‘Sir, I Just don’t Get it’ | Confusion an essential State in Education
By Ahmad Amirali
As a teacher, I can relate with these interrogative gestures, ‘Sir, I don’t understand a word you just said’ or ‘Sir, can you repeat what you just said? Most of the time students ask the same questions again and again in the classroom, and still, they don’t get it right. The answer to this phenomenon is simple; students get confused or unable to articulate the subject which is being taught in the classroom. Parents often complain about their kids that they usually get confused with reading and comprehension tasks; does it mean that their kids need some learning assistance. Recently I came across such parental reviews in my parent-teacher meeting and this made me think that, can being confused actually be a beneficial part of the learning process? Or it simply means that the person has some learning deficiency.
Luckily, some researchers ask the same questions since ages, and several educationalists have explored this topic; one of them is Associate Professor Jason Lodge from the University of Queensland. Jason leads a project with other educational institutes like the University of Melbourne, Macquarie University, Curtain University and the Australian Council for Educational Research to study how confusion can assist learning in a digital environment. Prof. Jason believes that ‘One of the reasons we think the confusion is important is because often the kinds of mental structures and schemas that we have, particularly around concepts, often need to be partly undone so that they can be corrected. It’s sort of like you have to experience this type of imbalance between what you think you know and what kind of established understanding of what something might be.’
Let’s have an example of a check post, where ever we travel in interior parts of Pakistan or any other Asian or European countries; we encounter such check posts on the border of any state or city. The main aim of that check post is to check the vehicles and individuals who want to enter in a particular country or city. In this way, the personnel of the check post makes sure that everybody will be checked to ratified any unfair or foul behaviour of individuals. Consider confusion is like a check post where all our thoughts about a particular situation or topic or subject halt to check whether they are correct or not. Being confused is a good thing because our notions are continuously being updated with the new knowledge, and that check post (confusions) made us rectify that new knowledge.
Sometimes in my classroom, students got confused because they heard or read about the taught subject from somewhere else and hence their pre-conceived notions about the topic/subject usually do not synchronise with the information that I supplied to them. They ask questions or, sometimes even, argued in favour or against the topic. This means that students do comprehend, analyse and record the information, which they heard or read from other sources, in their information bank (Mind). The state of confusion has benefits for both students and educators. Students’ confidence is correlated with the challenges they faced while completing the classroom tasks. The more students got confused by classroom tasks, the more they search for its answers to clarify their confusion. Once they got succeeded, their confidence level boosted, and this process goes on. As for educators, they can allow more uncertainty and challenging situations that support student’s confusion rather discourage them.
I believe, it equally important for parents and educators to know that confusion is not learning deficiency. Infect confusion leads students to learn more deeply about any subject and develop criticality in them.
So, do you ever encounter any confusion? How do you help your students or your classmate?