I am using Duolingo (an app and an e-learning platform) to learn French. I noticed something that reinforced my thoughts about pedagogy (the art and practice of teaching). In French, you do not use the adjective behind the noun that the adjective is modifying. You use it in front of the noun. For example, the English phrase ‘the white flag’ becomes ‘le drapeau blanc’ where drapeau means flag and blanc means white. This then becomes a kind of rule and if one were to write text books or create instructional material, one would write this as a statement: In French, adjectives are used after the noun they modify unlike English where adjectives are used before the noun they modify. Then, one may give examples. But I think we are taking the learning from the learner by doing this. The statement that we wrote in our textbook should have been an inference that the learner makes after he comes across various such examples. And this is precisely what I mean when I say that it is time to put the cart behind the bullock.
It also occurred to my mind that our knowledge of concepts and facts progresses from something simple to more sophisticated and thus requires a ‘design’. We do not teach a second grade student that multiplication is repeated addition. We just ask him to memorise the tables. We also ask him to memorise the prime numbers and do not tell him that every number has a unique prime factorisation like the DNA in genes. Another example that I can relate here is the discovery of fire by humans. Though we are not still sure as to how human beings discovered fire, we can easily rule out that they came up with a chemical equation and found that oxygen is required for burning. They somehow found that some materials are combustible and that friction produces the required spark to kindle the fire. It was thousands of years later that we came up with the chemistry behind this process.
So, authors of text books and instructional material must somehow try to overcome the curse of knowledge. This is however easier said than done but some kind of consciousness about this curse can at least help us to reduce its impact on learning. I am also using another awesome e-learning platform Datacamp to master my data science skills and become a data scientist. Datacamp uses examples as a core of the learning experience. Videos, text, and hands-on coding are interspersed very smartly to provide a rich user experience. Sorry, I would rather use the phrase ‘a rich learning experience’!