Ninja – The Art of the Modern Instructor

December 12, 2020 at 4:47 PM
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Ninja – The Art of the Modern Instructor

by Robert Hamilton, Emily Barrett, and James Stellar

 

Introduction

In modern slang, Ninja means stealth and a Ninja is someone who commits “crazy” (outside the box) acts with powerfully positive results. Webster Dictionary defines a Ninja as “a person who excels in a particular skill.” We believe that Ninja lies at the core of what makes every instructor unique, powerful, and most importantly – effective. To us, Ninja is the bringing together of explicit and implicit approaches to teaching. These approaches and subsequent skills are what sets an excellent instructor apart from the rest. It is our hope over the course of this document and in subsequent pieces to explore the nexus between the explicit and implicit components of the brain and mind, and the role this nexus plays in both how we learn and teach

We have already viewed these approaches through the lens of our previous blog post that is based on integrating experiential education activities into a classic academic classroom. Here, we will present this Ninja instructor idea as an approach to teaching in a college learning environment, which we believe would greatly benefit from a timely refocus on the art of teaching and how it can be combined with learning from direct experience.

From our perspective, for too long and despite some progress, college teaching has been largely based on the tradition of the “sage on the stage” method where the expertise of the instructor is by far the dominant factor. Furthermore, the commitment to instruction is sometimes seen negatively by some university faculty as a “teaching load” that is in competition with their “research opportunity.” The authors of this paper believe that the Ninja instructor concept we will develop has the potential to influence this dynamic – to cause teachers, instructors, and professors alike to embrace the opportunity of teaching our students with a bold new sense of possibility and purpose, and to better incorporate industry and other influences from outside the university into the classroom. We believe this approach will positively contribute to bringing future students and traditional teaching processes into the modern world.

A Brief History of Professorial Power: The instructor of a course, especially if they are a tenured professor, exists in a context of history and expectation for higher education. That history of a formal university goes back almost a thousand years to the founding in 1088 of the University of Bologna in Italy and shortly thereafter the University of Oxford in England. Some argue that the origins go back even farther to the monastic schools of the 6th Century or Plato’s academy in ancient Greece. The purpose of those universities was different from current times, being more about building personal knowledge at depth and less about also being a launching pad into one’s career. This dynamic is especially true as jobs have grown more complex often with skills components, and education has become at once more popular and more expensive relative to family income. It is from these traditions that we get the role of the faculty dispensing knowledge much like the ancient monks did when they read to the masses from the sacred text that only they had … at least until the invention of the Gutenberg press eventually put that text in the people’s hands and changed their power.

Yet many of these traditions remain. For example, the accreditation of a university or college can depend on how many of the faculty have the terminal degree, typically a PhD, and what processes are used for hiring them and in what disciplines. Accreditors are also interested in how courses are approved by the faculty in the first place to maintain high standards of academic excellence. We can even see this history in the graduation ceremonies where the faculty put on their academic robes, so do the students, and everyone marches into the assembly area.

This tradition confers a great deal of power in the classroom on the instructor. Yet most faculty who have taken the time to get a PhD degree do have a great passion for their chosen field and want to do their scholarship in that area of passion. But many also want to talk about that passion to their students. One of us points to the analogy of the painter who “works to live and lives to paint,” and further states that one should not be surprised if that painter who, for example, not only stays up much of the night painting, also wants to talk to you or anyone who will listen about how they are working their brush strokes or doing other aspects of their art. So, too with many faculty.

But there is something else – a distance that can develop over time between the instructor and the student. Given that the university is often referred to as an “ivory tower” it may not be surprising, that in it professors are said to be happily removed from the real world to pursue knowledge generation. And they often teach from that perspective of pure knowledge. Aside from the negative effects in the ivory tower of not always including real-world knowledge and applied learning, this distance and reservation is the opposite approach of the Ninja instructor for whom distance between them and their students undermines their very purpose to teach.

The Ninja instructor concept, as we will develop it, uses real-world approaches to engage with students and seeks applied learning opportunities as another way to teach and inspire. Academic knowledge is not the enemy, but to leave out the real-world application is potentially to not fully engage with the student, specifically in cases in which applied or practical experience drives learning. For example, we know that experiential learning in college is critical to professional development, but few outside cooperative education universities and programs or integrative colleges are able to fully utilize its power.

