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. There might even be a "valley of bad intuitiveness", where a small amount of intuitiveness is bad.

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?

From the "How to use" of Thinking Physics by Lewis Carroll Epstein: "Why torture yourself thinking? Why job? Why do push-ups? […] you can't really appreciate the solution until you first appreciate the problem." From "This book": "Let this book, then, be your guide to mental push-ups. Think carefully about the questions and their answers before you read the answers offered by the author. You will find many answers don't turn out as you first expect. Does this mean you have no sense for physics? Not at all. Most questions were deliberately chosen to illustrate those aspects of physics which seem contrary to casual surmise. Revising ideas, even in the privacy of your own mind, is not painless work."

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