How to Know if You DON’T Know

We are not good at judging the effectiveness of our own learning. When information seems easy to recall, we develop “illusions of competence” or “illusions of learning” which hamper our true ability to learn. Over-confidence in our learning leads to early termination of studying,  resulting in poor academic performance.

Ways to avoid overconfidence from Annie Murphy Paul’s post at The Creativity Post:

1. Wait a while - hold off a day or two and then check how well you actually know the information by testing yourself after a meaningful delay

2. Put notes and books away – re-reading & reviewing breeds overconfidence; when material seems familiar, we assume we have learned it. Put your notes & books away and recall the information from memory

3. Mix it up - in the real world, we aren’t tested in convenient chunks. Everything comes at you at once. Interleave (mix up your studying) to replicate realistic conditions, to look for patterns, and to better identify information correctly.

4. Gain expertise - beginners are at a disadvantage as knowledge grows more quickly when linked or connected to prior knowledge. Beginners have to learn AND construct prior knowledge at the same time. Beginners also don’t have the expertise to know what they don’t know. What if you can’t gain expertise or do so in a reasonable time frame? Find a mentor.


Forget Creativity And Exploration, Students Just Want The Right Answer

Undergraduate as well as college professors know that students don’t want to explore anymore. They are not inspired by opportunities to be creative and to use their own opinions and analysis to reach their own conclusions. They just want to know the right answer.

In So Many Hands To Hold In The Classroom, Lynda C. Lambert wrote

So many of them are so unused to thinking on their own that they cannot formulate an opinion without being told what opinion they are supposed to have.

Untrained to be independent and critical thinkers, students are demanding more than examples and explanations – they want teachers to provide the answers to the questions posed.

These college students come to law school with similar expectations and demands for the right answer and are disappointed and disoriented when they quickly realize that there aren’t any right answers, especially in law school.