Don’t intervene

Bharat Anand, Jan Hammond, and V. G. Narayanan said:

a typical approach to intervention in online [university] courses was to amass larger numbers of TAs [teaching assistants], so that some “expert” was ready to intervene quickly on any question as it arose. One unintended consequence? “Soon, everyone expected the TA’s to answer questions. No one took it upon themselves to do so.”

“Trust the students,” we preach in our classrooms. It’s one of the hardest axioms to follow. The temptation for an expert, or a teacher, is to help at the first sign of confusion. But letting it simmer can aid learner discovery. Indeed, the power of collaboration comes when you trust the group so that they are strongly encouraged – forced, even – to resolve problems on their own. Let an expert intervene, and you could undermine collaboration itself.

via https://hbr.org/2015/04/what-harvard-business-school-has-learned-about-online-collaboration-from-hbx

One of the things I love about the Discovery school in Christchurch, New Zealand is that the educators there do a wonderful job of handing everything over to the students. Teachers don’t leap in to solve learning or logistical problems. Instead they say, ‘What do you think?’ and ‘What might be some ways of solving that?’ and then honoring the kids’ ideas and solutions. Over and over and over again…

As Alfie Kohn noted over twenty years ago, “the way a child learns how to make decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions.”

One Response to “Don’t intervene”

  1. The focus of a lecture is to transfer information, that’s it. We know that this is a poor way to run a traditional class, but we’re making the same mistake online. Use peer instruction, give the class over to the students. I’m always amazed when I do.

    Great post Scott, keep it up!

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