseases, the

lawyer recent decisions, the farmer new crops, and the mechanic new


The infant knows little, and his interest is brief and slight;the adult knows

many things, and his interests are deeper, wider, and

more persistent. Thoughtfulness deepens and grows more intense

with the increase of knowledge. The student of mathematics who has

worked long and diligently in his field never finds it dry or

tiresome; the wisest student of the Bible finds in its pages the

greatest delight. All these illustrations show the principles which

underlie our law and prove its value.

The two chief springs of interest through which the mind can be

aroused are the love of knowledge for its own sake, that is, its

cultural value, and the desire for knowledge to be used as a tool in

solving problems or obtaining other knowledge. In the former are

mingled the satisfaction of the native curiosity which craves to know

the real nature and causes of the phenomena around us, the solution

of the questionings which often trouble the mind, the relief from

apprehensions which ignorance feels in the presence of nature's

mysteries, the sense of power and liberty which knowledge often

brings, the feeling of elevation which each new increment of

knowledge gives, and the "rejoicing in the truth" because of its own

beauty and sublimity, or its moral charm and sweetness, its appeals

to our taste for wit and humor, and for the wonderful. All these

enter separately or together into the intellectual appetite to which

the various forms of knowledge appeal, and which give to reading and

study their greatest attraction. Each affords an avenue

through which the mind can be reached and roused by the skillful


It is evident that this manifold mental appetite must vary in

character and intensity with the tastes and attainments of the

pupils. Some love nature and her sciences of observation and

experiment; others love mathematics and delight in its problems;still others

prefer the languages and literature, and others history

and the sciences which deal with the powers, deeds, and destinies of

man. Each special preference grows by being fostered, and becomes

absorbing as its acquisitions become great. The great masteries and

achievements in arts, literature, and science have come from these

innate tastes, and in all these "the child is father of the man."In each pupil lies

the germ of such tastes -- the springs of

such powers -- awaiting the art of the teacher to water

the germs and set the springs in motion.

The respect for knowledge because of its value as a tool includes

the desire for education as a means of livelihood or as a source of

better social standing; the felt or anticipated need of some special

skill or ability as an artist, lawyer, writer, or some other brain

worker; as well as study for the purpose of winning rewards or

avoiding punishments. This indirect desire for learning varies with

the character and aims of the pupils, but does not increase

with attainment unless it ripens, as it may, into the true love of

knowledge above described. Its strength depends upon the nature and

magnitude of the need which impels the study. The activities aroused

for such study go to a self-imposed task and are not very likely to

continue their work after the task is done. The rewards and

punishments used in school to promote the studying of lessons have

just this force and no more. They inspire no generous activity which

works for the love of the work and which does not pause when the

assigned lesson has been covered. Witness the spirit that pervades

every school so taught and so managed. On the other hand, if the true

uses of knowledge are constantly pointed out by the teacher and

recognized by the child, the time may well come when respect for

knowledge because it is useful becomes a real love of knowledge for

its own sake.


Our discussion thus far has taken for granted the intimate and

indissoluble connection between the intellect and the feelings, the

inseparable union of thought and feeling. To think without feeling

would be thinking with a total indifference to the object of thought,which would be

absurd; and to feel without thinking would be almost

impossible. As most of the objects of thought are objects also of

desire or dislike, and therefore objects of choice, it follows that

all important action of the intellect has a moral side. This, again,is an assumption

that we have made throughout our discussion.The love of knowledge for itself or for its

uses is in reality moral,as it implies moral affections and purposes of good or evil. All

motives of study have a moral character or connection, in their early

steps; hence no education or teaching can be absolutely divorced

from morals. The affections come to school with the intellect.

 This moral consciousness finds its fuller sphere in the

recognized domain of duty -- the higher realm of the

affections and the other moral qualities.

From these come the highest and strongest

incentives to study and also the clearest understanding. The teacher

should constantly address the moral nature and stimulate moral

sentiments, if he wishes to achieve the greatest measure of success.

