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Use misconceptions to increase learning.

by MonkeyMyshkin

“But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night,” is the tagline of some of my favorite commercials. In them, an average Joe solves complex physic equations or some other highly specialized task and states the causal force: staying at a Holiday Inn Express. If any student or professional asserted expertise was acquired so passively, I am sure incredulity would be the most positive of my responses.

In a similar fashion, many students assert higher levels of learning than what they achieve. Along with many of you, I can attest that when students self-assess their learning, they claim mastery and then promptly score far below that threshold on assessments. Social sciences have several terms for our universal tendency to do this: the Dunning-Kruger effect, overconfidence effect, or the superiority illusion.

A video I watched several years ago fascinated me for the way a research team began using these effects to increase learning. They manipulated the presentation of information by starting instruction with misconceptions thereby opening the students to correct learning. This video explains:

Khan Academy and the Effectiveness of Science Videos

While the research and conclusions presented here focus on videos (most often used in flipped/blended/personalized learning), I firmly believe starting lectures with misconceptions would also open up the minds of students. In reflecting on the RJWay alongside Marzano’s Elements, I believe such work in my instruction will help my personal goal this year of examining error in reasoning.