When I practiced aikido, I was struck by the difference between good and excellent teachers. The good teacher would be more than willing to correct me when I did something wrong. Too willing, in fact. So eager were they to instruct me that they would interrupt me mid-motion to show me how to improve. The excellent teachers never did this. They would always let me complete a full technique, only stopping me when it was all done to explain, very briefly, one small thing I could do differently.
The difference was profound. I became annoyed at the instructors who interrupted me. I felt I couldn’t really learn anything when being interrupted all the time. With the good instructors, I would often find out myself what I was doing wrong, and correct myself before they could. I don’t know about you, but I find that things I discover myself stick a whole lot better than things I’m told by others.
What was going on here? I believe that being allowed to complete a full technique, even if that meant doing it less well, made it possible for me to judge the results by myself. The good instructors could spot I wasn’t going to get a great result just from watching my early movement, and stopped me. The great instructors saw this too, but understood that only by discovering this myself would I truly learn.
Systems thinkers will recognize this problem: it is a problem of working on the parts versus working on the whole. The good instructors thought that improving the parts separately could work. The excellent instructors knew that focus needed to be first on the whole, second on the parts.
What kind of teacher are you? What do you do to ensure that you give your students a chance to learn by themselves?