Teaching Apprenticeship with Patrick Whitefield

During the summer, In the summer of 2011, I was fortunate to join Patrick Whitefield’s, five day permaculture design course as an apprentice teacher. Here are my reflections and observations on the training opportunity. – Kevin

Patrick Whitefield

At the end of each day, I spent time quizzing him on the various aspects and  nuances of teaching. One of my key learnings, extracted from Patrick’s wise words.

put yourself in the position of someone who doesn’t know

Conveying a concept to a mixed audience demands that you don’t make assumptions about prior knowledge and that you adopt a jargon free language set. Knowing what to leave out is a skill as you are seeking a way in – the opening of a door into a new idea. Patrick continues to pare down his teaching content where less is often more.

you don’t need to be right all the time

Our education system puts the teacher in a position of power which can get in the way of true learning. I like this attitude of Patrick’s, it’s disarming and engenders a positive learning environment.

Example mind map taken from Patrick’s class


Patrick impressed upon me the value of using mind maps. This technique ensures the clarity of delivery and flexibility to adapt the content in quickly changing circumstances. I liked the clear, unambiguous style of Patrick’s mind maps. I have used this technique with great success in subsequent teaching opportunities.



FG slide show example


I contributed a presentation about forest gardening based on my learning experiences in central America and my forest garden design for Occombe Farm. This gave me the opportunity to develop a structure for content, and an experience of speaking in front of an audience. Afterwards, Patrick gave me constructive criticism which I found instructive as it can be difficult to view your own work with new eyes.


Here’s an extract from the appraisal that Patrick wrote for me:

……..He also displayed a talent for communication and teaching with a willingness to learn and develop his own teaching abilities. I think he has a good future ahead of him as a permaculture teacher. Patrick Whitefield


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