This moral teaching was the chief merit of the work of

Pestalozzi, and it is the leading characteristic of the work of all

great teachers. Love of country, love of one's fellows, aspirations

for a noble and useful life, love for truth -- these are all motives

to which appeal should be made. If these motives are lacking in

pupils, the teacher must build them up.


It follows from all this that only when the mental powers work

freely and in their own way can the product be sure or permanent. No

one can know exactly what any mind contains, or how it performs, save as that mind

imperfectly reveals it by words or acts,or as we conceive it by reflecting upon our own conscious experience.Just as the digestive organs must do their own work, masticating and

digesting whatever food they receive, selecting, secreting,assimilating, and so

building bone, muscle, nerve, and all the

various tissues and organs of the body, so, too, in the last resort,the mind

must perform its function, without external aid, building,as it can, concepts,

faith, purposes, and all forms of intelligence

and character. As Milton expressed it:The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.

If the fact of the mind's autocracy is thus emphasized, it is not

for the purpose of belittling the work of the teacher, but only to

show more clearly the law which gives to that work all its force and

dignity. It is the teacher's mission to stand at the spiritual

gateways of his pupil's mind, serving as a herald of science, a guide

through nature, to summon the minds to their work, to place before

them the facts to be observed and studied, and to guide them into the

right paths to be followed. It is his by sympathy, by example, and by

every means of influence -- by objects for the senses, by facts for

the intelligence -- to excite the mind of the pupils, to stimulate

their thoughts.

The cautionary clause of our law which forbids giving too much

help to pupils will be needless to the teacher who clearly

sees his proper work. Like a skillful engineer who knows the power of

his engine,  he chooses to stand and watch the play of the splendid

machine and marvel at the ease and vigor of its movements. It is only

the unskilled teacher who prefers to hear his own voice in endless

talk rather than to watch and direct the course of the thoughts of

his pupils.

There is no disagreement between this law and the first and

third, which so strongly insist upon the teacher's knowledge of the

subject. Without full and accurate knowledge of the subject that the

pupil is to learn through his self-active efforts, the teacher

certainly cannot guide, direct, and test the process of learning. One

may as well say that a general need know nothing of a battlefield

because he is not to do the actual fighting, as that a teacher may

get on with inadequate knowledge because the pupils must do the

studying. As we have said, there are exceptions to the rule that the

pupil should be told nothing that he can discover for himself. There

are some occasions when the teacher may, for a few moments, become a

lecturer and, from his own more extensive experience, give his pupils

broader, richer, and clearer views of the field of their work. But in

such cases he must take care not to substitute mere telling for true

teaching, and thus encourage passive listening where he needs to call

for earnest work.

The most important stimuli used by nature to stir the minds of

men have already been noted. They might all be described as the

silent but ceaseless questions which the world and the universe are

always addressing to man. The eternal questions of childhood are

really the echoes of these greater questions. The object or the event

that excites no question will provoke no thought. Questioning is not,therefore,

merely one of the devices of teaching, it is really the

whole of teaching. It is the excitation of the self-activities to

their work of discovering truth. Nature always teaches thus. But it

does not follow that every question should be in the interrogative

form. The strongest and clearest affirmation may have all the effect

of the interrogation, if the mind so receives it. An explanation maybe so given

as to raise new questions while it answers old ones.

The explanation that settles everything and ends all questions, usually ends all

thinking also. After a truth is clearly understood,or a fact or principle established,

there still remain its consequences, applications, and uses. Each fact and truth thoroughly

studied leads to other facts which renew the questioning and demand

fresh investigation. The alert and scientific mind is one that never

ceases to ask questions and seek answers. The scientific spirit is

the spirit of tireless inquiry and research. The present time, so far

excelling the past in the development of its arts and

sciences, is the time of great questions.

As with the world, so with the child. His education begins as

soon as he begins to ask questions. It is only when the questioning

spirit has been fully awakened, and the habit of raising questions

has been largely developed, that the teaching process may embody the

lecture plan. The truth asks its own questions as soon as the mind is

sufficiently awake. The falling apple had the question of gravitation

in it for the mind of Newton; and the boiling teakettle propounded to

Watt the problem of a steam engine.


