Here’s an example of what I mean by a short and pithy strategy written to spark a peer group discussion…
I offer a practical method for doubling down on desirable difficulties.
Let’s call it, “Don’t let your students train you.”
I use the term desirable difficulties quite precisely – a scholar named Robert Bjork described them as “varying the conditions of learning rather than keeping them constant and predictable.”
While this practice is more effective for long term learning, students often hate it. To them it feels disjointed, even haphazard. Remember – they’re used to linear, and predictable, content delivery.
In my experience, students crave that (elusive) comfort of predictability, and will work hard to remove any uncertainty by getting you to do the hard work.
They’ve trained us in much the same way our pets train us. We think we’re in control, but let them in and out, feed them, pet them, etc., when they want. Who has trained whom?
They’ll bleat, “I’m confused!” or “I don’t understand!” fully aware that it will trigger a response complete with answers and explanations.
You can hear yourself giving in…”Okay – I’ll explain this one more time…”
I’m no longer falling for this clever yet manipulative trick. If I answer at all, I do so with a question: what specifically confuses you? In answering, more often than not they reveal a fairly competent understanding. Their bleating was merely a reflexive response.
Certainly there are caveats, and all of this presumes that the student has the right background, knowledge, or skills for the work. Absent these these things, I would be creating undesirable difficulties.
What’s essential, however, is that I find ways to trigger what Bjork calls the “encoding and retrieval processes that support learning, comprehension, and remembering”.
And you can’t do this if you give in to their earch for comfort.
What say you?