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GoC
2009-09-28, 10:37 AM
Guessing the teachers password (http://lesswrong.com/lw/iq/guessing_the_teachers_password/)

Solutions?

cycoris
2009-09-28, 10:58 AM
Um, let school go to hell in a handbasket?

It's an ineffective system anyway, at least for the most part. Occasionally you get a teacher that manages to help you learn something despite of it, but on the whole, my feeling is that going to school saps the creativity and curiosity out of a person by age 8.

I think the only way to really solve the problem would be to design a whole new system, one not so much based on 'teaching' and 'learning', but on facilitating understanding, since so much so-called 'learning' happens without the student understanding the subject.

Arang
2009-09-28, 11:05 AM
I ... don't see how this is a problem. Is he saying that every time teachers asked how fusion works, students should reproduce the conditions on the sun? Is he railing against pointless and superficial questions? This article doesn't reveal some stunning insight into whether or why the modern educational system is pointless.

Astrella
2009-09-28, 11:11 AM
It's more about how the teaching system according to him is more about giving the right answers, rather than understanding, determining the answer yourself.

Telonius
2009-09-28, 11:12 AM
Solution: teacher should actually have an understanding of the subject they're paid for teaching (have the qualifications for their job), give thorough explanations of what "waves" means to a physicist (do what we're paying them to do), and ask the student to explain further whenever giving a one-word answer (best practices)*. If you do this, more often than not you won't have to "teach to the test" or do useless rote memorization, since the kid will have a good understanding of what they're supposed to know. Then, "made of waves" will actually mean something when the kid writes it down on the test, and the test will be measuring what it's supposed to be measuring.

* I had the good fortune to have had teachers throughout my education that were not satisfied with just rattling off answers. The teacher wouldn't mark "correct" answers wrong, but gold stars were reserved for the kids who could explain further.

GoC
2009-09-28, 12:16 PM
I ... don't see how this is a problem. Is he saying that every time teachers asked how fusion works, students should reproduce the conditions on the sun? Is he railing against pointless and superficial questions? This article doesn't reveal some stunning insight into whether or why the modern educational system is pointless.
I originally typed up an explanation here but now I'll just say you need to read some of the links in the article.

cycoris
2009-09-28, 12:23 PM
Solution: teacher should actually have an understanding of the subject they're paid for teaching (have the qualifications for their job), give thorough explanations of what "waves" means to a physicist (do what we're paying them to do), and ask the student to explain further whenever giving a one-word answer (best practices)*. If you do this, more often than not you won't have to "teach to the test" or do useless rote memorization, since the kid will have a good understanding of what they're supposed to know. Then, "made of waves" will actually mean something when the kid writes it down on the test, and the test will be measuring what it's supposed to be measuring.

* I had the good fortune to have had teachers throughout my education that were not satisfied with just rattling off answers. The teacher wouldn't mark "correct" answers wrong, but gold stars were reserved for the kids who could explain further.

I (politely) disagree.

In my experience, even if the teacher knows the subject inside and out, the way that our school system is set up (class size, the giving of grades &c.) is not conducive to communicating that understanding to every student in the class.

For example, when learning is grade-based, for many students they lose all incentive to actually understand the material, and rather they do all the things that they know will help them get an 'A' in the class, which may or may not coincide with actually learning.

The same principle applies to teachers. Since often they are required or at least expected to grade on a curve, they devise tests that will give them the grade results they need rather than test the student's understanding of the material.

Emperor Ing
2009-09-28, 12:30 PM
Correct me if i'm wrong but what I THINK you're trying to say is that, figuratively, students know 2 + 2 = 4 without knowing that if there was an additional pair of cookies in their lunch they'd have 4 cookies.

GoC
2009-09-28, 12:43 PM
Correct me if i'm wrong but what I THINK you're trying to say is that, figuratively, students know 2 + 2 = 4 without knowing that if there was an additional pair of cookies in their lunch they'd have 4 cookies.

Yep. The Heat Conduction example rings true* (by talking to other students at uni this appears to be how 90% of high-schoolers and most uni students "learn") and is the perfect demonstration.

* Chances are that if you can't see what the student giving that answer did wrong then you "learnt" it the same way he did.

Telonius
2009-09-28, 01:16 PM
I (politely) disagree.

In my experience, even if the teacher knows the subject inside and out, the way that our school system is set up (class size, the giving of grades &c.) is not conducive to communicating that understanding to every student in the class.

