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zedzed comments on Book Review: How Learning Works - Less Wrong

35 Post author: whales 19 January 2014 08:45PM

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Comment author: zedzed 20 January 2014 09:19:18AM *  2 points [-]

I'm assuming you're asking whether efforts to make better instructors would be successful, rather than whether better instructors are significantly good. (Broad consensus to the latter is in the affirmative.)

And to that question, I don't know, but I'm doubtful. I recall watching a Bill Gates talk where he cited some stats that basically said that, after 3 years (K-12) teachers stop improving. This could be more or less pronounced in college. Going one way, having higher competence (from having advanced degrees) might mean that professors are more open to the idea that they might not actually be any good at teaching what they understand so well, and are open to suggestions (something of an reverse Dunning-Kruger effect). Going the other way, their great expertise in their fields may make them less predisposed to non-experts in the field telling them what to do (ie. math professors not wanting their math instruction informed by impure scientists who don't know a lick of math.)

My experience with professors favors the latter. The overall attitude is very much something like "We're the top of the field and this is how we got there, so that's how you're going to get there." There are, of course, exceptions--one professor, who I know personally, thanked me for pointing him towards Anki--but overall, I'm pessimistic that taking steps to improve teaching quality will produce returns.

Of course, if we were a bit clever, we'd go up a level and figure out effective ways of making professors better instructors. That would have good returns.