Do You Simplify or Do You Complicate?

As a teacher, I’ve developed the ability to tell whether or not I need to step up or step down explanations I’m giving according to the student’s level of understanding. It’s just part of the tool kit any good teacher needs to get a concept across to a student.

We are taught as teachers to break our lessons down to their simplest point and go from there. If the student understands what we define as a simple component, then we move up to a more complicated explanation. If they don’t, then we look for ways to simplify, to break the information down ever farther to help the student understand.

Simple information is easier to digest, and so we strive for it.

Thinking over my own experiences as a student, I realize that I had teachers who didn’t always understand that. They saw each teaching moment as a chunk of limited time where they had to share everything they knew or thought would be useful on a given topic, and disregarded the most important part of the teaching moment: the actual learning on the part of the student. Had they stopped and considered the two-way nature of teaching, perhaps their classes would have been more useful.

You never want to simplify so far that you’re insulting the student, but you never want to be so complicated that the student can only succeed by having a lot of prior knowledge on the topic.

Inspired by this post on Lifehacker

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