Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Teach by NOT teaching

Teacher at Chalkboard According to a relatively recent article in the "Journal of Learning Sciences" (learned of from Time magazine via Lifehacker), we are doing a disservice to our students and workers when we 'making learning easy'.  Kapur and Bielaczyc found that, in comparing students with and without direct teacher-involved instruction, those without consistently outperformed those with in post-tests.  On the one hand this is counter-intuitive:  when I'm building a barn, it's probably going to take me longer and I'm probably going to do a poorer job if I'm all alone than if my friends and neighbours come and help me.  It's easier to climb stairs than a rocky cliff.    But on the other hand, we tend to place more importance (and therefore internal resources such as attention, confidence, memory, etc.) on things that were difficult to achieve if for no other reason than we don't want to feel like we've wasted our time or, worse, looked foolish wasting our time.  Here is the summary of how to use this nugget of info in practice (from the Time magazine article):
First, choose problems to work on that “challenge but do not frustrate.” Second, provide learners with opportunities to explain and elaborate on what they’re doing. Third, give learners the chance to compare and contrast good and bad solutions to the problems.
Sounds like good advice.  As a parent, this suggests that I should back off a bit from helping my kids figure out homework or difficult new concepts.  As a librarian, this suggests that we should do our best to find that middle ground between challenging and frustrating info searchers and that perhaps we be more involved in the learning review steps, perhaps by providing venues and/or tools support such review.

[ Read Lifehacker's "The More You Struggle with New Information the More Likely You Are to Learn It" then Time magazine's "Why Floundering Is Good" then, if you have time and access Journal of Learning Sciences' "Designing for Productive Failure" ]

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