Sunday, July 10, 2011

Discovery Learning

I just came across an article from The Mathematical Association of America, 1999, by Keith Devlin.  The article is called The Greatest Math Teacher Ever, Part 2.  A couple of excerpts that relate to teaching tennis the un-academy way.

He developed a method of teaching that became widely known as "the Moore method". Its present-day derivative is often referred to as "discovery learning".
Discovery learning is popular in tennis today, especially with younger kids.  Guided discovery is another name.  How's it work?
Part of the secret to Moore's success with his method lay in the close attention he paid to his students. Former Moore student William Mahavier addresses this point:

" Moore treated different students differently and his classes varied depending on the caliber of his students. . . . Moore helped his students a lot but did it in such a way that they did not feel that the help detracted from the satisfaction they received from having solved a problem. He was a master at saying the right thing to the right student at the right time. Most of us would not consider devoting the time that Moore did to his classes. This is probably why so many people claim to have tried the Moore method without success."
Can this work in tennis?  Probably not with large groups of kids, and probably not without a lot of hard work and planning by the instructor.  It's easy to tell kids how "load their legs", how to "make a unit turn", and how to move their arms on a serve.  What's not easy is to guide their discovery.
Plan well in advance and be prepared to really get to know your students. Halmos puts it this way: "If you are a teacher and a possible convert to the Moore method ... don't think that you'll do less work that way. It takes me a couple of months of hard work to prepare for a Moore course. ... I have to chop the material into bite-sized pieces, I have to arrange it so that it becomes accessible, and I must visualize the course as a whole -- what can I hope that they will have learned when it's over? As the course goes along, I must keep preparing for each meeting: to stay on top of what goes on in class. I myself must be able to prove everything. In class I must stay on my toes every second. ... I am convinced that the Moore method is the best way to teach there is -- but if you try it, don't be surprised if it takes a lot out of you."

No comments: