Of course, ideally, every learning experience would arise as naturally as it does for a curious child roaming the beach and poking into what he finds around him, but, in the context of formal education that is very difficult. For one thing, the ratio of students to teachers makes individual discovery very difficult. Novelist Walker Percy, however, describes a plausible scenario in which students are captivated in the classroom while in the middle of the standard, boring, biology dissection lab exercise:
"One day a great biologist walks into the laboratory; he stops in front of our student's desk; he leans over, picks up the dogfish, and, ignoring instruments and procedure, probes with a broken fingernail into the little carcass. 'Now here is a curious business,' he says, ignoring also the proper jargon of the specialty. 'Look here how this little duct reverses its direction and drops into the pelvis. Now if you would look into a coelacanth, you would see that it...' And all at once the student can see."
Percy's expert treats the class as though they were the first people on earth to think of looking inside a dogfish. He captures the students' attention by pointing out its unusual features. Together, they formulate questions that come from their observations. He fills the gaps of the students' knowledge spontaneously, as the students become curious, rather than in a textbook-like sequence. By involving the students in the act of discovery, he covers the principles of the lesson in unforgettable detail. Most important, long after the students can list the organs and skeletal structure of the dogfish, they retain the impression of what an actual scientific probe feels like.
Learning Process Reversed
Where am I in the content of the book?