Two Educational Contexts

From Dan Kahneman:

True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes. You are probably an expert in guessing your spouse’s mood from one word on the telephone; chess players find a strong move in a single glance at a complex position; and true legends of instant diagnoses are common among physicians. To know whether you can trust a particular intuitive judgment, there are two questions you should ask: Is the environment in which the judgment is made sufficiently regular to enable predictions from the available evidence? The answer is yes for diagnosticians, no for stock pickers. Do the professionals have an adequate opportunity to learn the cues and the regularities? The answer here depends on the professionals’ experience and on the quality and speed with which they discover their mistakes. Anesthesiologists have a better chance to develop intuitions than radiologists do. Many of the professionals we encounter easily pass both tests, and their off-the-cuff judgments deserve to be taken seriously. In general, however, you should not take assertive and confident people at their own evaluation unless you have independent reason to believe that they know what they are talking about.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, in the context of designing authentic learning. The examples above represent two professional contexts, but they represent two distinct educational contexts as well. 

In people engaged in Type A endeavors, those high-feedback, clearly cued tasks such as anesthesiology, we learn from making experiences as authentic as possible. You want to bootstrap students into reality as quickly as you can. 

In Type B endeavors, reality is broken. The longer a professional is in the field, the worse his or her intuitions may be. In these cases you want to create an artificial reality that fixes the feedback problem, that exaggerates cues, that makes irregularities more apparent.

I think we know this, but we forget it, quite a lot, choosing instead to be religious about authenticity or dogmatic about artificial feedback. 

I also think that if you accept that there are more Type B situations than Type A situations that we may have far *less* formal education than we need, but that’s another post.

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