Grazing - a personal blog from Steve Ehrmann

Steve Ehrmann is an author, speaker, and consultant.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Questions: When good 'teaching' can defeat learning

What is it called when a student sits listening to lectures week after week, thinking, "Yes I understand." But suddenly, in a later lecture, homework assignment, project or test, the student realizes. "I'm completely lost!"  

Is there a name for the student's delusion of understanding? or for the sickening realization that it was indeed a delusion?  It's such a common phenomenon, but I don't know what to call it. 

Ironically, this phenomenon may be most common when the lecturer is "good" in a traditional way: crystal clear in explaining things, visibly caring about students, perhaps charismatic and riveting.  

There's another learning problem, also unnamed, that can afflict students of particularly good professors. I still have it often myself. The lecturer makes a provocative point, and I start thinking about it. A moment or two later I suddenly begin hearing the lecture again and, if I'm unlucky, am completely lost - for a few minutes and sometimes for the remainder of the talk. It happens to me all the time at conferences. I wonder how often it happens to students? Does it happen more often to good students who are really actively listening?   Is there anything a faculty member can do to give students the time needed to process what they've just heard before trying to cram more invaluable information and insight into their short term memories?  Please post a comment or send me an email.

1 comment:

  1. A well-timed clicker poll (1-2 questions) to review student comprehension before introducing new material could work well. It gives both instructor and students a chance to see if everyone "gets" it.. and for teacher especially, the ability to adjust delivery rate. Slow down, speed up, repeat, etc. Derek Bruff, author of Teaching with Classroom Response Systems, offers some suggestions in a summary post from a recent NERCOMP meeting on the topic of active learning and student response systems.