Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Contrasting self-directed learning with being taught

One of the key advantages of being taught is that the teacher holds back the overwhelming weight of information, allowing through a only trickle that the student can usefully digest.

A problem with students learning how to learn in a taught environment, is that the learning methods that they learn are oriented towards being taught, and hence they are ill-prepared for self-directed learning, with its inevitable interaction with overwhelming volume.

The problem of volume can also be thought of a question hydra (of greek myth and legend). As a hydra sprouts two new heads for each cut off, a question sprouts two (or often more) question with every answer. Teachers act like Iolaus and his torch, closing down these questions with statements like "that's a good question, but we'll cover that next week" or "that's a good question, but you don't really need to understand that in order to understand this, so let's not get distracted".

Another way of thinking about this problem is dependencies. Teachers help us start in a place with the fewest dependencies, and to build these up in a logical order.

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