Daily BulletinHoliday Centre

The Conversation

  • Written by Jason M Lodge, Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education & ARC-SRI Science of Learning Research Centre, University of Melbourne
image

Confusion is a common aspect of our lives but it can be useful and perhaps even necessary, particularly when we are trying to learn something.

Confusion is typically experienced when we are confronted with new information. It is particularly likely to happen when the information we encounter is complex, counter-intuitive or unlike anything we’ve experienced before.

When this happens it can be difficult to reconcile the new incoming information with what we already know.

For example, we might find a maths problem confusing because we don’t know what the mathematical symbols mean or have difficulty with calculations.

Confusion occurs because the prior knowledge we have leaves us ill-equipped to deal with new information.

Regardless of the whether confusion occurs because things are overly complex or seemingly illogical, it is always associated with some sort of cognitive impasse, when we experience a difficulty incorporating new information into our existing way of understanding the world.

This is why confusion is referred to as an epistemic emotion, that is, an emotion specifically associated with the development of our knowledge and understanding.

Unproductive and productive confusion

When people are trying to learn something new, confusion is often seen as a negative, something to be avoided.

Few of us would readily think that a positive learning experience was associated with the state of confusion. The most obvious reason for this is that confusion, when it persists, can very easily escalate to frustration or boredom.

From here it is only a short step to disengagement and giving up on trying to progress any further.

It is for these reasons that many teachers try to avoid situations where students are confused in their classes.

But our own research and that of others suggests that confusion, rather than being a negative, can actually be a productive aspect of the learning process.

Feeling confused can serve as a marker that something isn’t working – it is by definition a signal of a cognitive impasse – and as such can be a particularly helpful cue for both students and teachers.

The key is to ensure that when confusion occurs, it is recognised and it is not allowed to persist for too long.

Recognising confusion

So to make sure we benefit from confusion, we first need to recognise and admit to being confused.

Most participants in our studies have been reluctant to admit to experiencing confusion. It is only revealed later through in-depth interviews.

This is not surprising as there is a negative stigma attached to confusion. It is often unfairly thought of as a sign of stupidity or a lack of intelligence.

So a key way to harness confusion when you are challenged with new concepts or ideas, is to recognise that confusion exists. Be comfortable with this, but seek to resolve it.

Feeling confused is sometimes difficult in a world which often has a bias towards explanations of complex ideas that are simplified and easy to take in.

For example, in new media environments, complex ideas and concepts are often presented in a documentary-like fashion: slick, fluent, engaging and entertaining.

Increasingly online videos routinely explain complex scientific processes with striking, easy to follow animations, accompanied by dulcet, highly scripted narration.

The ideas presented feel like they make sense at the time. But if the ideas do not challenge us in a fundamental way, they might not be being processed deeply enough to lead to any lasting learning.

Such environments may lead us into having a false level of confidence in our understanding of complex concepts. Glossy, high production value resources have been shown to give people an inflated sense of understanding.

Learning to embrace the confusion

It can be easy to find information about highly complex phenomena, such as climate change or vaccination, that seems easy to understand and aligns well with our intuitive conceptions (or misconceptions!).

In part this is because the internet has made it easy to find highly engaging and appealing explanations of phenomena that are very good at cutting down the complexity to make these concepts understandable. It may also be that we gravitate towards interpretations of events that fit with our prior conceptions.

But if the benefits of confusion are to be realised, we are coming to understand two key lessons.

First, being confused about complex concepts and phenomena can mean we are investing enough mental effort into trying to understand. Not finding novel, complex ideas confusing at first can be a sign of overconfidence which has been reliably shown to be detrimental to learning.

Second, it is critical to see struggle and confusion as an important part of the learning process. When encountering new, complex ideas, it is useful to find them challenging and confusing, so long as the confusion does not persist too long.

The struggle associated with overcoming confusion helps us to find better strategies for understanding the world.

So the next time you feel confused when trying to learning something new, take comfort in knowing that it might mean you are on the right track.

Authors: Jason M Lodge, Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education & ARC-SRI Science of Learning Research Centre, University of Melbourne

Read more http://theconversation.com/confused-dont-worry-because-that-can-be-a-good-thing-64421

INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

The Conversation

Politics

Scott Morrison on Credlin

PETA CREDLIN: Thank you for your time tonight, PM I know you've got a lot on your plate. I'll get to the issue of bushfires in just a moment, but I can't let it go unremarked that with Australia Day...

Peta Credlin - avatar Peta Credlin

Scott Morrison interview with Ray Hadley

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ray.    HADLEY: Jeez you copped a hammering while I was away.   PRIME MINISTER: Goes with the job mate.    HADLEY: Well, yo...

Ray Hadley - avatar Ray Hadley

Immediate small business support for bushfire affected communities

In response to the devastating bushfires, the Morrison Government has today announced a comprehensive suite of measures to immediately support impacted small businesses.    This initial package ...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Guide to Start E-Commerce Business

If you can read this, you have access to the internet, and since you have access to the internet, you must have thought about buying something from an e-store. Today, we live in a time very contrast...

News - avatar News

Tips To Buy Office Desks From Sydney

Desks are essential components to the makeup of any office. The right type of desk makes the workflow smoothly. The majority of the people look for desks that are comfortable to work on and need lit...

News Company - avatar News Company

2019 Hottest FinTech Startups Overview

Modern technology is experiencing rapid growth, so many industries expect a so-called revolution, and the financial world is no exception. Over the past ten years, people have witnessed the emergence ...

News Company - avatar News Company

Travel

A Travel Guide for Vacations Overseas

There are two types of tourists. Of course, that's a sweeping generalization, and we could be talking about any possible part of traveling.  In this case, we're discussing those who stick to the ma...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Family Travel Handbook from Lonely Planet

Everything you need to know to take unforgettable trips with your children   Full of practical advice, ideas and inspiration for every type of family, Lonely Planet's The Family Travel Handbook ...

Adam Bennett - avatar Adam Bennett

3 Ideas for a Family-Friendly Holiday to Bali

A family holiday is always an exciting time, but it can often come with its fair share of challenges, especially when trying to keep every member of the family happy. Thankfully, the beautiful islan...

News Company - avatar News Company

ShowPo