North-South Method

In his book, Teaching Thinking, Edward DeBono outlined six different methods we can use to direct our attention towards something we might have otherwise missed. Why? Because all teaching is simply a matter of directing the attention of the learner to the piece of the puzzle they need.

North-South is the first method described in the book. In this method you create an external reference system to direct attention towards certain things.

For example: when teaching children to cross a road safely, we give them the external reference system “look both ways before crossing the street”. We don’t tell the child to merely watch out for bikes, cars, trucks, school buses, …. this would be too many things to remember. Instead we give them a framework of places to look. Then we rely on their common sense to react “appropriately” to the inputs they receive.

To help learners use this framework we need to identify:

  • bad outcomes (getting hit by a car)
  • locations where bad outcomes are more likely to occur (where the sidewalk ends, and the road begins)
  • the behaviour that can be applied at which location to reduce or eliminate bad outcomes (when you get to the edge of the sidewalk, look both ways before crossing the road).

The North-South method is useful to stop the learner when the conditions are about to change. Can you think of places where you could establish a simple north-south method for your learners?