What’s in a Pedagogy?

In talking with Master Teacher Andrea Caban about Knight-Thompson Speechwork and how we teach it, I’ve begun to reflect on what a pedagogy is. Erik and Phil have both written extensively on the pedagogy of Knight-Thompson Speechwork, its origins and its principles. But Andrea and I have also been talking about its other aspects, the aspects that are slipperier to write about, harder to enumerate, eagerer(?) to avoid lists and charts and diagrams. We bandied about the ideas of “hard” versus “soft” teaching principles, or maybe the “form” versus the “content” of the pedagogy. That distinction got me thinking about what KTS is on paper and how we communicate that in person – and is there a way that we can optimize the connections between the two?
Dudley, thankfully, left us his famed “Principles, perhaps” at the beginning of Speaking with Skill, and, indeed, these principles form the philosophical core of the “content” of KTS. Complexity is acknowledged, standards are interrogated, and specificity and intelligibility are elevated above “accuracy” and cultural assumptions. In the text, the principles refer to “this work,” and rightly so, for all of the content of KTS is guided and shaped and challenged from the epistemological foundation of those principles. Everything that follows in SwS has the backbone of these principles undergirding it, and curious readers can follow the arc of the work with ease and enjoyment as they let Dudley guide them through terrain illuminated by his brilliance and wit.
What’s missing (for now), though, is the “how” of the pedagogy, the form in which the content can be presented by a teacher or coach in order to best help the student or client. Certainly, by reading between the lines and imagining Dudley’s rumbling voice, the reader can intuit the curiosity, the playfulness, and the empowering rigor of Dudley’s teaching style, which thankfully lives on in Phil, Erik, Andrea, and many others. But Dudley doesn’t tell his readers how he taught his classes, nor have we assembled a list of “Pedagogical principles, perhaps” to outline the ways and means in which we can share Knight-Thompson Speechwork that are entirely congruent with its content.
For example, when teaching or learning Omnish, how do we balance the silly with the specific? How do we create language around Omnish that encourages analytical curiosity while also pushing through discomfort and into discovery? Is the learning of Omnish a progression, a surprise, a revelation, or all of the above – and how do we do that? In the room, how do we give feedback on Omnish that is helpful, enriching, and nourishing, such that discovery and play are not hindered by the insight of a more experienced Omnian?
KTS teachers touch on many of these ideas in Teacher Certification, but I believe we can do more to foster discussion in our learning community of the “how” as well as of the “what.” Our work is a real, living body of knowledge that must also be communicated through the tender social membrane of the teacher-student relationship. As in many pedagogies, that relationship in KTS is more difficult to write about than the information being shared. Appropriately, that relationship may also best be served by the collaboration of many teachers and students, dialoguing and curating “Pedagogical principles, perhaps” that could not be developed by one wise sage alone. It is only through the collective experience of our community, working throughout the world, that we can begin to understand the “soft” strengths of Knight-Thompson Speechwork and how it provides a pedagogical approach that is inclusive, specific, and fun in ways that many speech pedagogies are not.
Were we to use the comments to start listing “Pedagogical principles, perhaps,” what would you include? What have you found most useful, as a teacher or student, when sharing “this work”? What aspects of Knight-Thompson Speechwork have you found most empowering or inspiring in your experience that are not spelled out in our currently published work?

3 thoughts on “What’s in a Pedagogy?

  1. Struggling with exactly this: HOW. Loved Jeremy’s reminder that we are all operating at the edge of our ability i.e. students and teachers. The single most valuable thing i take from KTS is Omnish, a nonsense/sensory model permitting autonomous exploration and examination of one’s own soundscape. Indeed the thin line between what phonology can be versus how you manifest it, forms an intellectual barrier for some and a vital playground for others. Hannah Venezuela’s book ‘Linguistics for TESOL’ talks of fossilized phonology and grammar. Surely Omnish offers a way to un-fossilize?!

    Just to meta up a little from this point. Change is possible. 60 years ago one would have had to suffer with an arthritic hip joint, today it can be replaced. The study of Western linguistics really has to stop saying the field is only 150 years old. It ain’t so in China! Yes, of course the IPA and Troubetzsky and de Saussure and old Danny Jones set off the study of it in the West a 150 years ago, whereupon it quickly becomes dominated by English models. Funny in that Russian French and Germans also had major skin in the game!

    Caveat: I know not whereof i speak on this, or any other Asian & Ancient languages but somewhere in their vast corpus of knowledge there have to be some similarities with Western linguistic discoveries. Yet this is rarely acknowledged in the literature. I guess the question comes down to: are we too Western-centric where phonologies are concerned?

  2. First off, as a self-sworn sucker for alliteration, BIG fan of reading about and contributing to a discussion about pedagogical principles….perhaps…
    I’ve always struggled with that balance between the silly and the specific, but highly appreciate the element of silly in omnish, as I’ve learned through Experiencing Speech and in other modes of this work how sensitive, guarded, and defensive students can be about their vocal expression.
    This might be stating the obvious, but one of the most empowering aspects of this work is the exploration of what is possible in the articulators, both active and passive, that we’re given. Possibility is a hot abstract word these days, what with the work of Benjamin and Rosamund Zander and the like, but it nonetheless fuels the student embarking on work of this nature.
    Also: the abolition of the idea of “correct” and “incorrect”.
    I say: What is correct does not (necessarily) help us connect.
    This work gives us options, locating what’s needed for speaker to connect with auditor and giving the speaker an approach to commanding that.
    Thank you for starting this discussion. I wish I’d had an opportunity to meet Dudley after hearing how teachers of his work have described him and I’m grateful his and Phil’s work lives on in its practitioners.

  3. Thank you for this post, Tyler. This is really the BIG question for me in all aspects of my work as a teacher. As I wrote elsewhere recently, the devil isn’t in the details for me–I know how to master the content, and I can usually answer most of the questions my students have. But once we’ve decided WHAT to teach, the question becomes HOW to teach. It’s a question I’ve been asking for a long time, and I trust that I’m finding some personal answers along the way, but I’m nowhere near a comprehensive set of principles that I can articulate. There are some general ones like “Don’t be a jerk to the students” but getting specific is a challenge.
    Andrea once recommended Stephen Wangh’s book, “The Heart of Teaching,” and I appreciated that. I wish there were more resources along those lines for us.
    Here’s a stab at some first thoughts:
    * Do no harm.
    * The student is always working to the best of their current ability. It’s my job to figure out latency issues.
    * It’s not my job to kill myself figuring out latency issues. I’m usually operating at the edge of my ability also, and that’s okay.
    * The work is non-fatal.
    * When eliciting a physical response from a student, a simple, concrete prompt is better than a complex, metaphorical one. (…I think I believe this?)
    That’s what I’ve got time to brainstorm right now. Anyone else care to take up the baton?
    When it comes to this BIG question, I really had to force myself to sit down and write something imperfect and conversational, and maybe even something I’ll look back on later and think, “That’s preposterous!” Even though you invited a simple dialogue, I wanted to solve the riddle and end with a proclamation–I’m sure there’s a pedagogical principle in there somewhere, too, because I recognize my own students in my perfectionist response.

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