An Italian friend recently enrolled on a photography course, but canceled before it completed because she deemed the teacher to be inept. I was wondering if I should teach her some photography basics, and then pondered how I would approach this.
From what I understand from her, the teacher explained which settings to use to take certain types of photographs. But he did not explain this well, so she failed to understand.
The key to good education is not just the imparting of knowledge but the rationale behind the knowledge – the understanding.
If I were to teach my friend, I would start with an explanation of how light passes through a lens, limited by the aperture, and converging (or not) on the film or sensor. How the diameter of the aperture affects light rays pass through, converging more readily through a narrower aperture and hence at a narrower angle. But too narrow an aperture can generate fringe effects. And too wide an aperture puts demands on the accuracy of the lens surfaces. And how the shutter curtains sweep across – at high speeds the second follows shortly after the first because they cannot move fast enough to retain a completely open window for light to pass through. And so on.
Only then would I talk about settings, since only then would they be understood for their effect. Their understanding would give them a model of operation that they could also extrapolate from.
I suspect that the heavy emphasis on teaching for the exam in school often fails to teach an understanding. The net effect is that extrapolation is not easy, so any problem that deviates from what they are taught can throw them. They become helpless without a true understanding, trained in a mechanical fashion rather than empowered with the mindset to think for themselves.