To be sure, the Ninja instructor already exists, and the necessity of their role is particularly evident in fields like musical performance, the practice of medicine, and anywhere that the application of learning is visible.  This is clear in the martial arts field that gives rise to the word “Ninja.” The approach is already in use by committed instructors. A reference to it can be found in the statement that “teachers do it for the passion” or more simply that a certain instructor is “passionate about what they do”. Of course, this is what you would want to see in any profession. Central to the theme of the Ninja instructor, is that this passion for teaching is separate from and in addition to the passion the instructor has for the subject itself. However, for our purposes here, it simply has not been identified in the terms we will be presenting, and we think is a largely non-inventoried resource whose full potential has not yet been fully acknowledged. We see this as especially true in the context of experiential learning, as we discussed in our previous blog post. Nonetheless, Ninja teaching will be recognized by many instructors as something they already do.

Finally, to us the most important element of Ninja instruction is that it combines head and heart, or what we call explicit and implicit approaches to teaching. It also acknowledges that both the instructor and the students are people who interact to produce the learning. It is student-centered without undermining the role of the faculty. More than that, it is human centered on both the students and the classroom with the instructor fully present. It is by nature highly experiential, passionate, and deliberate. It is highly skilled and practiced. Many have written about what constitutes excellent teaching, but we are not aware of an approach quite like this.

So, it is today in the university as it was long ago with the Monks reading from the bible that some educators felt secure, unassailable, and unable to imagine a world where they were not at the center of knowledge. But as mentioned above, with the invention of the Gutenberg Printing Press in the 1400s, the subsequent distribution put a copy of the bible in everyone’s hand and the power of the monks and the monasteries declined. The parallel between the presumed power of the monasteries and the latter-day universities has not gone unnoticed where in today’s world not only is knowledge accessible to everyone – it can be found at everyone’s fingertips on a mobile device.

This point is worth reinforcing. Many forces can come to play in creating the need for transformational change, but chief amongst them is the reality presented by technology. More importantly, it has been adopted by the next generation and all generations thereafter. We believe that this shift of knowledge accessibility through technology and the generational shift that is already here and makes the reality confronted by the monasteries seem anemic in comparison to what we in education are facing today.

 

TODAY’S GEN Z STUDENTS NEED THE NINJA INSTRUCTOR MORE THAN EVER

The arrival of Gen Z represents a monumental intergenerational transition in higher education. We believe that one cannot possibly overstate the importance of this transition or, more importantly, afford to get wrong the response to it.

As the demographics tell us, a vast majority of the students entering the academy over the next decade fall into a new categorization of students often referred to as Gen Z. Generally agreed on as students that were born after 1997, these students are now in their teens and early 20’s and will define how education is consumed in the internet era. While they have a lot in common with the most recent generational social cohort, Millennials, they also have important differences that will have a strong impact on teaching in the future. For example, Gen Z students did not have to integrate technology and social media into their lives, but rather grew up in it, like a fish in water. Furthermore, Gen Z students also represent a seismic transition as the first generation of digital natives, which will continue with all subsequent student groups, and which sets them vastly apart from all groups that came before them. Just as Millenials were the last generation to grow up, at least partially, without the most recent advances in modern technology, Gen Z are the first to grow up as tech natives.

Another unique thing about Gen Z is their diversity. As educators and as Ninja instructors, the importance and the benefit of significant diversity of this generation will bring new possibilities into the classroom. Important to note of this generation is that they are pursuing higher education at higher rates than other generations, with over a 6% increase in college enrollment in years 18-20 than their immediately preceding generation. A final interesting point about Gen Z students is that they are much more likely to have parents that have a bachelor’s degree. We are seeing fewer first-generation students in this group, which will most definitely have an impact on how they approach and consume education. Almost double the number of Gen Z students have parents with bachelor’s degrees than Gen X did in 1986.

