Teaching, Pedagogy
The Didactic Finger Wags and Having Waved Moves On



It is the function of pedagogy to identify inappropriate habits of acts, thought, and emotion, and to move a post-learning awareness back to a synchronic awareness, and even then to a pre-condition of subsequent behavior. Poor habits have consequences. Pedagogy is the art and science of behavior change to improve consequences for the learner. Habits are familiar old friends you take for granted. Changing habits affects the individual’s confidence in doing what he or she has always done. Learning is uncomfortable, painful. No getting around that. The pedagogue must be hardy to withstand the heat, avoiding any harshness of tone.

Walter Ong has said that a relationship exists between the organization of knowledge and the attainment of knowledge through instruction. Textbooks contain the structures of knowledge and instructional guides to its acquisition.


What I present here through the diagrams of system analysis requires the interplay of teaching and learning. You must plug in the special substance of the field to be learned.


I have done a great amount of work on the diagrams and text of this blog. If you use any of it, you must give credit where credit is due; that is the honest thing to do, as you probably know. I have a copyright on the material.

A system is a collection of functions. In any instructional system, the functions of teaching are delineated and applied to the knowledge to be learned. You may observe that my field of application is communication.

System Analysis

“This term has many different meanings … [S]ystems analysis is an explicit formal inquiry carried out to help someone (referred to as the decision maker) identify a better course of action and make a better decision than he might otherwise have made. The characteristic attributes of a problem situation where systems analysis is called upon are complexity of the issue and uncertainty of the outcome of any course of action that might reasonably be taken. Systems analysis usually has some combination of the following: identification and re-identification) of objectives, constraints, and alternative courses of action; … presentation of the results in a comparative framework so that the decision maker can make an informed choice from among the alternatives. The typical use of systems analysis is to guide decisions on issues such as … educational systems.”
(The source from Google was: Educational Systems Analysis)

I am also mindful of the methods of Peter Ramus (Petrus Ramus, or Pierre de la Ramée, 1515-1572) which gave us the eponym “ramifications”.

(In the same vein, I remember taking a great course in English grammar at Indiana University, in which we did nothing but parse and diagram sentences. Also, studying the German language had a transfer-of-training effect on studying systems analysis. Just so, an English novel course, reading one book a week for sixteen weeks, exposed me to some great writers of the English language, harnessing me to the poetics and rhetoric of a literary system.)


Generally, in the classroom, there is more teaching than learning going on. Outside the classroom, there may be more learning as a result of media, parent and peer-goup modeling than that from overt, direct, intentional didactics. Learning is going after what you want to know. (Ivan Illich) In the “going after” is the degree of energized behavior to be observed, a learner output. The higher the degree, the greater the motivation (energized behavior). Wendell Johnson said, “What motivates learning is not the commonplace but the unexpected and unexplained, which pique the curiosity and imagination.” (“Who Discovered Discovery?” P.D.K., xlvii [Nov., 1966], p.123)

Instructional Acumen

Students brimming with motivation require teachers packed with instructional acumen. Students empty of motivation require teachers packed with instructional acumen. In this context, the Biography of Natalie Berryhill Bryant — to read it, click on the LINK on the PAGES column to the right — a case of pedagogical and professional acumen (a student of mine at Texas Tech University many years ago) is testimony to that point.

Flow Charts of Functions

Layouts of the pedagogical process within a system of education follows the flow of pedagogical action in these image formats.

  • Figure 4 – A System of Education for Innovative Learning
  • The inductive method provides exciting sequences that lead a learner to discover for him- or herself, which is a powerful form of reinforcement of responses. Bruner said the excitement is in the “discovery of regularities of previously unrecognized relations and similarities between ideas, with a resulting sense of self-confidence in one’s abilities.” (Process of Education, p.20.) The inductive procedure puts the teacher in a questioning, not lecturing mode.

    The Start Sheet

    There is so much in the news these days about teacher accountability and the improvement of education, I thought I should add these methods to make my contribution toward those ends.

    If you do this, you will have a competitive advantage, over those who cannot or will not do it. Most teachers have some sort of handout, but there are ways to improve it.

    What is the best, most important tool any excellent teacher will have in her or his toolbox? The one tool that is the most useful to teacher and student? It is THE START SHEET! It is a starting point for the learners. It summarizes everything important about that course that the teacher is about to launch. Its philosophy. The work. Its outcomes. Its materials. It is the one document, to be handed to the learners, that will perform the function of making the teacher’s work transparent. The administrators want teacher accountability these days. The START SHEET is the best contribution by the teacher toward that end. The hazard is that the teacher is stating in advance what the teacher must live up to, for all to see and evaluate, pre-teaching and post-teaching. It should be required by all administrators of the teaching staff. If it is not required, the teacher should show initiative by producing it voluntarily. So what is the contents of the start sheet that only the truly master teacher can produce?

