Monday, May 11, 2015

Teaching through confusion

In this video Dr. Derek Muller shares his research on how clear, explanatory videos do not help students learn science concepts. He found that clear linear explanations simply increase the learners confidence in their misconceptions. He argues that a bit of confusion causes learners to confront their incorrect theories and enables learners to explore complexity.

Muller's findings were initially surprising to me. Clear is better, right?

And yet I know that just because I explain something to a student (whether in speech, or written text), that information is not received as delivered. According to constructivist theories, information is not transmitted directly. Learning is a process of making sense and is filtered (mediated) through language, experience, culture - not to mention attention.

Muller addresses attention also. He found that when the instructional video's were described by learners as confusing, they paid closer attention. When the message seemed clearcut, learners paid less attention to what they were seeing and hearing.

While Muller's research deserves replication, it raises some great questions about all of the material and activities we offer students. Is there a sweet spot between easily accessible (where learning doesn't occur) and impenetrable (where learning doesn't occur), where enough complexity is offered to provoke learning?

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