Expertise and the Illusion of Knowledge

A post about the Dunning-Kruger effect, which basically claims (and, in a series of studies) demonstrates that ignorance is often typified not the absence of knowledge but by the illusion of it. People think they know more than they do and, at least in many cases, the less they know, the more they think they know. People as in us.

For teachers, this is one of the trickiest things to overcome when we want to give learners control: how do learners distinguish between ignorance and knowledge? If you do not know that you need to know more, you do not have the power nor motivation to take the steps to change that. The role of a teacher (whether an appointed individual or not) to challenge misconceptions and highlight ignorance is a crucial one.  But it should not be about proving or, worse still, telling someone less able than yourself that they are wrong: that’s just a power trip. Ideally, learners should develop ways to uncover their own ignorance – to be surprised or confounded, to see their own mistakes – rather than have someone do it for them.  I think that this means that teachers, amongst other things, should create conditions for surprise to occur, opportunities to safely fail (without judgement), opportunities to reflect, and support for those seeking to uncover the cause of their new-found ignorance.

Address of the bookmark:

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor and Associate Dean, Learning & Assessment, at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology, and I teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems. I am a proud Canadian, though I was born in the UK. I am married, with two grown-up children, and three growing-up grandchildren. We all live in beautiful Vancouver.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.