“All genuine learning is active, not passive. It involves the use of the mind, not just the memory. It is a process of discovery, in which the student is the main agent, not the teacher.”

Mortimer Adler, The Paideia Proposal

Noted educator and philosopher Mortimer Adler describes three ways in which a teacher might assist students as they become agents of their own learning–through didactic instruction, coaching and active questioning.

These three modes of instruction serve as tools at the teacher’s disposal. Particular subjects may be suited to more or less didactic instruction, questioning or coaching, but all three modes of instruction are encouraged in every subject area. In the Trinity School classroom, teachers are always making artful decisions on when to switch between these ways of teaching, based upon the material, the subject matter, the students and the moment at hand

Didactic Instruction

One thing a child needs from his or her education is basic, ordered knowledge about the world. Therefore, teachers must be able to effectively provide information to students through lectures, presentations and demonstrations. Even when operating in this mode, however, Trinity teachers work to make learning active for your child. Lectures are not mere transfers of information. Presentations of material are enlivened with coaching and questioning and should genuinely introduce students to something fresh about the world.


A teacher is not only an instructor but also a coach. Learning for Trinity students is always a matter of their own trial and error. Just as athletes require a coach to guide their performance, so students require feedback specific to themselves. Such feedback and direction might occur one-on-one, in discussion or in the context of a group project. Sometimes coaching occurs in the classroom and other times outside of class. Coaching requires great attention and energy on the teacher’s part as well as an abiding affection for each student. 


The ancients understood that all knowledge begins with wonder, and the heart of wonder is questioning. Why is the sky blue? What are adjectives for? What holds the atom together? Questioning is essential at every stage of learning. At Trinity School, this questioning starts with the teacher. A teacher’s own questions set the stage for exploring the text, topic or problem under investigation. As the most experienced learner, the teacher is often able to raise the most probing questions. These questions will become a model for your child for how to develop a sense of wonder and will encourage students to think beyond the self-evident, the parochial or the unexamined.