Thinking in the classroom
Students of psychology seem to engage
in abundant emoting along with their thinking. However,
I find little evidence of their acting upon the psychology they
learn in the classroom. I am talking about applying what
they learn to themselves and their own behavior and I am referring
to my experience in the education of teachers.
By the time student teachers start their
course of studies to get certified as teachers in the Faculty
of Education in which I taught students have had 25 or
more years of University. During that time they have acquired
much information. Of course, some students have acquired
more information than others. This information often embeds itself
in their neural system as beliefs. These beliefs may may
or may not be the result of careful observation and systematic
thinking. Most often beliefs are accepted because we accept
the authority of the source of our beliefs These authorities
may be our parents and other significant adults who became significant
in our education during our childhood, adolescence and young
I usually suggested to my students that
instead of believing or not believing what they hear (including
from me) that they put what I said to the test. I would encourage
them to carefully observe not only the behavior of others but
also their own behavior to demonstrate the relevance of what
I or other professional psychologists have said about human nature.
It is curious how most students do not
consider there is an alternative to believing or disbelieving
what an instructor says. If you accept an idea without examining
it, you risk being labeled as gullible. If you reject an idea
offhand without serious reflection, you risk being labeled as
cynical. Either way you lose. If what you reject happens
to be so, you become the victim of ignorance, prejudice or error.
If what you accept happens not to be so, you are likewise victimized.
I notice in general two classes of student
in university. There are thinkers and doers. Few consider
the possibility of being both thinker and doer. For me,
the thinker is one who questions, examines, reflects, gathers
information, evidence and then puts his knowledge to the test
by applying it to whatever he's doing. In other words, such a
person acts upon his knowledge. 'Thinking
about' something is to be distinguished from 'taking action'.
One is introverted, the other extroverted. One is infinitely
safer than the other.
Believing without putting your beliefs
to the test is at best vicarious living, if it's living at all. For
sure, believing without practice takes very little commitment
or risk. From my counseling experience, I would say that
believing without practicing what you believe leads to considerable
frustration, and, in many cases, subtle forms of neurotic behavior.
I urge you to consider the possibility
that thinking is for taking action, for risking change. Learning
that results in no outward manifestation of change in a person's
life can hardly be called learning. Dilettantism, yes. Hypocrisy,
I have often been persuaded that a large
number of students are more interested in grades than in learning.
What about the possibility of doing both? I urge you to pay attention
to your experience. Put your knowledge to the test. Examine
your beliefs to see if they stand up to the evidence of rigorous
observation and the test of systematic and methodical thinking.
Think about what you are doing and act
thoughtfully. What's there to do? In the first place, lots
of living. What's there to think about? First, think
about the consequences of what you do, for yourself and for others. What
is most likely to affect your getting or not getting what you
want? One thing is your choice of words when addressing others. Another
is the alternative courses of action you can take. You
can also check the facts before making decisions. To summarize,
check the accuracy of your facts, be clear about abstractions,
eschew vagueness, be specific instead of generalizing, list the
positives and the negatives of every alternative, and make explicit
your expectations. This kind of thinking is action oriented
and most conducive to your health, success and happiness.