Top Tips for Teaching Woodworking - Don't Give Answers - (5 of 12)

One of the differences between a demonstrator and a teacher is that a teacher guides a student to discovery because they know an answer given is worth a fraction of one discovered. It’s that ole “give a fish or teach to fish leading to bad breath for a day or a lifetime” argument. This is another reason why developing a broad knowledge base is so important teachers. In this arena when a student asks you how to do stuff simply answering the question short-changes the student. Instead ask leading open ended questions in a manner that will lead the student’s thoughts to the answer. Nothing in woodworking is original. It’s all derivative. So use that to your advantage by drawing analogies and such.

This not only provides the answer to their question but reinforces the inquisitive mind and builds confidence in their intelligence. They will now have real world experience showing they’re capable of figuring things out themselves if needed. In this day and age of google being able to provide facts on command and education systems so focused on regurgitation rather than absorption, developing and exercising trouble shooting thought processes is more important than ever.

Most woodworking teaching situations are fairly short lived: a symposium, weekend class, garage visit, or whatnot. But if you teach something that spans weeks utilizing this technique will result in fewer questions and farther development because the simple questions will begin to be answered by the students themselves and you’ll be left with only the difficult ones. Additionally, at the middle/high school level the students will begin to show you much more respect because they will see that you see them as intelligent as yourself only lacking some facts and experience.

So the best thing you can do as a teacher when asked a question… if possible, don’t answer.