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Written on Unknown Unknowns

Unknown Unknowns

People don’t know what they don’t know.

That’s why asking ‘are there any questions?’ is not a good question to ask. Even worse is assuming everybody understands if there aren’t any. It’s the difference between ‘have you understood?’ and ‘what have you understood?’. With the second question, you can check for understanding. It's one (out of 10) of the core principles from Barack Rosenshine

#6 Check for understanding frequently and correct errors.

Often we expect students to do a particular thing or expect them to understand something already. Things we think the other one knows and we fall into the of not explaining some of the underlying concepts. This concept goes hand in hand with _Shoshin (beginner's mind) which refers to a lack of preconceptions when explaining (studying) something, just as a beginner would.

This particular thing always comes up when the end of the semester is in sight and it’s time for students to receive their grade. One of the worst things for a student is if they don’t know how they will be graded. It’s so freaking important to walk them through a rubric and explain each criterion with concrete examples.

It’s not good enough to ask ‘are there any questions about the rubric and criteria?’. You as a teacher have to explain each criteria with concrete examples. Ask questions and ask students to explain them back to you in their own words. Even better is taking their work as an example.

Danny de Vries