Wednesday, January 01, 2014

"Telling You the Answer Isn't The Answer"

I made a blog post earlier on why it is not advisable to help anyone who simply claimed that he/she doesn't know where to start, at least not in the sense of giving the person the starting point without first figuring out where the problem lies.

In a related blog post, Dr. Allain Rhett wrote about why Telling You the Answer Isn’t the Answer. Here, he clearly described the process of learning, at least in science, and why simply giving you a set of information does not make you understand anything. In fact, the process and the struggle of trying to learn something IS, in fact, the necessary part of learning and understanding. Note also that the exercise he gave was quite similar to how I want to revamp the undergraduate intro physics lab, whereby the students are really not told on how to do things, but rather simply given a task to find out about certain behavior and relationships.

I've always emphasize this notion that being aware of the learning process in science has benefits that extends beyond science itself. I see this way too often in our world where people simply accept things being told to them, without even making evaluations of the validity of these things. Even less, they can't even make the logical connection from one to the other (see Rhett's example on why it is warmer in the summer and how students can't explain why even when it is told to them!). This is an extremely clear example where one has all the facts that one needs, but one simply is unable to make a logical and sequential connection of cause-and-effect. It is an extremely clear example where just because one has the information, it doesn't mean that one knows what to do with it!

We only need to look around us at stuff happening in the news, and the things being uttered by talking heads on TV. Try it some time. Figure out, if you are able to, how many of the numerous statements that you see being uttered in the media actually (i) have  verified, supporting evidence and (ii) have  logical connection in which A causes B.

Proper science education is needed not to turn people into scientists, but to teach people to think and analyze!


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