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V. The law of absorption and reflection was briefly discussed in the latter part of Chapter VI. According to it, absorption in details and reflection in regard to them, regularly alternate in effective thinking. Herbart's own words are as follows:1
Absorption and reflection, like a mental breathing, should continually alternate with each other. Absorption takes place when ideas are brought to consciousness one after another with proper clearness and accuracy; reflection takes place when they are collected and combined. The more fully and carefully these operations are provided for, the more effective proves the instruction."
Any good instructor unconsciously applies this law when he stops to summarize and take a bird's-eye view of ground covered, ranking the facts according to their relative worth.
VI. In Chapter VI the importance of physical action, or motor activity, was urged, and it was practically declared to be a law that ideas must find expression, must be realized in action, before they can be conceived with the greatest clearness and accuracy. The kindergarten, especially, has always stood for this thought; in its plan of study more time each day is devoted to carrying out ideas into action than to the presentation of the ideas themselves — a practice that has been by no means characteristic of instruction above the kindergarten. But in recent years several distinguished psychologists and educators have declared themselves in favor of accepting this statement as a law, and its marked influence on education in the near future seems certain.
1 Herbart, “ Paedagogische Schriften,” I, p. 417.
VII-VIII. Other possible laws have been occasionally referred to in the preceding pages, but they are not here enumerated, either because of some doubt as to their universality, or because they are commonly thought of as affecting rather the selection and arrangement of subject-matter in studies than its method of presentation in the class room. Two of these are known as the laws of interest and of correlation. According to the former a deep interest must be aroused in thoughts before they can exert the strongest influence upon mental life and character ; according to the latter, the ultimate value of facts depends as well upon the number and closeness of relations into which they enter as upon the clearness and accuracy with which they are conceived.
The law of interest expresses one great condition of effective instruction; it makes a demand that the teaching accomplish a certain end, but does not itself give any hint as to how this end can be attained. It affects first of all the selection of subject matter, but furnishes a daily test of method as well, by requiring that there be a healthy stimulation of the emotions as well as of the intellect in all instruction. The law of correlation was involved in the insistence (in Chapter VI) upon a close sequence in the facts of a lesson, in the demand that they be arranged in a series or network, and that even the teacher's questions reveal a close connection.
Both of these laws, therefore, have a direct influence upon method, although not limited to that field.
Undoubtedly there are other laws of teaching besides the eight that are here mentioned, but these are at least some of the broadest and most important. The law of apperception alone includes and interprets most of the so-called principles of teaching that have often been mentioned in times past; for example, from the near to the remote; from the simple to the complex; from the easy to the difficult; from the whole to the parts. These sayings are sometimes true, sometimes not. The law of apperception is deeper than they and shows where they are applicable.
These eight laws should be guides to the teacher in the fullest sense. It would scarcely be possible to conduct a single thirty-minute recitation without applying all of them several times, with the possible exception of the law of induction.
Thus we see a most intimate connection between theory and practice when skilful instruction is imparted. The fact that these are general laws and not specific devices prevents them from cramping the teacher's freedom and individuality, for a general law is always capable of infinite variety in application.
To the extent that laws of instruction are developed
and brought into a system, there is a science of method; consequently these eight laws being as deep and broad as they are, and being intimately related to one another, furnish a fair basis for the assertion that there is a scientific method of teaching.
APPLICATIONS AND CRITICISMS
THE relation of the Formal Steps to text-books is important, for our text-books are a fair index of our methods of class-room work, and the standard set up and generally recognized as attainable is that of the better class of such books. So indispensable are they in our prevailing methods of instruction that any plan which ignores them will be regarded as visionary. It is, therefore, quite important to see clearly the relation of the formal steps to the use of textbooks.
First let us see the chief utility of these books. Value of textThey indicate what knowledge is regarded of most value to children, in what order and connection it should be studied, and in a broad, yet definite way the method by which it shall be acquired. The value of text-books lies in their helpfulness to teachers and pupils Containing, as they often do, the results of ripest experience in able teachers, they embody such a selection and arrangement of leading topics, such a correct statement of truths as every teacher needs. They give to both instructor and pupil that systematic body of thought which forms the framework of