The point here is that Gen Z students are not just different from their predecessors in diversity and college enrollment numbers, they approach learning very differently from previous generations and will most likely set the tone for how future generations will learn. The oldest Gen Z students were about 10 years old when the first iPhone came out in 2007, and simply have grown up with technology. And it will not end there. The next generation, born after 2010, the coming Alpha students, are even more extreme in this regard. Unlike Millenials who adapted to the technology quickly as it was being developed, Gen Z and Alpha students don’t know a world without technology or one that isn’t “always on.” This has resulted in new ways of consuming information and learning styles. For example, Gen Z students from a very young age have been taught to evaluate information before accepting it as truth unlike previous generations that were strongly encouraged to accept information as fact when coming from specific trusted sources, such as instructors.

As such, they tend to be more engaged in their learning and learning environment. For the instructor, this means that the sage on the stage approach will not only NOT work with Gen Z students but will quickly disengage and discourage them. Why would they look to an instructor for information they can access quickly at their fingertips on their phones? This new generation of students want a new type of learning engagement, one that can be found in the Ninja instructor. A survey of Gen Z students showed that they preferred interactive and lively discussions in class rather than direct lectures. It also goes almost without saying that Gen Z students expect and want technology to be a part of their learning experience. They expect to be able to have 24/7 access as part of the “always on” culture. However, this does not mean that they also do not place a high value on interpersonal interactions and connections. Gen Z students want a value-added experience during their in-person sessions with professors rather than just an information session because they are used to doing their own research and drawing their own conclusions.

Against all of this backdrop, there is the classical similarity between all generations in that the gene pool that drives our basic brain organization has not really changed. Evolution takes millenia in a species like us, not decades. What does that mean?  It means that today’s students have the same classic brain mechanisms of cortical cognitive processing (head) and limbic system processing (heart) as their instructors and as many generations that came before them. The culture has shifted. The pervasiveness of immediate-contact technology has changed. But the basic desire to be liked and respected, the basic facts of the need for intellect to be combined properly with emotion remains. This plays out in the classroom underlying (as it always does) the important cultural shifts that have occurred. Remember even Aristotle wondered what was wrong with the young people of his time.

While Gen Z presents as a very visible and current demand for transformational change – there are others that have been accruing over the years and we will attempt to both enumerate and expand on some of them in the next section of this piece.

 

PROCESSIFICATION AND THE NEED

FOR THE NINJA INSTRUCTOR

In addition to the coming transformation, higher education is subject to another natural force. Processification refers to an old concept by the 19th century sociologist Max Weber who noted in politics and authority that “charismatic” beginnings often turned into routine operations sustained by bureaucracy. This is a natural process as humans adapt to the novel or energetic. It is even a key part of how the brain works where sensory adaptation to stable or repeated images is the rule so the brain can focus on what is novel and interesting. What also happens, particularly in organizations, is that over time, adaptation itself is forgotten, leaving those now with just the process. For example, think how over more than a dozen years from pre-K to high school graduation, our incoming college students have adapted to the role of their teacher, to giving their teachers what they want as well as learning the material, of expecting the classroom to be a fair, process-bound, and non-charismatic environment.

Therefore, we argue that academia has two parts – the charismatic purpose and the bureaucratic process by which it achieves that purpose. Both need to work together in harmony – they must be partners in achieving their goal. It is our proposition that too often, the latter has taken a lead, and that to the extent that this has happened, there have been detrimental consequences for the student’s engagement in the learning process. This is what we term “processification.”

Processification has many component parts, the consumerization of education, the reduction of face time between educators and students, the increase in student numbers per classroom, often for financial reasons, etc. The key to understanding the insipid nature of processification is this, any one incremental change in process has little to no visible negative consequence, and over time we have all adapted to many of these changes. This is a bit like driving a car with a manual clutch, when over time, the clutch gets gradually harder to press – the driver does not notice. Only when someone else drives the car is the change noticed. As we are aware, accademia changes slowly over time and therefore many of the small and incremental changes have gone unnoticed. However, while the cumulative impact may go unnoticed, the consequences are real. It is the writers’ position that one of those consequences has been the erosion of the instructor’s pivotal role in education.

