Adaptive teaching

Video games are a marvel, because they make us work hard even as they are addictive. They do this by keeping pace with the player’s skill level.

Good teaching follows the same principle. Effective learning doesn’t happen unless the pupil works hard. Perseverance isn’t easy and the teacher’s role is to enable the pupil to keep at it. Good teachers do this in a manner similar to a video game – by adapting the level of the instruction to the pupil’s skill level.

The first level is ‘Let me show you how this problem is solved.‘ The teacher starts off by giving the pupil explicit instructions to simple tasks. While starting off with a skill, even mere imitation is hard work and effortful. This keeps the student engaged while putting their anxiety to rest.

The next level is ‘Try solving this problem on your own. Here’s my solution‘. When the student is ready, the teacher nudges them to solve problems on their own. In the end, the teacher presents his own version of the solution so that students can compare and refine their efforts.

The final level is ‘These are problems worth solving‘. The teacher hands a student a list of problems that is likely to present an adequate challenge to them. The solution to these problems aren’t revealed – these problems usually don’t have a finite set of solutions.

The process of teaching is complete when students are ready to teach other students to seek and solve problems. And the cycle continues.

Suggested reading: Shu ha ri

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