I was talking to somebody the other day about a previous blog post. We got into a discussion about what I meant when I said “the learner is always right.” It turns out that this discussion demonstrated my exact point! The person who I was talking to had misunderstood what I had meant, and this was a reflection of my teaching rather than of their understanding.

In Precision Teaching, we say that “the learner is always right” or that “the learner knows best.” Put simply, this means that if a learner isn’t learning, then it isn’t their fault. Learners tell us if what we are doing as instructors is working or not.

  • If a learner is learning, then our teaching methods are effective.
  • If a learner is not learning, then our teaching methods are ineffective and something that we are doing needs to change.

A common scenario in classrooms is that a teacher will teach their class a concept and then the students will take a test. The test results may show that most of the class understands the concept, but a few students may not even pass the test. Some may then blame the students for failing, rather than how the instructional material was taught (or the instructional methods). Now when I say blame, I mean when people say things like “they aren’t that smart,” “school just isn’t for them” or “they have trouble learning.” Somehow it is the student’s fault that they aren’t learning. But it is not their fault at all.

Now, I also want to be very clear that I am not saying that we can now blame teachers. There are several external pressures that greatly impact a teacher’s ability to do their job – administrative duties, meetings, overcrowded curriculums, ensuring the curriculum is accessible to every student, etc. The overcrowded curriculum is particularly to blame, as teachers simply cannot afford to re-teach topics because of the amount of content that they need to get through. It just isn’t possible and as a result, students get left behind.

I am now going to go back to my main point, that it is not a learner’s fault if they are not learning. As a behaviour analyst, and precision teacher, we believe that learner’s respond based on our actions and how we teach things. If a learner is not grasping a concept then we, as instructors, are responsible for making the necessary changes until the desired results are achieved (ie. the child has learnt what we are teaching).

So, when I say that precision teachers believe that the learner is always right, I mean that if a learner isn’t learning then it is because of our teaching rather than their ability to learn. BECAUSE EVERY CHILD HAS THE ABILITY TO LEARN. And don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise.

Happy active children jumping

The Learner is Always Right