A material example of the role prosessification can play is when an instructor allows the process to get in the way of engaging with students. Likewise, students can find that the process literally becomes a barrier between them and their instructor. Furthermore, an instructor can also use it to create a barrier between themselves and the students that reduces the need for time-consuming student engagement, especially when incentivized to do so by institutional priorities. However, the modern instructor who has embraced the Ninja in what they do will instinctively determine the negative impact, regardless of how small it may be and react. We believe that this reactive impulse can play a significant role in countering any excessiveness present because of processification.

We believe that the processification of education has also turned students into consumers. The new generation of Gen Z students approach education searching for a “value add” component from their professor. With the availability of knowledge at their fingertip’s students seek a transactional value in education and will quickly get bored or walk away if they cannot find the additional value they seek. They will do this proactively as a result of consumerism. A common rule of business is that once the customer heads for the door, they usually keep on going. The instructor therefore must ensure that it doesn’t happen in the first place.

On the other hand, ‘process’ is like regulation. People often endlessly criticize it and imagine a world without it. In these conversations one of us often responds by saying – you can never have enough GOOD regulation – to which a critic almost always agrees. So, it is for ‘processification’ – you can never have enough GOOD process. However, and unfortunately, somewhere along the way, the process can become bigger than the purpose it was meant to serve.

One area in which this is easily identified is the impact of processification on instructor evaluations. The notion of students evaluating their professors could be based on the “customer is always right principle” where universities have become corporations designed to feed industry with employees or to please their tuition paying families as customers. However, we disagree with this view of the university and certainly with the view of students as customers. Furthermore, subjectively each individual students’ perception of what makes a good instructor is highly individualized. Unfortunately, in our experience, we have also seen this process turn into a popularity contest, ultimately damaging the spirit of the instructors, a poignant example of process over value. The calculus as to its deployment should show a better balance and return as between value-add vs. cost in educator morale. We understand that it is important for students to have a voice within the institution as part of a shared responsibility for university life. And we do accept that teaching evaluations are important and necessary. But they need to be insulated from the worst effects and influences of processification or they can become demeaning to the instructor.

What may be the best solution is to engage faculty members in their own development of teaching practices through programs of teaching centers, course development, etc. One of us (JS) was involved in a university-wide program that resulted in educational innovations when he was at Northeastern University. The context at the time was the College of Arts and Sciences working with the Engineering College under a grant to improve engineering freshman retention. Most of their freshman courses came from Arts and Sciences faculty in the natural sciences. To improve this engineering freshman teaching, the two college deans involved the university’s teaching center. It was this center that recruited faculty who they had trained to meet as peer mentors with other faculty who desired to improve their freshman teaching. These peer mentors had the full advantage of the center’s technology and training but importantly had the trust of the front-line faculty and the insight themselves of practiced teachers. In JS’ memory many of the faculty who signed up to be mentored also aspired to be mentors themselves someday. It was a powerful arrangement. Interestingly, it also mirrors the work-place peers concept that we introduced in an earlier article. Finally, it is obvious to us that a Ninja instructor would welcome such an opportunity to refine their skills, knowing that there is always much to learn, just like the martial arts Ninja.

The injurious processification component vis a vis instructor evaluations is the fact that it doesn’t properly consider the fact that instructors are human beings – by definition they are not perfect but most importantly – they are NOT robots. Not only do we believe this is true – but mostly – what is important is that there isn’t enough concern shown by academia for the potential damage that could be done to its most precious resource – its teachers, instructors and professors. This is an example of how processification, as seen in the clutch syndrome described earlier, has conspired to bring us to where we are today – on the edge of an intergenerational precipice, poised to make academia’s next ill-prepared “gutenberg” step forward into an unknown abyss. Perhaps then the point is – we should look before we leap. While others see the way forward for education as relying on technology, virtual campuses, and artificial intelligence – we see rather that it lies in returning the human component back to center stage for the next act.

