gmusic@nurturingnatures.co.uk

In praise of confusion and uncertainty

A new study  [1] has found that being confused is an important part of learning. The work undertaken by Sidney D’Mello with colleagues at the University of Notre Dame discovered that by deliberately but carefully inducing confusion in a learning session about a complex  issue, people in fact learnt more effectively and were also then able to apply their knowledge to new problems.  For example subjects were introduced to debates about scientific matters such as whether a drug will or won’t be effective in certain conditions. They then were exposed to various views, some of which contradicted each other and the subjects had to decide which opinion had more scientific merit using incomplete and sometimes contradictory information. The subjects in whom such confusion was induced scored higher on a difficult post-test than a control group and could more successfully identify flaws in new case studies. “We have been investigating links between emotions and learning for almost a decade, and find that confusion can be beneficial to learning if appropriately regulated because it can cause learners to process the material more deeply in order to resolve their confusion,” D’Mello said.

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