For example, when learning is grade-based, for many students they lose all incentive to actually understand the material, and rather they do all the things that they know will help them get an 'A' in the class, which may or may not coincide with actually learning.

The same principle applies to teachers. Since often they are required or at least expected to grade on a curve, they devise tests that will give them the grade results they need rather than test the student's understanding of the material.

But if the class is set up in such a way that you can only get an A by actually learning the material ...? Most of my assignments and tests had questions that were designed specifically to determine if the kid had actually learned the material.

I know that my education wasn't the norm, since it was in private schools throughout. (Catholic schools specifically - and they were really cheap in my city, so it wasn't as social-class-specific or expectation-skewed as you might think). Our classes were usually about 20 students or less, divided by honors, regulars, and (by Junior and Senior years) Advanced Placement. AP courses had no bearance whatsoever to the national AP test. But nearly every college in about a 150-mile radius accepted our AP credits as though they were for-real college credits. (If I'd gone to my second-choice college instead of Georgetown, I'd have had my BS in 2 years). AP courses had very stringent grade guidelines; if you didn't do well enough, you'd get bumped back down to honor and miss out on the credits.

There was never any talk of grading on a curve. You got the grade you got, and that was that. If you really understood the materials, you earned an A. If half the class did, then good for them and good for the teacher. If nobody did, then tough. Nobody got an A. (This was particularly common in Calculus and Theology). The teachers did get reviewed every once in awhile to make sure they weren't softballing the tests. But doing it that way meant that the grade was actually measuring how much was learned, rather than how smart you are relative to the rest of your class.

If you pursue it that way, there's a much better incentive for the students to learn. If you're in class, and you know you're not almost the top student, and you also know you're graded on a curve, what incentive do you have to really master the subject? You'll never be able to beat the two or three nerds who are always up there, so you'll be bumped down on an artificially-produced curve. You really won't ever get an A, no matter how hard you try. The only students who have incentive to work harder are the ones near the border between percentiles. But if the possibility of ultimate success really is there for everybody, it can squeeze a bit more learning out of everybody. It's not foolproof, but (imo) it's a better way of doing things.

Tharivol123
2009-09-28, 02:06 PM
The school I went to and classes I had (an yes it was a public school) were exactly like what the author says he wants to see. You only got partial credit if you gave "the answer," if you wanted full credit you had to show not only an understanding of the underlying concepts but also your own thought process throughout. While reading it I was constantly tempted to write to the author and point out a flaw in the repeated phrase "light is a wave" since it isn't just a wave, but also particles.

History was much the same way. If the question "What caused the fall of the Roman Empire?" appeared on the test and you only got partial credit if you explained the immediate, direct causes and when they happened. For full credit, you needed to go further back to the events that caused the more immediate causes, how they were connected, etc...

I do believe that this style is a better set-up for life and college than the rote memorization that many schools seem to do. The majority of the people in my constitutional law class learned by this method and after the first test, where we were giver a hypothetical supreme court case and had to come up with our own ruling based on cases we had read, the majority of the class was failing. It was really enlightening watching a large number of people in their early 20s trying to relearn something as basic as learning. I started tutoring four or five people through a method I called "the argument method" to get them thinking in that style. As the semester went on, they contributed more to the in class discussions/debates and their grades improved dramatically.

Evrine
2009-09-28, 03:09 PM
problem-based learning (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem-based_learning) is a step in the right direction. It's not without its criticisms or faults, but what it brings to the table above and beyond most lecture based classes is active student participation, student-directed learning, and a mix of theoretical and applied knowledge.

What PBL does most is attempt to teach how to learn, not what to learn. It was first used in medical schools to good effect and has since been applied to a lot of different fields. I first came across it in a class on physiological psychology.

Based on my experiences of PBL as student, peer tutor, and even researcher (I was part of some low-level efficacy studies along with one of my professor's), the largest problem with PBL is that most students going into it aren't used to the freedom and responsibility to direct their own learning because they've spent most of the academic career being told what to learn.

Lupy
2009-09-28, 03:52 PM
And here I thought we were actually getting your teacher's password to something... </excitement>

That aside, I think that grading is necessary to give students a goal. It's not a perfect system, but with so many diverse learning methods out there it's impossible to teach everyone in a class, but teachers still have to try.

drakir_nosslin
2009-09-28, 03:57 PM
I don't really agree with the author of the text. As another suggests in the comments, you start with learning how something behaves and later, you're taught why it is like that.