    I will list the content, but only the teacher can make of it a beautiful DISPLAY (how it will be arranged on the sheet. And do not minimize the importance of this display factor.)

    Heading: Start Sheet

    Name of teacher.

    Name and number of the course of study.

    Hour and days of meeting.

    Semester and date.

    Course goals listed and stated as behavioral objectives. (At the end of the course, the students will be able to do such and such. These are possibly the most critical items on the sheet. The teacher must pour into it all the knowledge about the behaviors the teacher wants to inculcate in the learners, who are told up front where they are going. This is hard work, to put into words clearly what the outcomes should be, and knowing what is assumed to be the pre-teaching state of learners’ behavior.)

    The Notebook requirement.

    Reading assignments, schedule.

    Attendance Policy

    Makeup Work

    Activities Participation

    Classroom Participation

    Other Policies: Absence Report Form;

    Homework and Study Habits;

    Extra-class Experiences;

    Plagiarism, Cheating;

    Instructor-Student Relationship;

    Student Information Forms, Class List;

    Term Papers or Writing Experiences;

    Audio-Visual Aids;

    Laboratory Assignments;

    Extra Credit;

    Rules for Using Lab or Practice Facilities;

    Grade Scale:
    “A” (excellent) work

    “B” (good) work

    “C” (okay, or average) work

    “D” (poor) work

    “F” (failure) work?

    (Or show a “percentage” or “percentile” breakdown, or some other point system.)

    List Course Activities, Required and Optional for Extra Credit

    List Course Readings and Sources, Required and Optional for Extra Credit

    Course Schedule of Assignments , by date and day.

    Point System on a Scale, for Final Grade (Optional)

    The Advance Organizer Exercise

    As a part of the opening of the class/course, try this exercise. From the very first day, the teacher can get the learners involved in the meat and potatoes of the subject matter, using this advance organizer experience. This is a micro-inductive method providing the learners with a whole-class participation and rather exciting sequence that leads the students into a discovery of most of the major topics included in the course. It assumes that they already know a little something about the subject, but it also introduces them to some topics and the vocabulary that they will need to get to know more thoroughly. When the terms come later, more fully addressed, they will be reinforcing a previous acquaintance with the terms, a powerful form of reinforcement of responses. Jerome Bruner said the excitement is in the “discovery of regularities of previously unrecognized relations and similarities between ideas, with a resulting sense of self-confidence in one’s abilities.” (Process of Education, p.20.) The inductive procedure puts the teacher in a questioning, not lecturing mode, from the start.

    The teacher may hand out a list of words for topics to be taught in the course subject matter. Or, the teacher may ask one student to come to the chalk board. The student will write the list of topics that the teacher has chosen on the board. The problem given to the students is to sort the topics or words into some coherent structure displaying the content of the course. In my case, that would have been “communication”. I would have listed these words: listening, interpersonal communication, nonverbal communication, discussion, parliamentary procedure, one-to-one communication, communication process, rhetorical theory, touch, poise and emotional adjustment, encoding, group problem-solving, one-to-few communication, noise, intercultural communication, conversation, argumentation, one-mediated-to-many communication, smell, small group communication, feedback, posture, speech composition, intrapersonal communication, many-to-many communication, eye contact, one-to-one communication, persuasion, channel, oral reading, decoding, free speech, mass communication, message, language, public communication, debate, receiver, public speaking, transmitter, public address, within-one communication, source, ethical communication. That list is not exhaustive, but it may give you the idea.

    Ask the students to sort them into categories of words that seem to go logically together. Next, ask them to choose a word-label that best describes the category. From the first, the learners have gotten their thinking about the subject together in this advance organizer of both the entirety of the field of study (the forest, not the trees) and the nitty-gritty (the trees not the forest), how the subject matter in the field of study is organized by the scholars in that field, IN ONE CLASS PERIOD!

    As an alternative micro-inductive process, ask the students to contribute all the words they can think of that are suggested by the course name. Refuse NONE! (Discussion comes later.) Have a student write them on the chalkboard. Then proceed with the categorization and the category-labeling.

    If you have ever done this, when you have finished, you will realize that you have done something powerful for the learners at all levels of competence. The teacher has worked hard. The students have worked hard. A “victory” after the heat of battle. Insight on the first day of class! A team excited after a winning “touchdown!” A strong sense of accomplishment. From the start.