October 1st, 2009

'Pedagogy of Ironic Minimalism'


This fall marks Robert Nash’s 41st year in the classroom. When asked about retirement plans, he reports telling colleagues that he’ll go when they carry him out in a box and bury him on the main university green.

“So much of what I’ve learned about teaching in the academy over four decades can be summarized in this way: often when I teach less, I find that I actually teach more. I call this a ‘pedagogy of ironic minimalism.’ Whenever I take time to call forth what it is my students actually know, and whenever I intentionally minimize the ‘endless breadth and depth’of my own ‘vast wisdom and knowledge,’ then my students learn the most. This, dear readers, is why I keep coming back to the classroom—for lo these many years.”

This is such an important lesson and such a needed affirmation of students. These days we hear mostly about all those things students don’t bring to the classroom. In Tuesday’s blog I reminded us how what students believe about learning impacts their efforts to learn. Today it’s about what faculty believe about students and how that affects their efforts to teach.

Reference: www.insidehighered.com/views/2009/09/22/nash

  • Rich Young

    I very much like this stream of thought. For many years I have been a firm believer in the following:

    1. In acquiring an education it is not so much about getting the answers as asking the questions. If we ask the right questions, the answers will ultimately be found;

    2) Students can be expected to learn as much or more from one another than they will from me. It is up to me to create the right environment and circumstances for this to occur.

    Neither of these outlooks diminish my role as a scholar and I have often come to regard my students as another avenue for my own discoveries.