Monday, March 20, 2017

The Curse of Knowledge - A Cognitive Bias.

One of my professor friends from a very reputed university was complaining that the quality of students is deteriorating year by year. Further asking, he replied that students, these days, do not pay attention to his lecture like they used to. Looking at his educational credentials and long experience, one can hardly argue about his subject knowledge. This makes me wonder what may be going wrong.

Here are my thoughts:
Being an educator for long, most of us are suffering from a cognitive bias, the curse of knowledge. In the classroom, we assume that students have enough background knowledge to understand the concept we are teaching. Forgetting that you may be an expert, but students are not. Classroom diversity in terms of background knowledge has been always a complex Phenomenon. It is very difficult, but desirable to achieve the delicate balance in your lecture where students who are completely unaware of the background of the topic (Clean Slate) have enough information to grasp the proceedings and the students who have a complete or intermediate background should not lose the interest.

When you are new to this profession, you always go an extra mile to achieve this balance, then gradually you start suffering from the curse of knowledge leading to a downward swing in classroom effectiveness.

Here are two questions, as an educator, one need to ask himself:
Do you still prepare and plan your lectures like you were doing when you were new to this profession? (Planning and preparing not in terms of knowing the topic, but planning of delivering it to the students)

Is your lecture has something for everyone in the class? (Each classroom has Beginners, intermediate and advanced students. Do you have enough ingredients to keep them engaged?)

If the answers to the above questions are in "Yes", then it will surely improve the students’ engagement and excel classroom learning experience.

I am not sure this will solve the problem of my learned professor friend, but it can help a lot of us for sure.