Maxims of teaching

Every teacher wants to make his/her teaching learning process interesting, interactive and easy to maximize the learning process of students. For this, she/he uses different methodologies, principals and rules in order to make full involvement of students. These rules are called maxims of teaching. Maxims guide a teacher’s action during teaching learning process. The philosopher Grice (1967) used the concept of maxims to describe the rules which underlie conversation.

The word maxim refers a short, pithy statement expressing a general truth or rule of conduct. So, maxim of teaching is defined as a set of rules to make the content easy to comprehend in classroom teaching. For a teacher, only mastery of content is not necessary, but successful implementation of that content for learning is also necessary i.e. how to successfully impart that knowledge to students. For this, it is utmost necessary to present the content in a logical and sequential manner.

Nature of maxims

Maxims are principles or rules that are developed from the system of teacher’s beliefs, for excellent teaching process. The nature of teachers’ maxims is discussed through analysis of teachers’ accounts of their teaching and lesson protocols. The use of maxims by the teachers always reflects their belief systems, cultural factors, experience, training, and the understanding of which maxims teachers give priority to and how they influence the teachers during their teaching span.

A teacher should be very selective in using the maxims. The nature of maxims should be explanatory and according to content. So, the teacher should use maxims in such a way that it can make teaching process more effective.

Types of maxims of teaching

The philosopher Grice (1967) described maxims as injunctions to speakers as to how they should participate in conversational interactions. He identified four maxims, which are as follows:

1. Maxim of Quantity: Make your contribution as informative as is required, but not more informative then required.

2. Maxim of Quality: Try to make your contribution one that is true. That is, do not say anything you believe to be false or lack adequate evidence for.

3. Maxim of Relation: Make your contribution relevant to the aims of the ongoing conversation.

4. Maxim of Manner: Be clear. Try to avoid obscurity, ambiguity, and disorderliness in your age of language. Following are some maxims which teacher generally uses in their teaching learning process:

1. From known to unknown;
2. From simple to complex;
3. From concrete to abstract;
4. From analysis to synthesis;
5. From seen to unseen/from direct to indirect
6. From psychological to logical;
7. From particular to general;
8. From empirical to rational;
9. Follow nature;
10. From whole to part;
11. From induction to deduction.

Maxims of teaching
Maxims of teaching

From known to unknown

This maxim of teaching is based upon the apperception theory of transfer of learning. Apperception may be defined as a process of relating new ideas to a store of old ones. When a child enters in the class, she/he possesses some knowledge. So, a teacher should always begin the new knowledge by linking it with the old one. This makes the content easy and understandable for students.

For Example :

1. If a teacher is teaching about profit and loss in an arithmetic class, she/he should first relate it with buying and selling. Buying and selling (known), profit and loss (unknown).

2. Knowledge of alphabets can be given by linking it to any object which is already known to them. Just like linking apple to the letter “A”.

From simple to complex

Here, the words simple and complex are to be seen from the view of the child’s cognitive level, not from the teacher. While organizing content, a teacher should tell simple concepts first to generate interest among the students and complex or difficult concepts, later. Easy concepts can be understood by the students very easily.

For example:

1. In a biology class, if a teacher wants to teach about any plant activity like transpiration or photosynthesis, it is necessary for a teacher to first tell about plant parts and its characteristics.

2. In a mathematics class, if a teacher wants to teach compound interest, she should start with simple interest.

From concrete to abstract

The word ‘concrete’ refers to the things which are present before student’s eyes. While the abstract things are are not present before students, it more depends on the student’s imagination. Abstract things are difficult to be remembered and applied in practical situations. The process of learning starts with perception after which concepts are formed. These concepts are partially concrete and partially abstract in nature. The teacher should try to present his content as much as possible in concrete form as compared to its abstract form. As Froebel said, “Our lessons ought to start in concrete and end in the abstract.” However, by starting from concrete form, the teachers should not remain always in the concrete form. She/he must pass on to the abstract concept when the time is suitable.

For example:

1. According to the didactic apparatus of Madam Montessori, knowledge of colour, shape, numbers can be easily given to students before presenting the equipments of didactic apparatus. To teach Shapes in geometry- concrete objects should shown, to make students understand about triangular, cube, cylindrical shapes, etc.

To establish abstract facts in the minds of the students, the teacher should make use of pictures, maps, sketches, diagrams, etc.

From analysis to synthesis

This maxim is particularly useful when some complex problem is to be understood. The teacher should start with analysis, followed by synthesis, so that the complex whole becomes clear.

Analysis and synthesis are complementary to each other and are a mental process. They are based upon connective psychology. Analysis refers to dividing anything into its smaller constituents and then teaching its smaller parts, after which this can be integrated together for meaningful understanding, which is called as synthesis. By this method, complex problem can be made simple and easy to understand. The teacher should start with analysis so that the complex whole becomes clear.

For example:

1. In Sanskrit teaching, first the knowledge of one individual word is given to students in Hindi and then these are integrated together to get a meaningful understanding.

