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Reading Aloud

Jeremy

I teach him German, together with his wife. He is a retired mathematician and physicist who works part-time as a liaison officer between industry and the education authorities. A very interesting job, putting him in touch with different industries on the one hand and schools on the other hand. Workshops with pupils and workshops with teachers. “Learning style research” was one subject he covered. It is advantageous to know in which way one learns best. I expressed interest and he brought me a copy of a test he had done in a workshop with teachers. He explained in detail what I had to do. I listened without taking it in. It bored me a little in fact. It would be nice to know how to learn in the most economical way. After all I want to study Italian. Couldn’t somebody find out for me?

Jeremy promised to do the test with me – only a matter of minutes – once I had answered the questions on the first sheet. The day before they were due to come I thought, dear me, the test. I ran through it, put crosses in what appeared to be the relevant places and presented the sheet the next day. He took a look at it and said: “No, this is not right.” I was embarrassed, but he gallantly said he had probably not explained it properly. It turned out that I hadn’t read the introductory and explanatory notes and had therefore not completed the test. He smiled at me from under his dense, blond eye-lashes as I declared my intention to do my homework properly for next time and went on to explain about the possible results of the test. He had me interested now, because he talked about the general tendency towards “self-discovery”. One type of learner – he in fact belonged to that group according to the test – is “primarily interested in self-discovery”, a term used by the psychologist to whom we owe the test. I understood from Jeremy that this group of learners is really the one to be encouraged. What about the teacher who finds out he is inclined to “self-discovery”. This was a question beside the point, because all we’re interested in is how to transmit knowledge to pupils in the most economical way. We have to know which way pupils are inclined and for the best results we should teach them accordingly. I was still intrigued by “self-discovery” and a possible recipe for it.

Next time I saw him I had completed the test and was disappointed not to join the self-discovery group, but the one that was interested in “personal meaning”. Unfortunately it turned out in the course of our discussion that “self-discovery” did not mean “discover oneself”, but “discover by oneself” which made me lose interest altogether…