Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Whose intuition should we trust?

[Second in a series on Daniel Kahnemann’s Thinking Fast and Slow]

One of Kahnemann’s major themes is that that the intuitive part of the brain commits numerous fallacies except when operating in highly regular, predictable, environments or when subjected to hours of practice and immediate and reliable feedback.

This has some interesting implications about what kinds of “expert opinions” we can trust. Different people in different professions work in environments that are more or less regular and predictable, and that provide greater or lesser amounts of immediate and regular feedback. People who work in fields governed by logical regularities, like math, or ongoing and immediate empirical feedback, like certain of the empirical sciences and performing arts, and professions based on regular (and open) interactions with others, are more likely to give reliable expert opinions (and to be corrected by their peers when they slip up) than are armchair theorists and long range forecasters.

In particular, classroom teachers are a more reliable source of information on classroom pedagogy than are educational theorists and curriculum developers--especially if they use assessment tools that gauge the efficacy of their instruction (rather than assessing simply for the sake of assessment) and if they regularly check in with students and  parents. So why is it that all the op-ed pieces on education are written by the theorists--many of whom don’t even attempt to become experts in education?

2 comments:

Barry Garelick said...

The theorists very often consider themselves experts in pedagogy based on their own experiences, and commit the fallacy of using such experiences as the basis of reality. So if they had a math class taught poorly, (rote memorization, no explanations, etc), they assume that traditional math is always taught poorly.

Anonymous said...

This is so true! Our private school has recently gone off the constructivist deep end, driven by two administrators who have no children of their own and were educated in the 60's. Neither has been in the classroom for 25 years or more, but they love the educational theory! The classroom teachers, most of whom are young parents, are much more pragmatic in their approach. Interestingly, many of them have their own kids in more traditional schools.