Surprise Scholé Academy

The Seven Laws of Teaching

The Seven Laws of Teaching

The following have been adapted from John Milton Gregory's work on the seven laws. His work, published in 1886, predates modern ideas of education and serves as a helpful "return" to what classical Christian educators believe is a more effective style of teaching.

1. Academic Mentor's Knowledge

An Academic Mentor must be one who knows the lesson or truth or art to be taught. (Know thoroughly and familiarly the lesson you wish to teach-teach from a full mind and a clear understanding.) 

The lesson has been prepared with fresh study. The lesson has analogies/illustrations to more familiar facts and principles. The lesson is presented in familiar language. The lesson proceeds from simplest notions to the broadest views. The lesson is related to the lives and experience of the learners. The Academic Mentor works to ensure real understanding in the minds of the pupils. The lesson assumes that complete mastery of a few things is better than an ineffective smattering of many. The Academic Mentor appears to have studied for the lesson well in advance. The Academic Mentor works from a written outline. 

2. Student Interest

A learner is one who attends with interest to the lesson. (Gain and keep the attention and interest of the pupils upon the lesson. Do not try to teach without attention.) The students display (1) passive attention, (2) active attention, or (3) absorbed “effortless” attention. The Academic Mentor works to secure absorbed attention. The Academic Mentor communicates that the students must engage in mental toil and effort to help achieve this absorbed attention. The Academic Mentor does not begin the lesson until attention has been secured. The Academic Mentor regains attention if it is lost. The Academic Mentor does not exhaust the attention of the students. The Academic Mentor arouses attention when necessary by variety in presentation. The Academic Mentor kindles and maintains interest and attention. The Academic Mentor uses age-appropriate illustrations and applications. The Academic Mentor appeals to the interests of the students (e.g., favorite songs, stories, and subjects of students). 

The Academic Mentor reduces distractions (inside and outside the classroom) to a minimum. 


The Academic Mentor prepares beforehand thought-provoking questions. The Academic Mentor makes his presentation attractive using illustrations and other aids, but these aids are not so prominent so as to become distractions. The Academic Mentor exhibits and maintains enthusiasm. The Academic Mentor makes use of eye contact and gesture.

3. Clear Language

The language used as a medium between Academic Mentor and learner must be 

common to both. (Use words understood in the same way by the pupils and yourself, language clear and vivid to both.)

Does the Academic Mentor appear to fully understand the student? The Academic Mentor knows and understands the language of his students. Does the student appear to fully understand the Academic Mentor? Is the Academic Mentor's speech generally of plain and intelligible expression? Do students do much of the talking? Does the Academic Mentor summon to her aid the experience of the students? Are gestures, visual aids, and other nonverbal communication utilized (illustrations, objects, pictures)? Are analogies used? Does the Academic Mentor resist becoming a lecturer (too talkative)? Does the Academic Mentor secure from students as full a statement as possible of their knowledge of the subject? Are new words taught to the students? Does the Academic Mentor test the students' understanding of the words he uses? The Academic Mentor has students rephrase concepts to make sure they clearly understand. The Academic Mentor is not fooled by appearances, but probes and checks a student's understanding

4. Associative Knowledge

The lesson to be mastered must be explicable in the terms of truth already known by the learner-the unknown must be explained by means of the known. (Begin with what is already well known to the pupil on the subject and with what she herself has experienced--and proceed to new material by single, easy, and natural steps, letting the known explain the unknown.) 

Since much of the truth is mastered by expression, the students do much of the talking. The lesson is less lecture and more discussion and debate. The Academic Mentor knows what words students use and their meanings. The Academic Mentor secures from students a full statement of their knowledge on the subject in order to learn their mode of expression and to correct their knowledge. The Academic Mentor expresses himself in the language of the pupils.

The Academic Mentor uses simple words and always defines new, difficult words. The Academic Mentor repeats the thought using other language when students fail to understand. The Academic Mentor helps explain the meaning of words with illustrations, including illustrations from the experience of students. 

5. Mental Initiative and Discovery

Teaching is arousing and using the pupil's mind to grasp the desired thought to master the desired art. (Stimulate the pupil's own mind to action. Keep his thought as much as possible ahead of your expression, placing him in the attitude of a discoverer, an anticipator. Excite and direct the self-activities of the pupil, and as a rule tell him nothing that he can learn himself.)

The Academic Mentor seeks to help the student think and discover for herself--to rethink and relive the knowledge the Academic Mentor seeks to impart. The Academic Mentor does not push learning beyond the capacity of students to understand. 

