From the beginning of a person’s education, say elementary school or even earlier, there should be a principle, or a general guide line, based on which the whole set of courses curriculum, teaching methods and styles, learning methods and techniques, should be designed. Without such a principle, all those fancy or not-so-fancy techniques and all those creative or not-so-creative teaching methods, are just clever but useless/dishonest tricks. From the perspective of learning as to acquire knowledge, there are too much to learn in every field; from the perspective of learning what is the field and building up a basis from which one can start to learn things in that field by ones’ own, however, there is really not much to learn.
This principle, I believe, is: Teach less, learn more. Learn only the core part of a field. So what is the core part? I believe it is to form a general scope of the field, or what commonly expressed as “when you learn a field, you should think like the best scholars in this field”, and learn sufficient basic concept and skills so that one can learn more about this field on ones’ own.
While waiting for answers for the question of what should be the basic but sufficient concepts and techniques of each individual fields, here I want to talk a little bit on what I think a top expert in the field of the following several fields look at those fields.
Mathematicians: Convert real-world phenomena into well-defined mathematical problems, if not well-defined then develop mathematics first to make the problem well-defined, and then solve the abstracted math problems.
Physicists: Convert real-world phenomena into physical problems and then express the physical problems as math problems, and then solve the math problems.
Computer scientists: Convert the real-world phenomena into math problems, and then solve the math problems in an algorithmic fashion.
Language users, native: Reading and writing, convert their ideas and what they want to express into written words.
Profession language users: the previous, plus find something about which they have some ideas or have the desire/inspiration to say something.
Language users, non-native: Listening, speaking, reading and writing, using their native language or not, to convert their ideas and what they want to express into spoken and written words of the target language.
When I, myself, have the inspiration and also indeed have something non-trivial to say, I will add my understandings of other fields.
All teaching, or more generally education, if is not based on this general principle, do more harm than good to the learners. People might become more and more educated, but meanwhile become less and less creative, more and more like a machine, or I would like to call it, a google server.
I wish one day, there will be others who also respect this picture of education and go through all fields to comb out those core parts, including the general scope of the fields and also the minimum set of basic but sufficient concepts and techniques.
If we want our next generation to learn happier, it can not be achieved by simply reducing the work load such as school hours and size of homework, but can only be reached by teaching only the core parts, and teaching it better.
Prof. Alberto Canas added that once the principles/big ideas have been identified, problem-based learning and project-based learning should be used to bring those big ideas down to the earth.
So I suggested the following formula that: Teaching = guidelines/principles/big pictures/big ideas + examples + logic structure. Concept mapping and concept maps can be helpful in constructing/presenting the first and the last, problem-based learning can be helpful in implementing the second.