Thursday, December 06, 2012

mildly relevant: the fault lies not in the stars ..?

it may seem like students are getting worse every year .. which is what an educator would find very convenient to believe. it would imply that we're doing a good job but everyone else isn't.

i find that answer a little too convenient.

it is true that school standards change with time .. but i remember suggesting once to colleagues that the reality may be purely relative to our perspective. instead, what if we are simply getting more familiar with teaching the same topics?
But if you've never been to a place before, you need more than a description of a place; you need an exact definition, or a precise formula for finding it. The curse of knowledge is the reason why, when I had to search for a friend's tent in a field, their advice of "it's the blue one" seemed perfectly sensible to them and was completely useless for me, as I stood there staring blankly at hundreds of blue tents.

This same quirk is why teaching is so difficult to do well. Once you are familiar with a topic it is very hard to understand what someone who isn't familiar with it needs to know
. The curse of knowledge isn't a surprising flaw in our mental machinery – really it is just a side effect of our basic alienation from each other. We all have different thoughts and beliefs, and we have no special access to each other's minds..
~ from "why we are so bad with directions" @bbc

1 comment:

Daniel said...

It could be another perceptual thing: some (secondary and pre-secondary) teachers report the impression that kids are getting shorter every year. Of course, the students aren't. The teachers just end up comparing the height of their old students at the end of the year to the height of their new students at the beginning of the year.

At the end of the semester, if we have done our jobs, the students are significantly more competent than they were at the beginning of the semester. It seems like it could be natural to compare old student's end of semester competencies to new student's beginning of semester competency and give the impression of drift.