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  • Writer's pictureJulien Morizio

Confusion: The Gateway to Deeper Learning

*Originally written in May of 2020, during the response to the pandemic

As learning increasingly moves online, more and more teachers are making their course content remotely available for their students in clear, easy, and even entertaining ways. With a couple of clicks, students could visit virtual schools in the comfort of their own home.

While teachers' recent response and efforts - as well as those of parents at home supporting their children's learning - have been truly remarkable, there are a few things to keep in mind if we want to make sure students are getting the most from their remote learning. One of them is the necessity for confusion when learning something new.

Derek Muller, creator of the YouTube channel Veritasium, found that five things occur when you strive to make lessons as simple as possible: "One, students think they know it. Two, they don’t pay their utmost attention. Three, they don’t recognize that what was presented differs from what they were already thinking. Four, they don’t learn a thing. And five, perhaps most troublingly, they get more confident in the ideas they were thinking before."

So how do we prevent these undesirable effects? Well, welcoming a little confusion might help. As Steve Kolowich explains, “Confusing students on purpose is more like loading the elastic of a slingshot: It creates tension that can propel them into higher altitudes of understanding; pull too far, though, and the elastic will snap” (2014).

While schools are closed and students might be unable to explore, discuss, and solve problems together with their peers and teachers, enduring learning can still occur if teachers continue to do that little extra that gets their students thinking (e.g. incorporate real world problems, assign challenging exercises, ask students to develop their own strategies in mathematics, etc.)


Source: Kolowich, S. (2014, August 14). Confuse Students to Help Them Learn. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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