Monday, August 27, 2012

Learning the Hard Way

Sometimes it doesn't matter how many times you tell someone that a surface is hot. They're just going to have to touch it.

In my first math lesson with my new classes this week, I noticed a trend in my first couple of classes. As they worked on their homework near the end of class, several of them got to a particular problem and didn't know what to do. It had three different variables and they were supposed to evaluate it.

Without exception, those who asked had neglected to read the instructions, where it gave a value for each variable.

I figured I'd save myself a little trouble and warn my remaining class periods. A part of the lesson had the exact same type of problem, so when we got to that, I mentioned the issue. I told them that other students got to those problems in the homework and didn't know what to do because they didn't read the directions.

Later, we get to homework time. I walk around the room, helping students when they get stuck.

Invariably, more than one raises their hand. "I don't know what to do here."

I point to a line in their textbook. "Did you see this?"

"No, I—oh! You totally warned us and I did it anyway!"

They felt like idiots. I assured them they weren't the only one to do it, and made a little joke about how they'd never forget to read directions again, right?

I already know there's only so much they can absorb at one time, and which parts stick depends on their own priorities.

Live and learn, kiddos.


Literaticat said...

The bookstore inventory/point-of-sale computer system is very old-fashioned DOS and not intuitive for people who are used to windows-type computers. There are lots of weirdnesses about it, lots of commands to remember etc. HOWEVER... if you are actually relaxed and paying attention to what the computer wants you to do, it always gives you a prompt of some kind to move forward.

When training new people, there are ALWAYS points at which they just become frustrated, try doing what they've thought they remember without paying attention, then start mashing keys randomly or just balk and say they can't do it. But actually... they need to just find the flashing box and see what the computer is asking it to do - generally commands written in plain english (like "enter ISBN or title:" type thing.) - but you can't see it if you are mashing keys or not looking.

I think part of it is adrenaline - test-taking, learning on a new job, querying etc are all sort of high-pressure situations that make ordinarily sane people short a brain circuit.

R.C. Lewis said...

After a second set of incidents, a few of my students are picking up on the pattern. "Always read the instructions!" :)

E.B. Black said...

One of my teachers stressed reading through, quickly, your entire test before taking any of it, so you had an overall understanding of what you would be doing. None of us listened to him and he wrote on the test at the end,"Raise your hand and get an extra 10% added to your grade on your test if you see this within the first ten minutes of taking it." We all hated ourselves for not seeing that. He made us learn our lesson the hard way and I will never forget it, even though it happened a decade ago.