Here, I am referring to Dan Meyer’s “Be Less Helpful” mantra. I like it, but maybe you aren’t familiar with Dan. Here is his take on a high school physics problem. Or maybe you would like the video version:
What does this have to do with Reddit? Check out this comment posted in physics. Basically, someone is asking for help finishing physics homework by that night. I really like the following two comments. First, another user said:
“This might help you in the short term, or for this course. But it won’t in the long run. Physics is all about understanding. If you don’t understand it, root memory and letting others do your work might get you through the first year but it won’t get you to the end i.e. your degree. It is better to flunk out in the first year than to spend all the money and flunk out in the second year.
I am not saying that you shouldn’t ask for help. I am saying that you should keep thinking about the material, keep trying to understand it and do the work yourself.”
To which the original poster says:
“I’m not getting a degree nor do I have any intention of it. I’m putting up with my final gen-ed course and am stuck doing it with a professor who doesn’t do more than read her powerpoint in class.”
So, here are my comments on this reddit thread. Really I think the main issue is different viewpoints.
- I am a student and I like bulleted lists (Rhett does too)
- I just want to be a -blank- major, why do I have to take physics?
- How am I supposed to solve these problems if you don’t show me how to solve them?
- Maybe if I had some sample solutions, I could figure out how these problems work and I could get the answer.
- How can you have your pudding if you don’t eat your meat?
- Really though, you will never really understand physics if you don’t do it. You learn by the doing.
- I am going to get you to think about things in class because if I just tell you the answer, you won’t get it
So, there is the problem. A lack of communication. Really this comes down to “what is the goal of this course”. The student says “to pass so I can move on”. The instructor says “to learn physics”. And maybe that is why there is a conflict. Obviously, I think the purpose of the course is to learn physics and the goal of school in general is to learn (not job training).
Be Less Helpful
So back to Be Less Helpful…If the goal is to learn, then the student has to do stuff. Telling the answer, unfortunately doesn’t help. If I had to summarize Be Less Helpful, I would say that it is just like learning to ride a bike. If you keep holding on, they will never learn.