What Does Teacher Want?

In the past sixty years there have been two significant publications related to learning.  One was Howard Gardener’s  Theory of Multiple Intelligences, published in1983, which argues that our traditional notion of intelligence is severely limited. Initially Dr. Gardner proposed seven different modes of intelligence to account for a broad range of human potential and later added two more, one of which was naturalist intelligence  or "nature smart."


Schools focus primarily on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence and as a culture we esteem those who are highly articulate or logical. Dr. Gardner maintains that we need to give equal recognition to those who show gifts in the other intelligences: the artists, architects, musicians, naturalists, designers, dancers, therapists and entrepreneurs who enrich our world. Unfortunately, many children who have these gifts don’t receive much validation in school and end up being labeled "learning disabled" when their ways of thinking and learning are not addressed in a linguistic or logical-mathematical classroom.

Is this perhaps why so few children appear to be interested in beekeeping, that they do not feel it is acknowledged or rewarded in schools as important?  Certainly several attempts to place observation hives in the science rooms of local schools have not been successful whereas several families who have requested assistance in starting hives have seen it as an integral part of their home school program, wherein the curriculum is broader and more individualized than that of most public schools.  

It might also explain why many people come to beekeeping at a time in life when they have begun to realize for themselves their interests, their talents, what brings joy and fulfillment to their lives, especially when that enjoyment comes outside of the mainstream of ’normal’ life styles. 

The second publication was The Taxonomy of Learning Domains, published in 1956 by a committee chaired by Dr.Benjamin Bloom. The cognitive domain, which  involves knowledge and the development of intellectual skills, consists of six categories normally  presented in the form of a pyramid,  with the more complex skills standing atop the more simple ones in that the first one must be mastered before the next one can take place. 

Paraphrasing Bloom’s terminology, the first two levels (often referred to as lower order  thinking skills) are a familiarity with and comprehension of the basic knowledge or data.

The consequent levels relate to the ability to apply that information by means of analyzing a situation,  blending and utilizing different options, evaluating the results and possibly creating something that is specifically relevant if not new. 

Again, our school systems, including colleges, are often primarily concerned with the lower order skills, not least because they can be easily and quickly measured in standardized tests.  I have not yet seen a multiple choice test that measures higher order thinking skills, although no doubt they exist.   An acquaintance who is studying to be a nurse broke the radius bone in her right arm in two places.  When I asked how she would cope with school (she is taking night classes) she replied that fortunately the professor hands out notes at the beginning of each class and the students have only to highlight those parts that will be on the test.  

Too often the unspoken game that students play in school is “What Does Teacher Want?”  Work out what the teacher expects, give it back to him/her, and a good grade is assured.  The validation is external; we rely on others to tell us what is right, what is good, what is praiseworthy.

A conversation with Jim Bobb after one of his visits to York  made it clear that Bloom’s Taxonomy has relevance for beekeeping.  Yes, it is important that one knows the basic data and understands it.  No meaningful analysis can take place without that knowledge and a major responsibility of any beekeeper is to be well informed.   But the only way to learn how to apply knowledge is to get one’s hands dirty, to get into a hive as often as possible and to make decisions that are particular to that colony based on a combination of the evidence on the frames with the theory  from the literature. 

There is no single recipe for beekeeping.  A good spring management class or  winter preparation article is not a prescription so much as a set of principles based on honey bee biology and behavior that offer choices.  Increasingly, when asked “What do I do now with my hive?” my response is not to be directive (tempting though it is) but to  describe possible  courses of action based on the particular state of the bees.

Ultimately each successful beekeeper develops a particular style of management that is creative and unique to their objectives, their location and their bees.   That’s the higher order thinking skills at work.  Anything less is like trying to understand Mozart as no more than a series of sound waves caused by the disturbance of molecules in the atmosphere. 


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Latest comments

27.11 | 16:01

Moustache, wax? Of course. Now if all of the drones had mustaches ...

27.11 | 12:43

One of our club members says he got into beekeeping in order to make his own mustache wax. There's the explanation for the bearded/mustached ABF attendees!

13.08 | 05:43

Good morning Mr. Barnes, I'm so pleased to see the best of history teachers is still going strong! Looking at your website brings back some great memories

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