2. Similarly, for describing working of a machines, first the knowledge of machine parts is given and then the knowledge of each individual part can be synthesized together to get a clear picture of working of machine.

3. To teach students about hibiscus flower, the teacher first, should break all parts of the flower and tell their functions and relationship (analysis). But, simply understanding the various parts is not sufficient. These should be put in a systematic manner (synthesis).

4. To teach respiratory system, the teacher first analyzes the different parts and their functions (analysis) and then gives the synthetic view. So, about analysis must be followed by synthesis. This will help the child to understand about every part and also the relationship among various parts of the whole.

From seen to unseen/from direct to indirect

A good teacher first teaches about those objects which are directly present before students. Then, he proceeds to those objects which are not present before students. In other words, students should be taught about the present first and then about the past or future.

From psychological to logical

Teaching consists of both, the psychological & logical sequence. Psychological teaching basically refers to taken into consideration student’s interest, age level, curiosity, as well as the previous knowledge. By logical sequence, it means, that the subject matter is divided logically into various components and then the knowledge of these components is given in sequence. In logics, no emphasis is given to the interest of students. But, for effective teaching, both psychological & logical phases is needed. During ancient education, logical sequence was given more importance. But, contrary to this, modern teaching lays emphasis on the interest and need of students because the psychological way is a natural way of learning. Therefore, a wise teacher cares for integration of psychological principles to logical agreement.

For teaching, teacher should prepare the content, select the methods of teaching and audio-visual aids by keeping in view of student’s interests, ability, mental development, curiosity, needs and capacities of the child. This is called psychological approach. The logical approach implies the systematic explanation and arrangement of the matter presented.

For Example: Preparation of the syllabus as well as adjustment of time table is totally based upon the psychological to logical approach.

From particular to general

A teacher should always proceed from particular to general statements. General facts, principles and ideas are difficult to understand and hence, the teacher should always first present particular things and then lead to general things.

For example: 

Suppose, the teacher is teaching continuous tense in English. While teaching, he should first of all give a few examples (as Ram is going, Ajay is reading etc.) and then, on the basis of these examples, he should generalize that this tense is used to denote an action that is going on at the time of speaking. Hence, a teacher should proceed from particular to general, till the students understand the concept and are able to generalize it.

From empirical to rational

Empirical knowledge is that which is based on observation and firsthand experience about which no reasoning is needed at all. It is concrete, particular and simple. We can feel and experience it. On the other hand, rational knowledge is based upon arguments and scientific explanations. For Example: Suppose, if there is a bottle containing liquid substance similar to water and

students are asked to tell what this is? And, if, by simply observing the bottle, students are answering that it contains water, then we can say that the students are only applying their empirical knowledge. After this, the teacher should instruct the students to check out the physical and chemical properties’ of that substance to confirm. This is called rationalization.

Follow nature

This maxim is based upon the naturalism philosophy and Rousseau has given the concept of follow nature. According to him, a student learns better when learning is student centered. Role of the teacher is passive. And the process of learning should be based according to the nature of child, that is, according to the need and interest of child. In his words, “The individual is an entity in himself infinitely, precious, and should never be sacrificed to fit the needs of society”. “To Rousseau, the heart of education is the study of the nature of the child and to provide opportunities for the perfect physical, mental and moral developments in terms of his nature.

From whole to part

This maxim is the result of the psychology of learning we always perceive the whole thing first and then pay attention to its parts. This is the basis of Gestalt psychology. In this approach, whole of the region is taken first for study and then, its various parts are explained. This approach makes education more scientific, logical and the knowledge attained in this way is more stable.

For example:

While teaching a poem, the child should first be given an idea of the whole poem. After this, he should be made to understand the rhythm, language, etc.

From induction to deduction

If a statement is true in a special situation, it will also be true in other similar situations. It means drawing conclusion from set of examples. This drawing of conclusion from different examples is called induction.

For example:

In language teaching, before giving the definition of noun, the students are acquainted with the examples of noun like man, Delhi, etc. and then, they are led to a general definition of noun.

After this, if a student is able to give more related examples, then we can say that he has learned the process of induction to deduction. So, a teacher always proceeds from induction and finishes at deduction.


For teaching profession, it is very important for a person to be familiar with maxims of teaching. Following are some advantages of it :

1. Enables a teacher to make his classroom interaction effective and interesting.

2. It develops creative thinking.

3. Enables a teacher to present her topic according to the mental level of students.

4. It makes teaching simple and interesting.

5. Enables a teacher in selecting appropriate instructional procedure for a particular content for classroom teaching.

6. Makes learning effective, inspirational, interesting and meaningful.

7. It makes students creative and active.

8. Enables a student to analyze and synthesize the content, so it makes the content simple to understand.

9. It develops scientific attitude among the students.

Conclusion: To make an efficient teacher of effective teaching learning process, maxims of teaching plays an important role. By this the teacher not only imparts knowledge, but also imparts it according to the understanding level of student.

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