Why teaching is designed like this isn't really that hard to understand. First, it is easier to understand the why if you already know the how instead of the other way around, that's how I see it anyway. Second, not everyone needs to know more than a little thermodynamics.

However, this does not mean that this kind of education should continue all the way until college, but, in my country, it doesn't so it's not really a problem.

I've known for a long time that there are more Real Numbers than Natural Numbers, but never really known how you prove it, or why it is so. I learnt it last week, after 13 years in school, but I've used both Real and Natural numbers for at least 4 of those years, and accepted that there are more of one than the other, despite both being infinite.

Jack Squat
2009-09-28, 04:10 PM
By the name of the link, I was thinking you were wanting us to try and help guess a teacher's password on their computer.

...good times.

As to the actual article, I somewhat agree. Plenty of my teachers didn't care to explain how something was the right answer, but rather that it was. I know many people who just get by through memorizing things without caring how they apply. Since I'm crap at memorizing, I have to actually understand the material, which makes things far more rewarding IMO.

Green Bean
2009-09-28, 04:17 PM
I've got to agree with Tharivol123. Whenever we got evaluated on anything, we were expected to be able to explain the hows and whys behind it. Admittedly, I'm not in high school any more, but I don't think it's changed that much in three years. If I got a test that asked "What's light made of" and I answered "waves", I would've failed, plain and simple.

Honestly, the only time I've seen a question like the example the author was using was to check to see if the class was awake. Or to see if anyone already knew the answer before he/she explained it. The article just seems like another one of those "we need to give students practical examples they can see with their own eyes", except with an odd bit of nonsense about word definitions.

GoC
2009-09-28, 04:20 PM
The school I went to and classes I had (an yes it was a public school) were exactly like what the author says he wants to see. You only got partial credit if you gave "the answer," if you wanted full credit you had to show not only an understanding of the underlying concepts but also your own thought process throughout. While reading it I was constantly tempted to write to the author and point out a flaw in the repeated phrase "light is a wave" since it isn't just a wave, but also particles.
Hah. That's the theory. But in practise all this did was make the passwords more sophisticated. Due a lot to the tendency to reuse questions with only minor modifications.

bosssmiley
2009-09-28, 04:20 PM
OP's link goes to the problem of education being what Cohen, Pratchett and Stewart call 'useful lies to children'. Conceptually some ideas are so outlandish and beyond everyday experience that they can only take root if the mind has been primed for them beforehand by these useful lies. ("I'm looking at you physics!")

This is why, at each stage of my education, I had to have the "Yes. Kind of. In a way that's entirely wrong..." conversation over again with science teachers. They teach you to examine and question the shibboleths of the previous level of your education. :smallamused:

GoC
2009-09-28, 04:35 PM
I don't really agree with the author of the text. As another suggests in the comments, you start with learning how something behaves and later, you're taught why it is like that.
Hmm...
It appears you're misunderstanding what he's saying (iow: you completely missed the point). It had nothing to do with whys and hows. It had to do with the fact that the students are not correctly considering the real world implications of a theory and guessing by throwing out words. According to every source I have, students are taught how to do this guessing.
Things such as Heat Conduction lead to a certain set of real world predictions. These predictions are opposed to the data the students are shown but Heat Conduction is still given as an explanation!

Just to make it clear: The link has nothing to do with Lies to Children!

Perhaps it might be useful to read the links in that article to get some background.

Another note: The article isn't even really about schooling. that was simply a convenient example to use.

Solaris
2009-09-28, 05:00 PM
As to the actual article, I somewhat agree. Plenty of my teachers didn't care to explain how something was the right answer, but rather that it was. I know many people who just get by through memorizing things without caring how they apply. Since I'm crap at memorizing, I have to actually understand the material, which makes things far more rewarding IMO.

I coasted on an eiditic memory (thank you, Army, for taking care of that little perk frikkum frakkum grumble grumble). Didn't help out so well in the real world where you gotta actually be able to draw a new conclusion from data without having been told the answers previously.

I've determined that our current mechanism of college-obsessed preparation is inherently flawed, as most people simply shouldn't be going to college. I mean, what's better? Memorizing trivia and tables, or earning the experience working from apprentice up? My father started out engineering by working his way up from sweeping the shop floor while going to classes. Most of the people he works with just got degrees. They're the engineers responsible for you having to disassemble half your engine to get to the part that breaks down most often.

