The relationship between a teacher and student is complex and dynamic, making it impossible to pin down an “ideal” example of such a relationship; however, it can be constructive to explore the characteristics that enable and promote effective learning.
Necessary and sufficient:
- Trust – Any positive relationship depends on a certain level of trust, and this one is no different. Specifically, the student must obviously trust that the knowledge and experience of the teacher is both accurate and valuable, and both parties must be able to trust that the other is applying an honest effort toward the creation of learning.
- Effort – Both parties must apply some effort towards the learning process. Real progress cannot be expected if either party simply “shows up” and waits passively for learning to happen.
- Open communication – It is obvious that some communication must occur for knowledge to be transferred from one person to another. It is especially helpful if the channels for this communication are clear of obstructions like confusing language or terminology. In many instances, it can also help to be clear and open about the learning process itself; for example, many engineering students regularly feel cheated upon entering the real world and learning that no real engineer actually ever uses many of the governing equations they were taught. If the context of the material being taught were made more clear – e.g. “you’ll never use this in real life, but look how mathematical simplification can obscure complexity and give us predictions we can actually use – the student is more likely to pay attention in the first place, and retain the understanding later.
- Actual knowledge – Optional! Of course this helps, but any two people can share their understanding of a topic about which neither has any prior knowledge. Provided good buy-in and communication from both parties, this is probably one of the most effective ways of generating new ideas and thorough understanding.
- Clear goals – this is similar to the above-mentioned openness about the learning process.
- Appreciation of learning styles
What are your thoughts on the ideal student-teacher relationship? How about examples of the good and bad that you’ve experienced before?