Like our other laws, this one also suggests some practical rules

for teaching.

(1) Adapt lessons and assignments to the ages and attainments

of the pupils. Very young children will be interested more in

whatever appeals to the senses, and especially in activities; the

more mature will be attracted to reasoning and to reflective


(2) Select lessons which relate to the environment and needs

of the pupils.

(3) Consider carefully the subject and the lesson to be

taught, and find its point of contact with the lives of your pupils.

(4) Excite the pupil's interest in the lesson when it is assigned, by some question or by some statement which will awaken inquiry. Hint that something worth knowing is to be found out if the lesson is thoroughly studied, and then be sure later to ask for the truth to be discovered.

(5) Place yourself frequently in the position of a pupil among your

pupils, and join in the search for some fact or principle.

(6) Repress your impatience which cannot wait for the pupil

to explain himself, and which tends to take his words out of his

mouth. He will resent it, and will feel that he could have answered

had you given him time.

(7) In all class exercises aim to excite constantly fresh

interest and activity. Share questions for the pupils to investigate

out of class. The lesson that does not culminate in fresh questions

ends wrong.

(8) Observe each pupil to see that his mind is not wandering

so as to forbid its activities being bent to the lesson in hand.

(9) Count it your chief duty to awaken the minds of your

pupils, and do not rest until each child shows his mental activity by

asking questions.

(10) Repress the desire to tell all you know or think about

the lesson or subject; if you tell something by way of illustration

or explanation, let it start a fresh question.

(11) Give the pupil time to think, after you are sure that

his mind is actively at work, and encourage him to ask questions when


(12) Do not answer too promptly the questions asked, but

restate them, to give them greater force and breadth, and often

answer with new questions to secure deeper thought.

(13) Teach pupils to ask What? Why? and How? -- the nature,cause, and method of every fact or principle taught them; also Where? When? By Whom? and What of it? -- the place,

time, actors, and consequences of events.

(14) Recitations should not exhaust a subject, but leave

additional work to stimulate the thought and the efforts of the



Many a teacher neglecting these rules kills all interest in his

class, and wonders how he did it.

(1) The chief and almost constant violation of this law of

teaching is the attempt to force lessons by simply telling. "I have

told you ten times, and yet you don't know!" exclaims a teacher of

this sort, who is unable to remember that knowing comes by thinking,

not by being told.

(2) It is another mistake to complain of memory for not

keeping what it never held. If facts or principles are to be

remembered, the attention must be concentrated upon them at the time,and

there must be a conscious effort to remember.

(3) A third violation of the law comes from the haste with

which teachers require prompt and rapid recitations in the very words

of the book; and, if a question is asked in class, to refuse the

pupils time to think. If the pupil hesitates and stops for

lack of thought, or in apparent lack of memory, the fault lies in

yesterday's teaching which shows its fruit today; but if it comes

from the slowness of the pupil's thinking, or from the real

difficulty of the subject, then time should be given for additional

thought; and, if the recitation period will not permit it, let the

answer hold over until the next time.

It is to this hurried and unthinking lesson-saying that we owe

the superficial and impractical character of so much of our teaching.

Instead of learning thoroughly the material of our lessons, we

endeavor to learn them only so as to recite them promptly. If faults

of this character are prevalent in our day schools, how much more

serious are they in the Sunday schools? If the lessons of the Sunday

schools are to carry over into the lives of the pupils by purifying

and exalting their thoughts and making them wise in the religious

beliefs taught them, the instruction must not be mere telling, but

must be accompanied by the better methods used in the regular


How different are the results when this great law of teaching is

properly followed! The stimulated self-activities operate in the

correct manner, and the classroom is transformed under their power

into a busy laboratory. The pupils become thinkers -- discoverers. They

master great truths, and apply them to the great questions of

life. They invade new fields of knowledge. The teacher merely

leads the march. Their reconnaissance becomes a conquest. Skill and

power grow with their exercise. Through this process, the students

find out what their minds are for, and become students of life.

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