Processification came about through the natural evolution of the modern academic environment, unfortunately mostly with unintended consequences. Regardless of how this occurred and to what extent it has spread at varying institutions, there must be a counterbalance to this processification to protect the core mission of the academy, teaching and learning. Without this counterbalance, its influence can spread beyond its better nature, which can create unexpected and unforeseen negative impacts on the learning environment. Ninja instruction is a natural foil that can counter the excesses that can come with processification. We believe that in highlighting and infusing the concept of ninja instruction into the world of academia, this will serve as an antidote to the negative impact that processification can have.

 

FAKING AND THE NEED FOR THE NINJA INSTRUCTOR

Given the emphasis placed on the personal medium of instruction, we need to discuss the issue of Faking. Education, as already stated, involves instructor-student engagement and a certain student resistance that can oppose that engagement. Faking, therefore, is not an incidental problem but rather a fundamental problem. It is what the Ninja handles well, as we will discuss below.

Almost all students (and maybe all people), to at least some degree are often faking their personal interactions. Faking also exists on an institutional level where it often appears as a bureaucracy and its presence is systemic and the impact can be debilitating. Why? Faking interferes with genuine learning. In education we see this through the student giving the instructor only what they think the instructor wants. Some students fake because their circumstances are out of their control, such as when they are trying to behave normatively when they have learning disabilities. In this piece, we are not addressing these issues. What we are concerned with here, is the tendency on the part of almost all individual students, and/or the student body, to deploy ‘faking’ as a strategy for more easily surviving college.

At the outset, we address two of these many facets: The Developing Fake and Systemic Faking.

The Developing Fake: The ability to fake comes to students at an early age and/or stage in each person’s development. It is often unconscious and adaptive to the norms of the group. People need to fit in, so at a critical point the individual develops a need to fake. For example, children at a very early age in their development engage in role playing games – firepersons, doctors and nurses, soldiers etc. Essentially, they are using this as a technique to mask the fact that they are developing. At a young age, we call that play. Another critical point in everyone’s development is when they need to rely on their ability to fake in order to assimilate in society. Prior to this they had no, or little sense of self, just a happiness to exist and a growing sense of their own self. But eventually there comes a time when we all start asking ourselves, and perhaps even others, “Who am I?” So, until that day arrives when they know who they are, they have no choice – they need to fake being someone – that someone will be anyone whom they think would best accommodate any given moment at any given time. This is of course a very simplistic description of growing up, but even when our students are being themselves, they are still faking, still fitting in!

Why is this important? Because our premise is that the modern Ninja instructor is proactively engaged with the student and will need to understand how to meet the ‘natural’ resistance of this type of faking. The instructor likely will be perceived potentially as someone who is testing, or potentially exposing, this faking capacity. Therefore, it falls on the instructor to understand the issue for each student and to determine how each individual student needs to have this component of their ongoing development addressed. Some are ready to be challenged on the fake versions they are role playing – others need to hold on fast to those versions, just to be able to breathe and the Ninja instructor will need to take a more delicate approach.

We believe it is most important to not allow this student faking to impact the instructor’s interaction with the student. In fact to some degree, it is incumbent on the instructor to know when to ignore faking to the extent it reveals itself and to notice when it interferes with the student’s ability to learn. Why? Because to not do so would be to relinquish control to the student. It is beyond the capabilities of an ordinary individual to directly impact such a personal quality as faking so easily and any attempt would most likely result in failure. Other and more pedestrian forms of this type of faking would be students who have little or no interest in a subject being forced to take the subject as part of an educational path they are on. The best approach is to ignore and consume, to learn more and more about the student so that the instructor can gradually cut through the fake components and reach the actual person. When this happens a natural process of engagement will take place.

Systemic Faking: While The Developing Fake arises out of each individuals’ response to their own needs, Systemic Faking arises out of each individuals’ response to what they believe they are encouraged to do. It is really the system’s need for them to play a role that creates the problem. It arises while the student is enveloping themselves in the culture of the academic institution and effectively ‘playing the game’. Systemic faking thrives in the gap that exists between instructors as a group and students as a class. These are two worlds here, and each is perceived to have a standard that must be met. However, the perception of that standard as between students is very different from what the instructor would hope for. Largely students are playing the role they deem is required of them which is then policed by the students themselves.

