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Maybe I’m beating a dead horse, but…

January 19, 2012

Here is a question on my pre-class reading quiz: Describe something you found confusing or difficulty to understand from reading. What specifically about it are you having a hard time understanding?

A student writes, “I’m finding it difficult to make sense of any of the kinematic equations or why they work, and because I don’t know why they work it is very hard for me to think about using them to solve a problem unless the question has specific instructions to refer back to the list of equations.”

I know it, students know it, but this is still how we are expecting them to learn.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2012 8:16 pm


    This kind of recipe for problem solving makes me think about information processing models/computer models of mind. If the output from the student is not ideal, then either you (the instructor) wrote a faulty program or they (the students) are faulty “computers.” Instructors want to be so explicit so that they can say “I didn’t write a faulty program, so I’m not the one to blame. (The students are the problem – not me.)”

    I’ve definitely been guilty of this– I remember my first semester as a TA I wrote up some step-by-step instructions for free-body diagrams (“list all of the objects touching the mass… list all object that it rubs or rolls against… list any non-contact forces (gravity…)”). The students were so grateful, I felt so teacherly. I thought “if only someone had done this for me when I struggled with free-body diagrams!”

  2. January 19, 2012 11:26 pm

    I agree. Both to the Yikes and to the empathy you express for why someone might go about doing this.

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