I detected something deeply wrong with the educational system when I put "USSR" for a question and the teacher marked it wrong, correcting it to "Soviet Union".
... Yeah.

snoopy13a
2009-09-28, 05:06 PM
School is a giant test to accomplish two things:

1) Proving that you aren't extremely lazy. Having a high school diploma doesn't open too many doors but not having one severely limits your job opportunities. Essentially, not having a degree tells an employer that you are lazy. If you can't graduate high school, how can they expect you to show up at work every day?

2) Your grades and test scores determine what college you get into.

Solaris
2009-09-28, 05:08 PM
Pretty much, but it should throw in an education somewhere.

Mr. Mud
2009-09-28, 08:42 PM
Goc: Are you implying that knowing the real world application of the material, opposed to what the teacher 'teaches', regardless of whether the answer warrants a gold star, is better than knowing what the teachers wants you to know, and getting the gold star?

What is education, besides a test of intellect/effort/willpower/cognitive ability, that lets one get to where he/she wants to be? If getting the gold start with the flawed answers gets you onto the path you want to be on, and you can successfully do whatever it is you want to do, why is it a problem?

EDIT: Sorry if I log off before I formulate a proper response to any replies to the above message. 's getting late :smallbiggrin:.

Shas aia Toriia
2009-09-28, 09:11 PM
The thing that bugs me about many people's responces in this thread, is that you say you had to learn and understand everything - no you didn't.
Of course saying "waves" won't get you marks. That's an answer that you can guess at and get right.

What the teacher wants you to do is fully memorize what they say. If the teacher says "light is waves because wood is made of plastic", than that's what you have to write on a test. You don't need to know why or how wood is made of plastic, just that it is.
They trick you into believing you understand the material, but you don't.
All they're doing is making more complex passwords.

Did that make sense? (I'm tired, so I'm not sure that my message was clear)

Dracomorph
2009-09-29, 12:07 AM
@^ I think I see what you're saying, but I heartily disagree. I think it's perfectly possible to understand a theory, and its mechanisms, in great depth, and still fail to see how it applies to the workings of the world. Learning how thermodynamics work, or the nature of light, even if you fully understand them, doesn't guarantee you will think of how to apply them.

I think the idea behind the article is that we should be emphasizing application rather than theory when we educate children, which is an interesting point, if not necessarily one I agree with. I think that children should be exposed to theory and practice both, so that they are accustomed to shaping their minds around new concepts as well as investigating the implications of those ideas.

Berserk Monk
2009-09-29, 12:21 AM
Guessing the teachers password (http://lesswrong.com/lw/iq/guessing_the_teachers_password/)

Solutions?

Kidnap you teachers and force them to tell you their passwords.

Tharivol123
2009-09-29, 01:44 AM
See, the way most of my high school classes were taught and graded if you got the question "Is light a wave or particle?" it would be worth 5 points. 1 point for saying both, and 1 point each for explaining why it is a particle and why it is a wave, and 2 points for defining what waves and particles are in your explanation.

This was almost 10 years ago (feels old momentarily) and while I know some schools may have changed, mine has only had one teacher retire and another one quit in that time, so I don't think mine has changed dramatically.

The problem with the way the author wants to teach, and it is also a problem in problem based learning, is that the students would already need to have an understanding of the topic being discussed. Trying to explain to a group of students what the definition of a wave is, according to physicists, is going to result in a lot of confusion and make it useless to most of the students that aren't going into physics for a career.

My main beef with high schools is the lack of class options. My senior year was filled with one government class (the only one offered in the whole school), Chem 2, Calculus, Physics, Computer Science (intro. to C+ programming...CS1 was a year of pascal), debate, and band. Most of the college bound seniors had a similar schedule, with some replacing band and CS2 for College prep English 2 or Biology 2.

The common thread for all of us, though, was the complete lack of social sciences. One history class a year, except for senior year, one government class (mandatory in senior year), one psychology class, and one sociology class. Unless you were going to college to study a natural science, you had no preparation in our high school. This meant most of us went to college for physics, math, engineering, etc.. and ended up either dropping out or spending two years jumping majors until they found something they liked but had no knowledge of. Unfortunately, it has only gotten worse, since most schools are focusing on math and science even more, letting social sciences, language, and arts fall to the wayside.

GoC
2009-09-29, 07:18 AM
I think the idea behind the article is that we should be emphasizing application rather than theory when we educate children, which is an interesting point, if not necessarily one I agree with.
I think it might be a good idea to read the articles on belief by the same author.

