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Teaching ASL: "The curse of knowledge"

Good instructors need to be aware of and avoid something called "the curse of knowledge."

Experts (or so called) tend to (mistakenly) assume "it is obvious that" ... [insert knowledge here] ... so it is not worth mentioning [to the student].

Then we wonder why our students aren't "getting it."

Some instructors (amazingly) after many years of teaching -- have avoided the "curse."  They remember what it is like to be a beginner.

I like to think that I'm one of the ones who have avoided the curse but then I come across some of my early (in my career) lesson plans and activities and think, "Gee, those really covered the basics -- I don't teach like that any more.  I just jump right into..."

Then it hits me.  I'm cursed.

-- Dr. Bill Vicars
(October, 2016)



Differences in "life experiences" impact the usefulness of teaching metaphors and analogies.

Providing examples and memory aids to students is only useful if the students can actually relate to and/or understand the example.

The "curse of knowledge" in instruction is when an instructor knows something and assumes that the students know it too (yet the students do not). This difference in knowledge curses the instruction by wasting the student's time on an example or memory aid from which the student can't actually benefit.

For example:

Around the 18:13 minute mark of my Lesson 01 video with my assistant "Jen" I provide a memory aid to help her learn the sign "WHERE." I ask Jen to imagine a map and the act of moving her finger around on the map to see "where" she is. (This movement looks somewhat as if you are doing the sign WHERE.)

Later I reflected on the fact that it is quite possible (even probable) that Jen has never touched a paper-based map.

In her life-experience maps have "always" been online.

My point here is simply that just because something seems "obvious" to you due to your life experiences -- the same thing may not be obvious to someone else.


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