When to Be Directive

My son is taking Algebra II. The class is part of the Common Core curriculum, and as such, the teacher is not allowed to instruct him. Instead, he has to work with three of his peers to teach himself Algebra II. He is having a difficult time.

When to Be Non-Directive

Non-directive approaches to development are particularly powerful when the person being developed has the experience and the subject matter expertise to be able to solve their own problem. Nudging and nurturing them to find their own solutions is powerful.

It cures them of any learned helplessness. It creates an independent person instead of a dependent. It allows them to exercise their resourcefulness, their creativity, and their personal power.

A lot of times, simply listening to a person describe their problem and asking them, “What are you going to do,” and listening to them describe their choices and their plan is all the help they really need.

When Non-Directive Approaches Fail

But non-directive approaches are wrong for people who don’t have the experience or the subject matter domain to know how to solve their own problems. They don’t have enough experience to know how to solve their own problems. They learn more when you are directive, when you teach, when you demonstrate, and when you instruct them.

This approach allows you to give them the experience to learn the lesson and to practice on their own. It can also create independence.

Which Approach and Why?

The decision as to when to be directive and when to non-directive is pretty straightforward. When the person has the experience and the subject matter knowledge necessary, non-directive is a good choice. When the person lacks what they need to know to be able to learn, you need to provide them with direction and the experience and knowledge necessary.

My son is responsible for getting his grade up. I have been very directive in pointing him to Khan Academy so that he can be instructed on the material he needs to know to improve his grade. I’ve also been very directive in explaining that it is his responsibility to learn the material, regardless of the obstacles, and regardless of things beyond his control.

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