prior knowledge

Being a Novice Again

I’ve been completely humbled in the past few months as I’ve taken on a new set of responsibilities, responsibilities for which I have essentially no background. It’s like being a first-year student again. I’ve got a “course” in insurance—not just health and life but

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Having Knowledge Is Not the Same as Using It

One of the strongest predictors of how easily and well a person will learn a topic is their prior knowledge about it. The more one already knows, the easier it is to learn more. Because of this fact, students often struggle more with introductory courses,

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Vintage engraving showing the Seasons of the Earth, 1891

When What We Think We Know Prevents Learning

If you’ve got 20 minutes, I’ve got a video that will change the way you think about teaching. It’s aimed at K–12 educators, was released in 1987, and explores basic concepts in astrophysics. But don’t let any of that deter you. The topic is timeless

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Knowing What Students Don’t Know

It’s easy to get focused on how much students don’t know. We all have stories—such as my student who, when I said “paradigms,” heard “pair of dimes”—that we laughingly share with colleagues. Much more serious is the absence of all sorts of essential information and

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