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March 12, 2013

The Mystification/Revelation Method of Teaching

This is just something I've been noticing from learning French. I have no idea if there is such a thing as Frustration/Revelation, or if they've done Studies to see if there's anything to it, or if this is actually a newish idea.

But I think it's something worth looking into, if it hasn't already been looked into.

The Frustration/Revelation model comes from my own experience. I learn something best when I am initially subject to intense frustration -- or maybe Mystifcation -- over something. What I'm suggesting is that Emotion can play a role in learning.

If you frustrate someone, and Mystify them, and and just bother them with something they cannot understand, they now have emotional skin in the game. They feel dumb, and don't want to feel dumb. Not understanding bothers them.

And then when you Reveal it All to them, they have another Emotional reaction: They feel great. They have gone from being perplexed and feeling that things are Beyond Their Understanding to having a feeling of Being in Charge and now understanding the thing that baffled them.

And they remember, because this wasn't just some dry logic-only exercise, now this was something that activated your Competition/Anger parts of your brain, so the actual learning now becomes an emotional relief.

I mention this because I could almost see Whole Word teaching being a useful part of a lesson, frustrating kids with this "Guessing Game" nonsense, and then, when they are frustrated, supply to them the keys that will release them from ignorance: w sounds like whuh, a sounds like ah, t sounds like teh, until you reveal the Mystery Word is Water, and furthermore, now you've given the formerly-frustrated kids empowering tools to dispel future frustrations.

Our Brains Work Like This: In movies, there's a thing called "Exposition," telling the audience important information that's needed to understand the story going forward.

It's often dry and people tend to hate it.

One way screenwriters make exposition more interesting is by having characters not immediately offer it to the audience, who will be bored with it. Instead, they set things up to provoke a question in the audience's mind -- "Wait, why is this happening?" -- and then, the audience now actively engaged in interrogating the movie, they now have Mr. Exposition answer the question the audience was actually (mildly) interested in.

So they've moved from a dry recitation of the facts-- snoozer -- to injecting a minor mystery, thus increasing audience interest, and then solving that mystery for the audience.

This is done a lot, certainly. Most math teachers will start a lesson with a tough problem and invite students to solve it. They can't. Then they proceed to solving it.

I don't know if this is a central part of pedagogy, but I'd like to see a study to see if it should be a very central part of it.

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posted by Ace at 05:31 PM

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