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Here, therefore, I shall first propose some observations which relate to the conveyance of knowledge to others, by regular lectures of verbal instruction, or by conversation ; I shall represent several of the chief prejudices of which learners are in danger, with directions to guard against them, and then mention some of the easiest and most effectual ways of convincing persons of their mistakes, and of dealing with their understandings, when they labour under the power of prejudice. I shall afterwards add, by way of appendix, an essay written many years ago, on the subject of education, when I designed a more complete treatise of it.
Methods of Teaching and Reading Lectures. He that has learned any thing thoroughly, in a clear and methodical manner, and has attained a distinct perception, and an ample survey of the whole subject, is generally best prepared to teach the same subject in a clear and easy method; for having acquired a large and distinct idea of it, and made it familiar to himself by frequent meditation, reading, and occasional discourse, he is supposed to see it on all sides, to grasp it with all its appendices and relations in one survey, and is better able to represent it to the learner in all its views, with all its properties, relations, and consequences. He knows which view or side of the subject to hold out first to his disciple, and how to propose to his understanding that part of it which is easiest to apprehend; and also knows how to set it in such a light as is most likely to allure and to assist his further inquiry.
But it is not every one who is a great scholar that always becomes the happiest teacher, even though he may have a clear conception, and a methodical as well as an extensive survey of the branches of any science. He must also be well'acquainted with words, as well as ideas, in a proper
variety ; that when his disciple does not take in the ideas in one form of expression, he may change the phrase into several forms, till at last he hits the understanding of his scholar, and enlightens it in the just idea of truth.
Besides this, a tutor should be a person of a happy and condescending temper, who has patience to bear with a slow. ness of perception, or want of sagacity in some learners. He should also have much candour of soul, to pass a gentle censure on their impertinences, and to pity them in their mistakes, and use every mild and engaging method for insinuating knowledge into those who are willing and diligent in seeking truth, as well as reclaiming those who are wandering into error. But of this I have spoken somewhat already, in a chapter of the former part, and shall have occasion to express something more of it shortly.
A very pretty and useful way to lead a person into the knowledge of any particular truth is, by question and answer, which is the Socratical method of disputation, and therefore I refer the reader to that chapter or section which treats of it. On this account dialogues are used as a polite · and pleasant method of leading gentlemen and ladies into some of the sciences, who seek not the most accurate and methodical treasure of learning:
But the most usual, and perhaps the most excellent way of instructing students in any of the sciences is, by reading lectures as tutors in the academy do to their pupils.
The first work is to choose a book well written, which contains a short scheme or abstract of that science, or at least it should not be a very copious and diffusive treatise. Or if the tutor knows not any such book already written, he should draw up an abstract of that science himself, containing the most substantial and important parts of it, disposed in such a method as he best approves.
Let a chapter or section of this be read daily by the learni er, on which the tutor should paraphrase in this manner, namely, He should explain both words and ideas more largely,
and especially what is dark and difficult should be opened and illustrated, partly by various forms of speech, and partly by apt similitudes and examples. Where the sense of the author is dubious, it must also be fixed and determined.
Where the arguments are strong and cogent, they should be enforced by some further paraphrase, and the truth of the inferences should be made plainly to appear. Where the arguments are weak and insufficient, they should be either confirmed or rejected as useless, and new arguments, if need be, should be added to support that doctrine.
What is treated very concisely in the author should be amplified, and where several things are laid closely together, they must be taken to pieces, and opened by parts.
Where the tutor differs from the author which he reads, he should gently point out and confute his mistakes.
Where the method and order of the book is just and happy, it should be pursued and commended: where it is defective and irregular, it should be corrected.
The most necessary, the most remarkable and useful parts of that treatise, or of that science, should be peculiarly recommended to the learners, and pressed upon them, that they would retain it in memory; and what is more unnecessary or superfluous should be distinguished, lest the learner should spend too much time in the more needless parts of a science.
The yarious ends, uses, and services of that science, or of any part of it, should be also declared and exemplified, as far as the tutor hath opportunity and furniture to do it, particularly in mathematics and natural philosophy. And if there be any thing remarkably beautiful or defective in the style of the writer, it is proper for the tutor to make a just remark upon it.
While he is reading and explaining any particular treatise to his pupils, he may compare the different editions of the same book, or different writers upon the same subject : he should inform them where that subject is treated by other authors, which they may peruse, and lead his disciples
thereby to a further elucidation, confirmation, or improvement of that theme of discourse in which he is instructing them.
It is alluring and agreeable to the learner also now and then to be entertained with some historical remarks, or any occurrences or useful stories which the tutor has met with, relating to the several parts of such a science, provided he does not put off his pupils merely with such stories, and neglect to give them a solid and rational information of the theme in hand. Teachers should endeavour, as far as possible, to join profit and pleasure together, and mingle delight with their instructions ; but at the same time they must take heed that they do not merely amuse the ears, and gratify the fancy of their disciples, without enriching their ininds.
In reading lectures of instruction, let the teacher be very solicitous that the learners take up his meaning, and there- . fore he should frequently inquire whether he expresses himself intelligibly, whether they understand his sense, and take in all his ideas, as he endeavours to convey them in his own forms of speech.
It is necessary that he who instructs others should use the most proper style for the conveyance of his ideas easily into the minds of those who hear him; and though, in teaching the sciences, a person is not confined to the same rules by which we must govern our language
in tion, for he must necessarily make use of many terms of art and hard words, yet he should never use them merely to shew his learning, nor affect sounding language without necessity; a caution which we shall soon farther inculcate.
I think it very convenient and proper, if not absolutely necessary, that when a tutor reads a following lecture to his pupils, he should run over the foregoing lecture in questions proposed to them, and by this means acquaint himself with their daily proficiency *. It is in vain for the
learner *Note, This precaution, though never to be neglected, is of special importance, when a pupil is entering on any new branch of learning, where
learner to object, surely we are not school-boys, to say our lessons again; we came to be taught, and not to be catechised and examined. But alas ! how is it possible for a teacher to proceed in his instructions, if he knows not how far the learner takes in and remembers what he has been taught?
Besides I must generally believe it is sloth or idleness, it is real ignorance, incapacity, or unreasonable pride, that makes a learner refuse to give his teacher an account how far he has profited by his last instructions. For want of this constant examination, young gentlemen have spent some idle and useless years, even under the daily labours and inspection of a learned teacher; and they have returned from the academy without the gain of any one science, and even with the shameful loss of their classical learning, that is, the knowledge of Greek and Latin, which they had learnt in the grammar-school.
Let the teacher always accommodate himself to the ge. nius, temper, and capacity of his disciples, and practise various methods of prudence to allure, persuade, and assist every one of them in their pursuit of knowledge.
Where the scholar has less sagacity, let the teacher enlarge his illustrations ; let him search and find out where the learner sticks, what is the difficulty; and thus let him help the labouring intellect.
Where the learner manifests forward genius, and a sprightly curiosity by frequent inquiries, let the teacher oblige such an inquisitive soul by satisfying those questions, as far as may be done by decency and conveniency; and where these inquiries are unseasonable, let him not silence the young inquirer with a magisterial rebuff, but with much candour and gentleness postpone those questions, and refer them to'a proper hour.
it is absolutely necessary the fundamental definitions and principles should not only be clearly understood, but should be rendered very familiar to the mind : and probably most tutors have found young personis sadly bewildered, as they have gone on in their lectures, for want of a little more patience and care in this respect,