Hey Folks -
I've just spent the last two years in school getting certified to teach high school. And each education class promotes one of the "new" ideas about education. But in the end, there are very few honest professional that won't admit the value of BALANCE. As in karate, and really any human endeavor; learning is a path, not a destination. This being my guiding principle, let me explain what I mean about balance.
Students need structure when learning. It is unfortunate, even tiresome to the instructor who wants to shuck convention in order to show the broad applicability of their subject. But part of structure is knowing when it does not apply. This is the instructors job - its what we all get the big bucks for... Having well-defined, criterion-based standards for advancement is critical. It helps determine the student's understanding of what is required/expected, and lends the structure needed for them to stay on whatever unfamiliar path you are leading them on. Specifically, self-esteem is important, but not at the expense of actual acomplishment. It is unfortunate that education in particular is so vulnerable to fads, and this fact hurts many of our public institutions. But in the end, a good instructor understands the need for balance. I consider myself somwhat hard-core in many ways, probably from my initiation under you, Bill. But comprimising the spirit of a dojo for silly reasons like money can break that very spirit in ways that cannot be forecast. Do I promote occasionally for effort when ability is lacking? Of course I do. And the student is made aware of the decision, in plain language. My personal cut-off for effort-type inducements stops well short of Dan rank. And students who receive a reward of this kind are informed of the requirements they face for further rank. This does not in any way hinder me from making adjustments for physical shortcomings - I myself can't kick worth a damn, have centering problems, and am a mediocre sparring partner. But students who cross both the effort and ability lines receive no special consideration. Quite frankly, it is not our job to cure all ills, but to help those who desire our assistance. If a student has trouble with this, they are free to leave and find a more accomodating instructor - and my dojo will be better for their departure.
I guess I got on my high horse there, but poor instruction is one of my hot-buttons. Day one, regardless of what I am teaching, I tell my students that they are their own number one best instructor, now and forever. I will assist them in any way possible, give clues and advice and extra training. But I cannot learn for them.
Constructivism, grade inflation, praise, standards, stick training, intimidation, fear, visualization, personal logs, etc. All are merely tools of an instructor. The measure of a teacher, and why they are held in such high regard in the east, is how they balance their message.