In my last blog I described the KISS principle and how simplicity can be a useful trait to fall back on when intent on making processes more effective and efficient.
This time I’m applying the principle to decisions made when designing a new piece of educational material. Just what and how much content is required in a course for it to really get across a given topic?
In Teaching and Learning (T&L) theory we are lucky to have a ground-breaking insight and approach that neatly applies the KISS principle: Threshold Concepts (Meyer and Land, 2003).
The gist of Threshold Concepts is that in many topics there are just one or two core ideas that are essential to its understanding. Once a student has crossed that threshold of understanding and grasped the essence of these key concepts, then everything else follows naturally. What makes this easier said than done is that often these key concepts have a troublesome aspect, some feature that seems illogical and/or counter intuitive.
The trick to designing a good course thus comes in identifying such threshold concepts and finding ways to helps students cross that threshold. Often this will require non-standard T&L techniques: lecturing to a PowerPoint presentation just won’t do the job.
Take, for example, learning to ride a bike. The threshold concept would be balance: unless and until the learning cyclist has grasped the notion of balance enabled by momentum, they’re likely to keep falling off. The only way to teach this is to do it: supported by stabilisers at first, but by letting go, by feeling the wind through your hair. Similar experiential approaches might apply to a wide range of subjects, from mindfulness to baking a cake, for example.
But the threshold concept of threshold concepts is clear: keep it simple! Identify the one (or 2) key concepts and find a way of teaching them that helps students over whatever it is about that concept that some may find troublesome. Sometimes it’s as simple as emphasising that less really is more. Less detail, less theory, less complications: just the simple essence.
This is also the underlying essence of ‘Working with Wisdom: sometimes (often!) we are apt to think too much, to believe that the rational mind has all the answers. Wisdom doesn’t rely on complicated theories or more explanatory words. It invites us to step back from a problem, observe, feel what’s going on and ascertain the essence of the moment. KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid, is a useful reminder to do just that.
Beyond the image
This is Bryn Celli Ddu Burial Chamber on Anglesey (Wales, UK), a Neolithic tomb that, like Stonehenge, doubled as an agricultural calendar for our prehistoric ancestors. One wonders if our Neolithic predecessors were more in tune with seasons, daily cycles and time generally than we are today? They did use simple but effective designs for their burial mounds . . . and they had an educational purpose!
Image © 2017 Keith Beasley
Dr keith beasley
As an engineer turned life-guide and Quality Assurance expert who did his PhD on 'Transcending Thought', I've seen life from many perspectives. We need them all to even begin to make sense of life . . .
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