The Academic Mentor ensures that students think and study independently (with guidance). The Academic Mentor seeks to motivate and stimulate mental exercise in the students The Academic Mentor makes use of some of the following exercises: comparison of the new with the old; the alternating analysis and synthesis of parts, wholes, classes, causes, and effects; the action of judgment and reason; and the effects upon thought of tastes and prejudices. The Academic Mentor appeals to and seeks to inspire the students' love of knowledge for its own sake and the desire for knowledge to be used as a tool in solving problems or obtaining other knowledge. The Academic Mentor seems to believe that each child has the potential to become an absorbed, excited lifelong learner. The uses of knowledge are pointed out to the student by the Academic Mentor. The Academic Mentor seeks to awaken the students' moral responsibility, motivation, and sensibility for the pursuit of knowledge (e.g., the glory of God, the love of man). The Academic Mentor seems to prefer the excited thinking and conversation of her own students to her own voice. The Academic Mentor is a lecturer only for short periods of time. The Academic Mentor is constantly and regularly asking important questions and soliciting questions in the minds of his students. The Academic Mentor frequently begins and ends lesson with an important question. The Academic Mentor does not give explanations that "settle everything” and end all thinking on the subject. The Academic Mentor does not rest until each student is awakened and asking questions. The Academic Mentor shows how understood truths lead to other facts that renew questioning and thinking. The Academic Mentor shows how an understood truth may still retain questions about its consequences, applications, and uses. The students seem free and enthusiastic to ask questions.

The Academic Mentor does not quickly answer questions, but rephrases them and secures deeper thought on the students' part. The Academic Mentor finds a “point of contact” between the lesson and her students. The Academic Mentor regularly assigns or asks stimulating questions that awaken inquiry. The Academic Mentor patiently waits for students to express their questions and thoughts. The Academic Mentor resists the temptation to tell the student all he knows on a subject. The Academic Mentor seems to understand that knowledge comes by thinking, not by being told.

6. Mental Reproduction and Integration

Learning is thinking into one's own understanding a new idea or truth, or working into habit a new art or skill. (Require the pupil to reproduce in thought the lesson she is learning--thinking it out in its various phases and applications till she can express it in her own language.) The pupil must reproduce in her own mind the truth to be learned. Application of this law is mainly for older students (dialectic and rhetoric). 

The Academic Mentor trains his students how to study. The student, rather than the Academic Mentor, actually does most of the work of education. Students exhibit the character of a self-discoverers or investigators. The students can rephrase or translate thought into their own or other words. Students ask for evidence and reasons for the truths they study. Students are aware that truths and problems they study are related to a larger network of knowledge. The Academic Mentor helps students to see the practical utility/applications of the truths they study. Students seek to apply their knowledge to practical purposes of life and thought. The Academic Mentor asks “why” frequently and regularly, so that students understand they are to give reasons for their opinions. Students are encouraged to “try their own power of expression.”

7. Review

The test and proof of teaching done-the finishing and fashioning process-must be reviewing, rethinking, reknowing, reproducing, and applying of the material that has been taught, the knowledge and ideals and arts that have been communicated. (Review, review, review, reproducing the old, deepening its impression with new thought, linking it with added meanings, finding new applications, correcting any false views, and completing the true.) The completion, test, and confirmation of the work of teaching must be made by review and application. 

The Academic Mentor engages in regular review, especially at the beginning and end of a lesson. Most lessons close with a summary that serves as a review. Review is built into lesson planning, approximately every five or six lessons. Courses end with a final, thorough review that is searching and comprehensive, leading students to a familiar mastery of what they have learned.

The Academic Mentor does not let his concern to “cover material” keep him from review. Review is not a lifeless, colorless repletion of questions and answers. Review by the Academic Mentor includes fresh conceptions, new associations, and applications. Review is varied and includes repetition of words and lessons, a quick review of a fact or phrase, and a broad review of an entire subject (thorough restudy). The Academic Mentor engages in partial reviews on a single fact or principle, the recall of some event or person, or a difficult point or question. Complete reviews are employed as cursory review of a whole field in a few general questions or in a full and final reconsideration of the whole ground. Students are sometimes encouraged to reread important selections (perhaps with a different emphasis or question in mind) for deeper understanding. Review is spread over days and weeks and not done in single concentrated periods. Students exhibit new associations from review. Review often consists in calling up a fact or truth and applying it to some use. Review sometimes makes use of the body and hands, and objects (visual aids). Students show that reviewed material has become embedded in their permanent memory. Students seem to understand that success in scholarship requires the habit of regular review (repetitio mater memoriae).