Importance of struggling in learning

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One axis along which explainers seem to differ is their degree of belief in the importance of struggling in learning. Roughly speaking, the "two sides" are:

  • "Don't needlessly struggle" view: a good explanation should be easy to process, and be as intuitive as possible. Aim low [1].
  • "Struggling is important/essential for understanding" view: A good explanation should be effortful for the learner to process. It should e.g. present misconceptions and make the learner to "do the work".

The truth might be some sort of mixture. To optimize for struggle would be to e.g. put the learner in a psychologically stressful state, with little support, to deliberately confuse them, etc., which seems unhelpful. On the other hand, it isn't clear what a totally intuitive explanation would look like.

For learners, there is a temptation to search for the "clear explanations". And to some extent this makes sense because some explanations really are awful. But is there a danger in finding and learning from explanations that make a subject "too easy"/deceptively easy?

External links

  • Video that argues for the importance of struggling in learning physics
  • Abstraction, intuition, and the “monad tutorial fallacy”: "What I term the “monad tutorial fallacy,” then, consists in failing to recognize the critical role that struggling through fundamental details plays in the building of intuition. This, I suspect, is also one of the things that separates good teachers from poor ones. If you ever find yourself frustrated and astounded that someone else does not grasp a concept as easily and intuitively as you do, even after you clearly explain your intuition to them (“look, it’s really quite simple,” you say…) then you are suffering from the monad tutorial fallacy."
  • this post also discusses something similar (struggling with low-level ideas is important for building up to high-level ones)