Impact of Prior Knowledge on Teaching

In our GRAD 602 class last week, we spent some time surfacing our students’ beliefs about learning.  As Laura noted in her blog, we “dabbled in the classic ‘See one, do one, teach one.'” From there, we then discussed some of the work of John Bransford on How People Learn, as well as the opening of John Medina‘s presentation on Brain Rules.  Lastly, we showed a section of the documentary A Private Universe, which asked recent Harvard graduates to explain the reason for the seasons.  Twenty-one out of twenty-three incorrectly stated (with conviction) that the reason for the seasons was due to the earth being closer or further from the sun, rather than the tilt of the axis and direct versus indirect sunlight.  The documentary pointed out the strong impact of prior knowledge driven by exaggerated pictures in elementary school textbooks of the earth revolving around the sun in an ellipse rather than a circular orbit.

Orbit Drawing

It was obvious as time ran out that we had made our students uncomfortable.  We hope to move this Thursday into some of the reasons for that discomfort, but it gave us a starting point for this week’s podcast:

{Graphic from ProProfs Flashcards}


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2 thoughts on “Impact of Prior Knowledge on Teaching

  1. I think it is a shame they are uncomfortable, in college. I have no problem highlighting misconceptions and making people somewhat uncomfortable, but the appropriate time to do that in this instance was right before/after this concept was taught in elem/middle school!

  2. So what happened? What did the students in Grad 502 decide about how to balance content delivery and closing the gaps of knowledge? This is probably a topic that is ongoing, that’s for sure.

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