The Learning Paradox

Source: Time, Apr 2012

The learning paradox is at the heart of “productive failure,” a phenomenon identified by Manu Kapur, a researcher at the Learning Sciences Lab at the National Institute of Education of Singapore.

… it’s better to let the neophytes wrestle with the material on their own for a while, refraining from giving them any assistance at the start.

The apparent struggles of the floundering group have what Kapur calls a “hidden efficacy”: they lead people to understand the deep structure of problems, not simply their correct solutions. When these students encounter a new problem of the same type on a test, they’re able to transfer the knowledge they’ve gathered more effectively than those who were the passive recipients of someone else’s expertise.

… we need to “design for productive failure” by building it into the learning process. Kapur has identified three conditions that promote this kind of beneficial struggle.

  • First, choose problems to work on that “challenge but do not frustrate.”
  • Second, provide learners with opportunities to explain and elaborate on what they’re doing.
  • Third, give learners the chance to compare and contrast good and bad solutions to the problems.
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