The problem with patterns

People are good at spotting patterns.   The problem is that people also suck at statistics.

Both of these facts play a big part in a classroom.   As students learn new skills, it isn’t necessarily a student’s ability to follow instructions that allows them to learn but their ability to spot (and mimic) patterns.   Now this is great when the pattern they are copying is true or valid… but what happens when a student copies another student making a mistake.   Or happens to get a correct answer on accident?

Confirmation bias is the mother of all biases.   It is the reason why even trained scientists use double blind studies – in order to correct for confirmation bias on the behalf of the researchers.   (Incidentally, if you see a research study without a control group or a blind… question the hell out of that thing.)   And in a classroom it can be a blessing or a curse:   a good teacher can use it to their advantage in helping a student feel like they are making good progress, and can keep students working.   But it can also reenforce bad behaviors as well.

There is another problem with patterns when teaching.   Part of teaching is to grow the brains of our students… and once a certain pattern is established, then sometimes progress plateaus.   So periodically it pays to change your routine.   This can be as simple as doing simple routines in a different order, or adding some new elements to your classes.    I like increasing the complexity of the work and tasks for a class… but only once I’ve established their work habits.

Changing things up in a class will make students uncomfortable.   It will certainly break them out of a rut, and hopefully it will lead them into thinking critically.

Now go out there and shake things up.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.