Closed-circuit learning

It’s a stretch, but I think the learning process might be understood in comparison to an electrical connection to a battery.  Bear with me.  The student is any electrical device, but to maximize the learner imagery, let’s say the student is a lamp with a light bulb ready to light up. The teacher is any old, fully-charged battery providing a few basic services: (1) high voltage, (2) low voltage (or ground), and (3) a secure mount in which all leads can connect firmly. When the student has sufficient motivation to plug in, connections are made and ideas can flow.  This is not a one-way thing for either the student or light bulb.  The plug only works and the light only shines when electricity can flow in a complete closed circuit.  This is the purpose of the ground or low voltage on the battery, and this is the purpose of feedback and listening in the teaching process.

The metaphor upholds for the role of student engagement, as connections must be firmly made for electricity and ideas to flow.  One thing the metaphor does not cover well, however, is who is responsible for student engagement.  Certainly the teacher is responsible for providing clean, corrosion free “leads” to which the student can connect. But is this the end of the teacher’s responsibility? And to what extent can a student be expected to be self motivated for something about which they know very little?

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