Saturday, February 28, 2015

The 80 / 20 Rule

It never ceases to amaze me that  the fundamentals of teaching apply across the board; all ages, subjects & abilities, teaching is an art with scientific principles.

My husband  has started some  volunteer tutoring with a local amateur art group and loving it. So each Wednesday evening he is considering & preparing for Thursdays adventure at the adult learning chalk face. He is meticulous in his preparation, clear in his intentions and, despite all those years in university teaching, still has some pre performance nerves.  Our roles have currently changed, no longer me worrying about the village school on a Sunday afternoon, well at least not until after Easter, but my other half  in the same shoes; bigger shoes and different language to overcome.

He is a firm believer in good preparation, but allowance of  flexibility; something left open, to chance. Might be a question, a technique, learner curiosity or just the interest of the day, but there has to be some development element  Fortunately we learnt our craft when creativity & flexibility were seen as equal bedfellows with planning & assessment, we are not bound, by curriculum, standards or thought processes to one single line of  teaching. We can maintain the momentum, achieve the goals, fulfil the targets and be creative, it what gives  teachers
 'the edge'.
The same applied when we came to plan our short presentation for the planning group of the local town Art Festival. There was so much we could say, quote & explain, but we keep it simple & allowed for listener participation. The result a clean and attractive one sheet overview of our small French Art Holiday Business Abientot Art (see our Facebook Page: Art Holidays Abientot) 

But just in case any of you are under the allusion that we teach in a, 'flying by the seat of your pants', Hippy Dippy, 60's manner, here's the theory to back the words.
Its called 'The Pareto Principle' or 'Law of the vital few' and is based on the work of economist Vilfredo  Pareto. It states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects comes from 20% of the causes and is used as a business rule of thumb in looking at outcomes v workload. For example, its reckoned that 80% of any  business comes from 20% of the clients, so its better to put the effort into that 20%.

Certainly you can work to increase the 80% result, but  returns are relatively low simply adds to the workload stress, without increasing the outcome. Now stress is a much maligned word. We  need a certain amount  of stress to function. Its the tension that we call excitement , a rush, adrenaline or endomorphin surge or arousal and we even seek it out in our work, hobbies, holidays. Its what makes a problem become a challenge, a danger into a dare and a difficulty into a competition. We need that edge, that adaptability & creativity it also makes the best teachers.

So remember the next time someone challenges your approach or infers a lack of planning, its the Pareto Principle. The 'Law of the Vital Few'.