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Students learn from people they love (nytimes.com)
388 points by kareemm 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 101 comments



I used to do IT support for a whole building when I was a undergrad student. One of the professors once had a quote stuck on her door:

"People may forget what you say. They may forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

I was a drop-out college student who attended that small, cheap public university in the middle of nowhere as a last resort because I ran out of options in my country. Studying there was nothing short of life-changing. Long story short, 11 years later, I just earned my doctorate degree not so long ago and working my dream job.

By the way, after graduating from the small state school, I got accepted in a much larger research university that gave me a free ride. But it was that little school that I had to work my ass 20 hours a week for 4 years that feel I owe my big gratitude for. That little school was the one that gave me hope that I could change my life and had professors and faculties that went out of their way to help a no-name international student. The other day, I was offered an internship in a very good place. The international student office told me I couldn't accept it because of the laws or whatever. There came a professor whom I barely talked to. She was then the head of the business school - one of the departments I did IT support for. She offered to go with me to that office to argue with the director of the international office on behalf of me. And she did. And she won. I didn't have to say a word.

I think it was how you make them feel that makes them remember what you did, not the other way around.


I really like your story. I'm glad you're successful now!

Just to add one thing:

> People may forget what you say. They may forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Maya Angelou is the source of this quote


Actually, the source is disputed: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2014/04/06/they-feel/ But it’s still a great quote.


I tell people that unless they have the right connections or are destined for greatness, they should go to state school. At state universities, the professors either can't cut it as researchers, or they just give a shit about teaching. Either way, your average instructional experience is going to be better as an undergrad, because it's the professors' job to instruct you (and, for some, their passion). At a research university, teaching plays second fiddle to research -- always.

Plus, state schools are cheap in your home state. You can avoid crippling debt and get more faculty support, thus avoiding having to figure out the rules on your own with a $50,000 per semester Damocletian sword over your head.


I like your story too. But I have to point out that there are plenty of other stories I've heard. People who drop out and never recover. People who attend a public school and can't find a job since they are competing with people from better schools. People who never get accepted to any graduate programs.

So, while I like your story, I think that those with an agenda would view it as a justification for harsh policies - since some people succeed even when things are harsh. (Forgetting that more people succeed when things aren't harsh - and I've heard lots of stories to confirm that too.)


I am under no illusion that among people who dropped out, the number of people who end up next to the dumpsters is going to be more than ones who become billionaires. Same to state universities vs private universities. One shouldn't drop out a good university when they have a choice. One shouldn't choose a no-name public university over Stanford when they have a choice.

I didn't have a choice not to attend a cheap public school.

I just want to tell my story to share the story that good teachers are everywhere, even in cheap public schools.


Nothing to add just wanted to say great story. Thanks for sharing.


Education is a beautiful thing. Great story thanks for sharing.


20 hours a week?


That's the maximum number of hours that international students could work outside of normal class hours. Basically, that makes attending classes+work an 8-to-5 job. And then I had to come home and study and do homework. Since I had no choices, I didn't have a problem with it.


I see, i thought work means study.


This is why I believe that MOOCS will not “disrupt” traditional education in any meaningful way. Learning is fundamentally a social phenomenon. Apart from a few genius auto didacts the vast majority of people learn in social settings. Even some of the geniuses were helped by social settings and peer groups that served as a constant source of ideas and feedback.

For years I’d tried to learn algorithms to clear big 4 style interviews. But for reasons ranging from subject matter difficulty to motivation I’d fail again and again. When I got an interview call I had a competitive programmer teach me over chat every night one problem at a time explaining his thinking.

I improved by leaps and bounds within weeks and also cleared the interview.

What’s being imparted isn’t just mere knowledge but an enthusiasm for the subject. The fact that it can be a lot of fun to work on such problems even though they’re not of any “practical” use. The journey of the instructor and how they themselves learned to overcome difficult topics. The multiple ways they have learned to look at a topic which are too long for a textbook to cover.

Customized feedback on how to improve, the right problems to work on, motivation when you’re losing interest. It’s very difficult to replace all of this.

Now to be fair a lot of real life teachers fail this bar and MOOCS can probably replace them but both are incomplete in any case.

This showed me once and for all that if you’re chasing true expertise then mere reading books or watching videos will never get you as far as people learning the subject from each other in a social setting with motivational instructors and incentives.


I've noticed the best "online" teachers excel in predicting what questions students will have and addressing them preemptively. I think the person behind 3Brown1Blue on YouTube does a fantastic job doing this. Throughout their explanations, they interject with things such as "Now, you might ask why I did it this way... well here is that reasoning" and then "but you also may have observed this and here's why you did". In some ways, I feel like the ability to anticipate student's questions and hangups and respond to them is a far better predictor of their efficacy as an instructor than how well they understand the material or the quality of the lecturing.


It's not anticipation.

It's experience, either from questions you received during lectures you gave, questions you asked yourself in lectures you attented to, or just road blocks you encountered while learning it on your own.

Every time I get a question about something in a training I give, I make sure people will never have to ask me again (unless it's part of the flow of the lecture). Every time I asked myself something, or blocked on something, I make a mental note of it, whatever the subject is. Sometimes, years later, I just happen to teach that subject, and it comes back to me.

