What Makes a Great Teacher?

From NPR’s series, Fifty Great Teachers

This piece, Among Dartmouth’s Lathes And Saws, Lessons In Creativity focuses on a woodworking teacher at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. I love how he seems unaware, or unconcerned (and hence, unencumbered with “trying”) of how what he does works. And just is the type of teacher who has helped many in higher education over the years.

What does he do or how does he teach, that seems beneficial o the creative process?

Some quotes from the article that struck me:

“He knew when to be subtle, when to admonish and when to praise, when to let you fail and when to swoop in and save the day, and most importantly, when to laugh and when to tease.”

    Ahh, not too much and not too little. Just right. And plenty and feedback.

Jennifer Mueller does know. She’s a professor at the University of San Diego, and, for 15 years, she’s been studying creativity.

“There is this impression that: Give students freedom and they’ll be creative. And what we know is that they need some structure upfront,” says Mueller.

“They need a well-defined problem — like building a piece of furniture — and they need to know the constraints and the range of possibilities.”

    Yes. One of the most important conditions under which learning takes place is what’s implied in the quote above: Essential questions or problems are provoked, with a well-presented problem


But creativity involves something we don’t always feel good about: uncertainty.

“Where there is no answer, there is no clear answer, we don’t like that type of uncertainty at all,” Mueller says. “We really hate it.”

She says this is hard for students: that blank piece of paper. It’s hard for businesses: Will people buy the product? Uncertainty is hard for everyone, but research shows it’s key to thinking creatively.

About Sanford

Learning Disabilities specialist and Educational Consultant
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