Hannah and Catriona posing for the photo
The attitude of the know-it-all learner is well known to anyone who has been teaching in the classroom for even a short term. It’s also recognised by trainers, tutors and coaches and is often a difficult barrier to dismantle.
In my varied experiences in education and training, I was often left wondering what it is that brings about an attitudinal obstacle in the first place. Its source is usually difficult to reveal, for its origin can lie in many different parts of the human psyche.
Unless its cause can be identified, there is little the teacher can resort to, other than dismissing it with reference to taking a horse to water.
Here are three of the causes I have identified over the years.
The greatest barrier to learning something new
is the belief that it has already been learnt.
This barrier to learning is most commonly met in the classroom and needs a teaching strategy that I call unteaching. It is met in some form by every teacher when introducing a new topic to a class. A deal of dismantling of the misconception and erroneous belief in the mind of the learner is required.
One useful path to achieving this is in revealing to the learner, in the nicest possible way and without them losing face, that their knowledge or belief may be wanting in some important detail. Once the major part of the learning obstacle is removed, its remnants are eradicated through the art of good teaching and the application of appropriate pedagogy.
“I’m expected to know all this
and I can’t show my ignorance.”
This is a too common situation in learners, at all levels.
I once had a job as a computer coordinator for the student database of a prominent university. My boss was the Registrar who shouldered convincingly the responsibility of being knowledgeable about everything to do with the database and the student data contained there.
That responsibility was the biggest impediment to assimilating anything new that needed to be learnt. While it was my duty to pass on required student information to the Registrar, and I did this successfully through verbal reports and other means, I often felt powerless to convey effectively any technical knowledge that the Registrar also needed.
The transactional analysis of that situation is explained admirably in Thomas Harris’ celebrated book, I’m OK – You’re OK.
“What are you? Ignorant or something?”
Peer pressure in a classroom environment can often engender an ability in ignorant learners to appear convincingly knowledgeable. This unlearn syndrome can also exist in the workplace.
I have always claimed that one of the reasons I learnt more than I might have done is because I’m forever asking questions.
At work meetings I am usually the first to ask a question. For as much as what I ask may be met with tones of derision and ridiculed by some, I am always amazed at the proportion of people who are grateful to hear the answer - if there is one. In some instances when I ask my evident question, it turns out that few, if anyone, know the answer, and it starts a debate.
“It’s possible that my whole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others” - Ashleigh Brilliant.