The one need or desire everybody has is to be accepted, or validated, by someone or some group. Acceptance may only be available through membership in a gang or a choir group or by peers or teachers and/or parents. One way or another, people young and old will gravitate toward a source of validation. It is a human need.

We teachers must always keep in mind how important and how motivating that one element of human nature is.

Two books on the subject of teaching have had a tremendous influence on me. These two books also validated my own personal belief system. They are
Literature for Democracy by Gordon Pradl and Literature for Exploration by Louise M. Rosenblatt. What you will be reading is about the philosophy of these two writers put into action. Their philosophy and an actual case study are the basis of this book, The Validating Teacher.

The philosophy of what I call “validational teaching” (also called validational learning) recommends five specific provisions: (1) providing a safe atmosphere in the classroom, (2) validating students through their writing and speaking, (3) establishing relevance in their assignments, and (4) building on their successes. This philosophy of learning also (5) encourages growth in social understanding through hearing the stories of others.

Validational learning consists of two distinct steps. First the student reads aloud his or her literary work, and second, his or her peers respond to what has been read. One objective of this type of learning is to understand how students make meaning from what they read and/or hear, which can be done only after we understand what they bring to the process. The sharing of the narratives/essays by students and the reacting of their peers are the two processes that make validational learning an extremely effective learning modality and a positive growth experience.

Under the appropriate classroom conditions, validational learning can be the foundation for (1) improved reading and (2) writing skills, (3) improved self esteem and (4) self concept, and (5) improved interpersonal skills. These benefits are not so surprising if one looks closely at the concepts inherent in validational learning and the principles of human nature. They compliment each other nicely.

The writing of students did improve, primarily because they were writing for their peers rather than for their teacher. Students learned to see beyond their own point of view. Students credited validational learning with improving their reading and writing, with feeling better about themselves, with improving attitudes and listening skills, and with increasing their levels of self confidence.

I believe that through their validational learning, the students have achieved their quest for identity and their attempt to develop some sense of personal power. Read on to find out how this was achieved.