Comment by FallibleDan on Helping people to solve their problems · 2020-09-01T15:39:40.977Z · LW · GW

Great insights into the human operating system here.

Very actionable; I love the brevity and being written in outline format.

Off-topic: I was reviewing some principles of classical rhetoric this morning; it's interesting how many I see applied in this piece.

Comment by FallibleDan on How to teach things well · 2020-09-01T15:08:49.582Z · LW · GW

Thank you for your outline and pearls. Getting more skillful at framing, as you point out, is a key mindset. The framing of teaching depends on the learner's various states (current abilities in the subject domain(s); physical, social and emotional states, etc.) and the learner's context. Teaching requires that the teacher adjust to the learner's current states and the learner's context, and select the appropriate frames.

One perhaps obvious frame is to think of teaching as "that which enables learning." What enables learning?

Imprinting to the body, including, as pointed out, by doing. Sometimes called "getting the learner's skin in the game." The body is a human's interface with what is, so of course learning relies on bodies. Repetition is a particularly powerful way of getting the body's attention: "Oh, I guess this isn't just a one-off - I keep coming across this experience so I guess I'd better adapt to it." Examples: athletic or musical performance training, doing problem sets in engineering, etc. The body's strategy, including its brain, is that, for the long run (literally), an efficient response to repeated experiences is to hypertrophy muscles/neural pathways.

Example: paraphrasing, as pointed out, is a way to check whether the learner is keeping up. See whether the student "follows." The phrase, "Do you follow me?" uses the language of the body.

Engaging affective valences (joy, fear, longing, satisfaction, appreciation of beauty (e.g., maths concepts are often beautiful)). An appropriate emotional valence is crucial for long-term memory.

Engaging social or intrasocial valences - how can one belong, join, nurture or protect? 99.99% of the human operating system can be regarded as, "mammalian," but, like water to a fish, it's ubiquity makes it invisible to us. Yet who optimally trains or learns in a social vacuum or executes or performs in a social vacuum? Huge stadia and social media platforms and the fact that we love to hear and tell stories are more obvious testimony to the importance of social valences.

  • e.g., working in a group (including see one, do one, teach one); getting students to "pair and share" as a way to anchor student mindsets into a learning mode
  • e.g., working with a future self, an idealized or shadow self, or with an in-dwelling parent, child, friend, advocate or mentor

Copying the best or what has been honed over time by linking with culture. Think of culture as being the ancient apperceptive mass of humanity's experience and learning. Engage with culture, e.g., by looking up the recent (in English, most words have a Germanic or Latin origin; scientific or technical words may, in addition, have a Greek origin) and more ancient (Proto-indo-european - the payoffs in PIE are often massive) etymologies of any new word and every key concept.

In sum, teaching is often more successful if it has actionable 'relevance' (recent etymology of relevant = "apropos;" ancient etymology = "that which lightens [a burden]"). Learning is easier if the learner or learner's body senses that something is useful or unburdening to him or her or to his or her "group," especially in ways in which the body (including emotion) or culture (especially language) have already provided hooks to latch on to.