Dazed and confused

Elizabeth Barkley writes in her book Student Engagement Techniques that “somewhere between ‘been there done’ that and ‘dazed and confused’ lies the optimal level of challenge that engages students” (p27)…The theory seems so simple, yet in reality hitting the learning ‘sweet spot’ in a classroom with a diverse range of modern learners, is far from simple. To drive learning in a positive direction, the classroom material needs to be difficult enough to challenge the learners or does it? Maybe selection or qualification to a class or course could rather ‘match’ the student to the material? Likely it would be a blend of both. Having been involved in recruiting for a course which I solely taught, I can certainly vouch for the difficulty in the latter. Until we as educators spend time understanding our learners, it is immensely difficult to appreciate their capacity, their limitations or even there level of interest in a subject. I can recall many situations which at first have filled me with enthusiasm and then…as I learn the facts…not so much. Some might say this is a catch 22 as we need the material to be a challenge but how do we really anticipate how much of a challenge it will be to a learner we don’t yet know, or understand…

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