On many occasions while RH was an instructor on different campuses, he discovered this huge disconnect between the educator community and the student community. Within the student community, there was an unspoken and unwritten code of rules. Students will naturally regulate each other’s relationship with a professor – to make sure no one student is attempting to garner a privileged position – The classic example of course would be the teacher’s pet syndrome. The students will have developed their own unspoken rule book for interacting with professors and the student community would be discouraged from breaking that code. This is an intangible barrier which will vary extremely from place to place. However, it is very important that the instructor be alive to its existence and be able to work with it.

The resulting lack of transparency seriously impacts the learning environment. It significantly disables the ability of a student to develop a real relationship with any of their educators. It is harmful in many ways but one of the most significant ways is that it makes it difficult to properly evaluate the quality of the student’s work or to rely on feedback from the student. It is particularly important with Gen Z, as discussed earlier. Systemic faking is essentially a product of the ‘regime’ that any institution’s student body creates. In some ways it is the students’ version of processification.

The Ninja instructor will be very careful to understand and be sensitive to the constraints that these ‘unspoken’ sets of rules place on each student. In the event an instructor was to try to cause a student to engage in a way that was at odds with this set of rules – they would meet resistance. Overcoming that resistance by using brute force and/or the power of the instructor would most likely not result in a positive outcome. Rather, this would foster more resentment and then even greater resistance. At the same time allowing it to dilute a student’s engagement would be wrong. This then gives us a fantastic example of how the Ninja instructor differs from previous methods of instruction. The Ninja instructor will embrace the invisible rule book, and put it to good use for the student, but not in a manner that the originators of the rules intended. Instead of pushing the students into a zone that makes them uncomfortable. They go where the student is first comfortable, and then from that perspective, they can guide the student towards greater engagement. Other students will be watching and will sense the shift. Many will see that following the invisible rule book was not productive and bond with the instructor and the class. The result is a much more effective class.

A technique that RH incorporated into his work at one institution was teaching by proxy – Stated simply, RH chose certain students to act as his proxy in engaging with the students. – These were the WorkPlace Peers that he instituted at UAlbany’s iQ4 program.

Another broader application was for RH to realize that every time he spoke with a student while others were around – those others would be monitoring his conversation. Many times, and depending on the circumstances at any one time, RH realized he would be speaking to both sets of audience members – those who engaged with him, and those who were watching the engagement. This is a good example of the use of the explicit and implicit techniques operating at the core of Ninja Instruction.

 

SO, WHO IS THE NINJA INSTRUCTOR?

To develop the Ninja instructor concept further, let us begin by using the principles of a centuries old pedagogy from ancient Athens – The Socratic Method. It will serve as a comparative device to further develop the ancient idea of the Ninja that we apply to the modern instructor in a world of technology and regarding experiential learning in the classroom. In our context, the essence of the Socratic Method and its application to the Ninja instructor is engagement.

One might say that this concept of the modern Ninja instructor is a latter-day version of the Socratic method Instructor. Perhaps this is due to the essential fluidity of the interaction between the student and the instructor in this experiential context – vs. the scripted didactic delivery of a classical classroom lecture. However, as we will see, the difference between the socratic method and the Ninja instructor, sets the latter apart to a significant degree. It also makes the idea of a Ninja instructor so compelling, especially at this transformative time in the world of education and Gen Z students.

The Socratic Method is primarily concerned with intellectual development – it is the pitting of mind against minds. It is focused on the development of intellectual acuity, achieved through the practice of public articulation of arguments and ideas. The method is singularly focused on intellectual pursuit. Its use today is properly limited to areas that lend themselves to such teaching, e.g. law, philosophy, and so forth. In contrast, we see the modern Ninja instructor approach as being capable of deployment in any classroom or institution, and on any subject. It works particularly well when an experiential component is introduced to the classroom and when that experience is shared and especially when a mentor from the profession is involved as discussed in our previous blog post.