In fact it seems I greatly overestimated the level of background knowledge of the posters here. Though why I assumed you also read articles on rationality greatly confuses me.:smallconfused:


The problem with the way the author wants to teach, and it is also a problem in problem based learning, is that the students would already need to have an understanding of the topic being discussed. Trying to explain to a group of students what the definition of a wave is, according to physicists, is going to result in a lot of confusion and make it useless to most of the students that aren't going into physics for a career.
Don't explain the definition of a wave, explain what it means for something to be a wave.
If something were a wave instead of a particle what physical phenomena would you expect to see in the world?

Yarram
2009-09-29, 09:11 AM
I don't really agree with the author of the text. As another suggests in the comments, you start with learning how something behaves and later, you're taught why it is like that.

Why teaching is designed like this isn't really that hard to understand. First, it is easier to understand the why if you already know the how instead of the other way around, that's how I see it anyway. Second, not everyone needs to know more than a little thermodynamics.

However, this does not mean that this kind of education should continue all the way until college, but, in my country, it doesn't so it's not really a problem.

I've known for a long time that there are more Real Numbers than Natural Numbers, but never really known how you prove it, or why it is so. I learnt it last week, after 13 years in school, but I've used both Real and Natural numbers for at least 4 of those years, and accepted that there are more of one than the other, despite both being infinite.

I both agree and disagree with you. Education definitely needs to teach us how things work before why they do, but we actually need to be taught why they work eventually, but that is what the author is trying to say. Your example shows this happening, but it's ridiculous to expect a student to base knowledge that they have off taught preconceptions without any proof.
We shouldn't have to believe in a subject, but rather understand exactly how it works.

Expanding the essay writers point:
I found it really ironic that a year after I finished kindergarten, (first year of school) the education method changed for teaching people to read, in that they stopped teaching individual letters significance and instead taught how to read by piecing together clumps of letters, so rather than learning, say salmon as "s" "a" 'l' "m" "o" "n" and being taught that the 'l' was silent, they learned "sa"-"mon."
What is ironic about this, is in my experience (which is likely circumstantial, but is still my experience so holds personal value) the years below my own have a much lower standard than ours does, and I believe (but could be wrong) that this change in method from the total logical dissecting method of reading to learning to read in "clumps" has been a direct contributer on this.
I could be wrong though. I've been known to be wrong before, and likely will be in the future, so don't quote me on this.

EDIT:


I think the idea behind the article is that we should be emphasizing application rather than theory when we educate children, which is an interesting point, if not necessarily one I agree with. I think that children should be exposed to theory and practice both, so that they are accustomed to shaping their minds around new concepts as well as investigating the implications of those ideas.
I didn't get this at all I'm sorry. I found the article to be emphasising that theory is being incorrectly taught, because it isn't expanded upon enough currently, rather focusing on giving an explanation of why, for example water doesn't fall through solid objects, rather than explain that the water molecules collide with those in the bowl, stopping their movement towards a center of gravity, they give the whole process the tag, "surface tension" or something like that, and when they test you on said subject, they aren't looking for an explanation of how surface tension works, but instead want students to regurgitate the meaningless word.

GoC
2009-09-29, 09:59 AM
Just so everyone knows: The idea behind the article has nothing to do with schooling. It was simply a good example that has it's own (considerable) merits.

Dracomorph
2009-09-29, 02:35 PM
But the article itself has everything to do with schooling. Just because it is using it as an example of a larger problem does not mean that the relevance and accuracy of the example is an invalid subject.

@GoC, Yarram; I suppose I misunderstood what exactly he was complaining about. It just seemed silly to me to complain that a word is used to label a phenomenon, which was how I read it initially, so I assumed he was saying something more valid. Looking over the article again, it seems he's more on about failures to understand what such labels actually refer to, which is much more relevant.

Devils_Advocate
2009-09-30, 05:44 PM
I think it might be a good idea to read the articles on belief by the same author.

In fact it seems I greatly overestimated the level of background knowledge of the posters here. Though why I assumed you also read articles on rationality greatly confuses me.:smallconfused:
Because assuming that people know what you're talking about is another mistake that people make by default (http://lesswrong.com/lw/ke/illusion_of_transparency_why_no_one_understands/).

We seem naturally inclined to think that if something is obvious to us, it will be obvious to someone else. And I reckon that that's a good generalization. We just sort of suck at recognizing exceptions. Which is bad, because there are a surprising number of exceptions, which should be obvious in retrospect.