How strong is your foundation?


This evening, rather than go out to the dojo to throw around, Talal and I threw in a martial arts training video and started to watch it. This particular video showed my teacher Sveneric teaching the basics of our martial art. Midway through the video, Sveneric began to discuss the need for  having a good foundation and checking it often. As I listened to what he had to say, I started to relate it to more than martial arts; I related it to being an adult educator. First the story about the foundation.

Sveneric compared learning this martial art to the building of a house. He commented that the basics or kihon was like the foundation. Without a good foundation, your house would not be able to stand. Yet, if you focus only on the foundation, you will build high walls but it would result in nothing but a hole. You must develop the foundation, and then continue to build the rest of the house for your enjoyment. He also mentioned that to continue to enjoy your house, you should not just furnish it, and beautify it, you must also regularly go down in the basement and check on the foundation. Basically, don’t forget the basics.

So what does this have to do with adult educators.

Teaching like many other disciplines has a foundation. It has principles, theories, methods, strategies, and techniques. Some of the basics are essential, if we want to help others learn. Yet, as I listen to discussions around campus among educators, these basic principles seem to be ignored. In Wlodkowski’s book, Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn: A Comprehensive Guide for Teaching All Adults, he mentions that one of the characteristics of a motivating instructor is expertise. An educator must not only have knowledge of their subject matter but they must also be skilled at preparing and delivering instruction. “Brilliant and scholarly people at the zenith of their professions are notorious for poorly prepared instruction” (Wlodkowski, 2008, p. 54).  Time must be spent checking out the foundation, or the rest of the house will suffer. If learners are not learning, perhaps educators need to attend to the basics of their instruction.