The Problem with Contextualization: Why Students Can’t Apply What They’re Learning

problem with contextualization - students in classroom
Many instructors realize the value of teaching students fundamental concepts rather than focusing on details. A certain number of basic facts may have to be memorized, but beyond that it is generally more important to have students learn how to apply those facts to solve problems. A considerable amount of research suggests that active learning is an effective way for students to understand and retain information. Accordingly, I like to illustrate a concept and then have the students work with that principle through group problem-solving, subsequently answering a series of questions to demonstrate that they understand how to apply facts to solve a particular problem. This approach appears to work reasonably well, with one significant caveat—if I make a relatively minor change in the group problem, many of the students cannot apply what they just learned. Why not? One reason is that the context is critical. Even though the problem might be similar to the one they just solved, if the context changes, students do not realize that what they have already learned still applies.

To continue reading, you must be a Teaching Professor Subscriber. Please log in or sign up for full access.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Articles

I have two loves: teaching and learning. Although I love them for different reasons, I’ve been passionate about...
Whether you love it or hate it, online higher education is here to stay. In the 2022–2023 academic...
When educators talk about AI, they seem to fall into one of two camps: one that is vehemently...
Many students struggle with their education due to poor study skills. They wait until the last minute to...
On July 20, 2007, millions of people around the world were filled with a mix of anticipation and...
Most professional program curricula focus on the required specialized knowledge and skills to meet the profession’s needs. Yet...
There are now AI resources to help instructors through all steps of lesson development, from crafting lesson outlines...

Are you signed up for free weekly Teaching Professor updates?

You'll get notified of the newest articles.

The Teaching Professor Conference 2024

June 7-9, 2024 • New Orleans

Connect with Fellow Educators at The Teaching Professor Conference!