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Bluffing: An Educators Guide to a Valuable Tool.

Updated on February 18, 2015
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Neil has a BA in Liberal Arts, a minor in Computer Science and finished classes for a master’s in instructional and performance technology.

The knowledge base students are expected to absorb is increasing at an exponential rate, which makes being a teacher all the more daunting. Teachers are expected to be able to teach nearly any topic, especially at the primary school level, and with the current economy, specialization is disappearing at the secondary school level as well. As this happens, specialization will only be available at the college or university level. For many teachers, learning theory is as complex as any of the topics a student is expected to absorb, and teachers are expected to know these theories. What’s worse, these theories continue to change, making supposedly tried and true methods obsolete. Enter the age old skill of Bluffing.

Ron Zemike in Training magazine wrote a series of articles called "A Bluffer's Guide to...." In those articles he explained how, in areas where information is increasing exponentially, it may be impossible to keep up with the latest developments. He then went on to explain how to use the limited knowledge a teacher would be able to obtain to teach necessary topics. He stated that, "The need to master bluffing as a social skill is the primary excuse for a liberal arts education."

Bluffing is an art usually associated with card games (particularly poker) and often gets a bad rap, but those skills can be used in education and when combined with other skills (such as storytelling) can be very effective tools. Part of the learning process is making the learner curious. This can often be done by bluffing. Many parts of leaning theory are supported by bluffing, since part of the responsibility of learning is on the learner and some of the most important processes in learning theory are paralleled by steps in the art of bluffing. For example, needs analysis would be evaluating your hand, placing a bid would generate interest, and then delivering the subject matter (just enough to generate interest, but not necessarily the in-depth detail that often buries students and teachers alike) would be the turning over of the cards.

There is a great deal of good educational theory and some of it is vital to the success of a teacher at any level. However, at the level where many of us teach, a few simple skills such as bluffing and storytelling will cover a multitude of situations where following complex learning theory is overkill.



‘A Bluffer's Guide to Multimedia’. Zemke, Ron; Armstrong, Judy, Source: Training v33 n6 p36-44 Jun 1996
‘A Bluffer's Guide to TQM.’. Zemke, Ron, Source: Training v30 n4 p48-50,51-55 Apr 1993


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