‘Don’t Panic!’ These words, usually spoken when someone is experiencing a threat to self or others, were actually the ones which rang through my own mind as I was attempting to complete my Statistics homework for my doctoral program. I was attempting to complete a Factorial ANOVA and an ANCOVA on some data that was provided by my professor. Believe it or not, I actually have enjoyed parts of my Research Class, but this was truly new learning for me.
Like any ‘good learner’ I had read the textbook, watched online tutorials, re-read the textbook, re-watched the online tutorials, and yet I still struggled to complete the assignment. Did I mention that I had read the text and watched the tutorials?? After I had completed what ‘the teacher asked me to do’, I began to attempt the assigned homework. It did not take me long to realize that even though I had read the text, I had no frame of reference for this new learning. (Educators refer to this ‘framework’ as schema). I literally had no mental ‘hinges’ on which to ‘hang’ this new information. I instantly felt true panic as I momentarily realized ‘I do not know what to do.’ I could not think of even the very next step I needed to attempt the assignment. I thought, ‘Well, Ron, you have reached the limit of your intellectual capacity!’
I also instantly made the connection that this must be the way our students feel when they are learning something new, but we have not taken time to assess their schemata, framework or background, to which they can ‘hinge’ this new learning. It was a powerful lesson to me as a leader and educator. I realize that even adults can have this moment of panic when, as leaders, we introduce concepts and expectations that are new to the learner.
I took a break for a while from the homework, and completed it later…hopefully successfully, but I will ALWAYS remember the feeling of panic, and will use this as a motivator to make sure that when new learning is involved for children and adults, that I make sure that I help build their framework for understanding.