How does the Ninja instructor differ from the Socratic method?  The Ninja instructor reaches their students through a much broader human playing field than the course content itself, engaging both the mind and the heart of each individual student. As mentioned, if the mind is the explicit intellectual content of the material, the heart is the implicit or evaluative reaction to that content. It is necessarily centered on the student as a person, and the Ninja instructor uses their own humanity to reach the student. The simple point is that when a mentor from industry guides a student or student group on an application project, something happens inside the student that either convinces them that they are in the right field and awakens a spark of enthusiasm. This is when the Ninja instructor, sensing this spark, moves in to develop this interest or if that does not occur, guides them to explore another path.

Another useful difference can be found in the idea that the Socratic model uses productive discomfort to garner the best that students can give as they perform in the Socratic Method. The modern Ninja instructor recognizes that this discomfort is achieved through recognition and acceptance of the natural resistance that each student bears. While Professor Reich’s assertion that discomfort is productive may have some truth, the modern Ninja instructor knows that there are at least equal amounts of counterproductiveness and that even those who thrive on it also suffer from it. The goal of the modern Ninja is not to confront, defeat and overcome discomfort, rather the goal is to actively utilize and neutralize that discomfort to the benefit of each student – a very different and counter intuitive endeavor. By doing so, we believe the modern Ninja instructor enjoys far greater success in helping each student attain their maximum intellectual capability.

Finally, the Ninja instructor’s approach is to ensure that eventually both the hearts and minds of their students are comfortable, and that the students feel good about themselves and the experience. That eventual comfort plays positively with any initial intellectual discomfort – allowing the student to progress forward and reach their full potential, even potential that might otherwise have been outside their capability. One of RH’s mantras is that the most essential virtue a student should have or seek to attain is the virtue of humility – they must be comfortable being uncomfortable. That is when they best assess their own shortcomings, and in consequence can work on them. But it is the modern Ninja instructor’s job to facilitate this development within the field as well as beyond that field and to the student as a thinking feeling person. When accomplished, the student presents as more mature and thoughtful as well as properly armed with facts and theories.

 

THE NINJA INSTRUCTOR OUTCOMES

What does the modern Ninja instructor achieve, and why should the world of education pay attention to the role it can play in academia now?  The answer is student growth, not just in facts and theories, but in maturity, confidence, and even developing wisdom – higher education’s most lofty goals.

We believe that at this moment the modern Ninja instructor can overcome the typical generational wall that stands between most instructors and their students. They can effectively connect with students of all ages. While this generational wall has always presented itself as a problem, what can be seen from our discussion of Gen-Z – is that this is no longer just a generational gap, but a transitional moment in the evolution of education where the student has real knowledge power on their phones but may not know how to use it. Without a shadow of a doubt this is the most compelling reason for a renewed approach to instruction.

Additionally, the modern Ninja instructor also helps students strip away the fake layer that keeps each student’s real individual capability from attaining the best version of themselves. They achieve this while not allowing the naturally destructive influence of processification from diluting the effectiveness that the receipt of college instruction would otherwise attain.

As a result:

  1. The Traditional Instruction Method is enhanced because the modern Ninja instructor addresses each students’ combined Heart and Mind interaction in learning.
  2. Skills Based Learning is advanced through the creation of an entirely new domain of instructors whose power comes not from the grasp they have of content, but from their ability to connect students and outside world enterprise through experiential learning models.

While the first outcome is indeed transformative, it is the latter that greatly advances the cause of education, and especially now as we contemplate the formidable challenges that presently confront us in a changing world that is straining the way we have traditionally approached higher education.

As we have shown, with all the challenges presently confronting education, addressing this next generational divide will take much more than previous generational divides. If we go forward merely with an intention to rely on more of the same – we will surely be consigning education to its earliest possible demise. Resuscitation will not be an option from then forward. The only option for us now is to re-invent, re-imagine and re-align with the core principles that made education what it was in the first place – the heart and soul of all that is wonderful and worthwhile in society.

Final note – The next step

We ask the reader to stay tuned for the next edition on how Sympathetic Intelligence lies at the core of what the Ninja instructor does. We think of it as the “sword” the Ninja is “swinging”, which facilitates and ensures first the separation and then the integration of emotional and academic intelligence. As you will see in the next piece, the origins of sympathetic intelligence as a tool in the hands of the Ninja instructor are to be found in the sweaty crowds of rock and roll venues from the eighties and nineties.

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