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Lane Cooper - Louis Agassiz as a teacher – 01 His first lesson was one in looking

Identifier

024955

Type of spiritual experience

A description of the experience

LOUIS AGASSIZ AS A TEACHER ILLUSTRATIVE EXTRACTS ON HIS METHOD OF INSTRUCTION WITH AN INTRODUCTORY NOTE BY LANE COOPER [PROFESSOR OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE IN CORNELL UNIVERSITY MARINE BIOLOGICAL LABORATORY LIBRARY WOODS HOLE, MASS. W. H. 0. I. 1917 ]

Observation and comparison were in his opinion the intellectual tools most indispensable to the naturalist, his first lesson was one in looking. He gave no assistance; he simply left his student with the specimen, telling him to use his eyes diligently, and report upon what he saw. He returned from time to time to inquire after the beginner's progress, but he never asked him a leading question, never pointed out a single feature of the structure, never prompted an inference or a conclusion. This process lasted sometimes for days, the professor requiring the pupil not only to distinguish the various parts of the animal, but to detect also the relation of these details to more general typical features. His students still retain amusing reminiscences of their despair when thus confronted with their single specimen; no aid to be had from outside until they had wrung from it the secret of its structure. But all of them have recognized the fact that this one lesson in looking, which forced them to such careful scrutiny of the object before them, influenced all their subsequent habits of observation, whatever field they might choose for their special subject of study. . . .

The source of the experience

Agassiz, Louis

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image

Activities

Observation contributed by: Rosie Rock-Evans