Monday, 1 September 2014

Confusion is good for you.

"When we’re confused by something—say with a movie plot or calculus—we tend to feel uncomfortable, frustrated. But maybe we should embrace the confusion. Because a new study finds that confusion can lead to better learning."

This quote from Scientific America references an upcoming article in the journal learning and instruction. One of the most interesting findings of the study was that the group that received clear and precise instruction did worse than the group that was deliberately presented with confusing instructions. Even more interesting, the group that received clear and precise instructions estimated their own grasp of the subject higher than those who received confusing instructions. 

It also got a few of us talking about how the undergraduate course we did and now tutor/lecture in has changed. In the old days, when we did psychology/psychophysiology, statistics was a core subject. The principles and practice was presented over three years and an advanced statistical methods subject was presented in the Honours year. Now it seems that statistics is an elective.
Statistics is confusing. That's a given, and no-one enjoys being confused. Could it be that statistics is being removed from the undergraduate because it wasn't appealing to those going into first year? 

A friend and I were doing a coursera course on fMRI analysis. He suggested to me that I should try answering the quizzes before listening to the tutorial. Madness to my perfectionist self who is threatened by failure in any form! But this works really well on coursera where you get unlimited (or at least multiple) retries to complete the quizzes.