Steps to knowledge


Step-by-step instructions: profit or waste?

How to encourage self-care skills in children? How to teach sales department to strike bargains? How to teach a person to perform some action? The answers seem quite clear. You just need to tell how to do it correctly, or, in other words, to give a step-by-step instruction. And the more detailed it is, the sooner your student will do the job. Therefore, the learning process will be more effective. So, is it right?

Receiving instructions, the human brain is processing information within 4-5 seconds. Than it gives a direction to perform appropriate action and proceeds to the next level. In this case the previous information is not retained in memory. Have you ever gone to a new place with a friend who knows the way and leads you? Would you be able to recollect the way tomorrow? We must say it would be very hard. But if you had to beat your own way through the streets, viewing a map or asking for a help, so you will surely remember this route for a long time. The secret is quite simple: your brain returns to the same information several times, analyses it, compares and only than – acts. Furthermore, if during a walk you lost your way, the next time you will surely reach the destination even at night.

Therefore, the issue of the appropriateness of ready-made solution is not so clear. It depends on goal you're pursuing on each certain case. If the main target is to bring user to any result, so the instruction is an excellent tool. But if you want to teach your student to realize and to correct mistakes, to act according to the situation, so you have to refuse to deal with a ready-made solutions.

In practice, learning is always pursuing multiple tasks at the same time. It means that optimum alternative is to combine ready-made solutions with constructive process. It can be done as follows:

  • To present theoretical materials and than illustrate it with a concrete examples. The other side of this approach is that at the first stage your student will not understand why he needs a theory, so his motivation to learn as his perception efficiency can be reduced.
  • To start with concrete examples to help user to formulate the rules. It's a good way to engage user in learning process, but you may also receive an improper conclusion.
  • To give all possible examples and solutions. The disadvantage of this approach is that to consider all possible outcomes is simply impossible.

Whichever option you choose, please remember: tasks should be relevant and connected with user's work. Moreover, it should be rather difficult to create a need to solve the problem and to get satisfaction from learning process.

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