Earl Stevick, a mentor and inspiration in the English language teaching field, described in his seminal classic on language teaching, A Way and Ways (1980) a notion he referred to as “the inside and between maxim”.  He said, “success or failure in a language course depends less on linguistic analysis and pedagogical techniques than on what goes on inside and between the people in the classroom.”  I would assert that this is not only true for language teaching but also for all other subjects as well.  Learning has less to do with pedagogy, texts, testing, clever classroom activities than it has to do with the relationship between the teacher, the students, the students’ relationships with each other and, all the relationships that all of them have with the content itself.

What this suggests is that there is much more going on in learning environments than immediately meets the eye, as I’ve already discussed.  If we only focus on instructional strategies and not the inner life of our students (and ourselves) we are missing so much.  When Stevick reminds us of the “inside and between” maxim he is inviting and, perhaps, requiring us to think about these dynamics in new ways.  He is telling us to pay attention to those aspects of the learning process that really matter.

Holding a curiosity about what goes on inside and between people in the classroom is often not easy, but it is always worthwhile.  Deciding to pursue these ideas through classroom-based research, conversations – both formal and informal – with students, and a commitment to careful observation demands rigor.  I think this is what good educators need to be doing.