I don't know why good teachers do that. Personnally, I started to do it out of anger. I felt like it was so unfair somebody failed to understand something because of a missing piece of information. I found it infuriating, it's a pain that has no reason to exist. We have been teaching things for centuries, why do we keep not communicating knowledge correctly ? Eventually I made peace with human imperfection, as I battled too much with my own, but the habit remains.

Maybe obsession is what makes anybody great. It's not sane, but it's a hell of a motivation.


There is software being developed that does the same thing though. I've seen a technology being demoed where the student is basically able to ask questions to the instructor (which is just an algorithm). As more and more students use the software...a database of questions gets created which is then used to modify the course and to also create new answers to the question. Overtime, the course gets better and better through a sort of continuous improvement system.


3Blue1Brown is the rare exception to most online video stuff I’ve seen. It’s quite good.

But even then it doesn’t mean I’m actually doing the math like if a real person were on the other side expecting an answer.


Truth be told, the job market will just refocus to better find the people that are autodidact learners because the truth is those people are the ones that end up being the most productive. They are able to learn stuff much quickly compared to other people and end up knowing significantly more than others due to being able to just self-study the material and "get it".

Also you are looking at the first generation of MOOCs...which I agree...aren't that great but overtime...new technologies will get added to them. Better algorithms, better learning tools and probably even live streaming lecture similar to what you see on twitch. The basic MOOC will be free and then if you want the "social interaction" element of it then you can pay for it.


I'd disagree with the statement "they're able to learn things much more quickly compared to other people."

I've universally observed that autodidacts may appear to learn faster, but in reality they're spending an order of magnitude more effort and time. If you applied 10% of the time reading that an "autodidact" applies reading, then took the other 90% of the time an autodidact spends reading and instead spent that time speaking with experts in a social and exploratory way, you'd learn many times faster than the "autodidact" would who spent all their time only reading and consuming learning material.

When you consume learning materials, you are adapting your thoughts and knowledge to what you're learning, but when you don't understand something, without someone who can answer questions in a highly individualized way, you may have a really hard time finding answers to questions purely from material. Having a person to talk to though can bridge gaps in understanding faster than even the best written textbook.


Not to disagree with what you said, I think that can definitely be the case, that autodidacts aren’t learning in the most efficient manner.

The flip side is that people who spend most of their time asking questions and getting answers may not ever get the experience of struggling through problems and never fully learn to exercise those skills, ime

But, limited time and energy makes both approaches useful.


> For years I’d tried to learn algorithms to clear big 4 style interviews. But for reasons ranging from subject matter difficulty to motivation I’d fail again and again. When I got an interview call I had a competitive programmer teach me over chat every night one problem at a time explaining his thinking.

I'm stuck in the same rut of lack of motivation. Interested to hear what clicked after he explained it to you?


Someone who actually knows their stuff knows how to make it interesting and relevant. Carefully building you up.


I teach underpriviledged kids programming for the last 5 years and this rings very true to me. It's more important to teach them self efficacy and to believe in them than to teach them C++.

I think this is also true more generally than just for students. I've given a keynote presentation about it at a conference this year if anyone finds that interesting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lckris5U5iw


Just wanted to say thanks for your service. It's rare to find someone with such social thoughtfulness.


I wonder what percentage of what we measure as IQ is actually measuring an interest in figuring things out and a belief that we’re capable of it.


I read something long ago which said something like 15 iq points were attributable to thinking you were smart vs not. I’m inclined to believe that most people are quite smart and capable and that it’s confidence, effort, and training that makes some produce more than others. The brain is vastly complex, and the subconscious processing power to perform text, speech and image processing is colossal.


Another factor I think is that we (culturally) have a bias towards certain domains being "smart" material or not. Mathy logic is just one of many things that your mind can analyze.

I have a friend who's a metalworker. He'd never beat me in an algebra test, but he's damn smart when it comes to manipulating the physical world. He also happens to be very thoughtful and insightful about film and photography. But I'm not sure he considers himself "smart", even though he does original and careful analysis in the areas that he cares about.

Another friend is -- as far as I'm concerned -- an absolute genius at understanding people psychologically, their decisions and motivations. I'll never be as smart in my own preferred areas as she is in this. But I don't think that most people would give her a "smart" badge for it.


I like to dub this phenomenon the "unnamed skills". There are skills that are categorized and standardized: you can teach someone the poses and movements, the steps to follow, and the concepts to look for. But you can't teach them very much about putting it together into a whole and to apply some techniques in some ways and not others. Direct experience does that, and yet the way in which people interpret their experience leads to the sharp differences in style and overall ability.

Often this comes up in written fiction: authors will describe the characters and their thoughts and motivations in a mode natural to how they perceive things: some authors spin up plots and intrigues at every turn, others focus on raw emoting.

So I tend to view smarts as a personality trait, when we're dealing with healthy folks with no other issues(and realistically, most people are battling something else most of the time without necessarily being aware of it). There's a limited degree of smarter-is-smarter that shows up in testing, and then after that it starts being about personality-driven specializations, the ways in which they overcome problems. The archetypes are easy to spot in school: the student who seems to ignore any lecture or materials and rushes to get help from the teacher or study buddies, versus the student who quietly reads the text and never asks a single question. Both types can get perfect scores in some subjects, but usually not across the board, effortlessly. And as projects grow in scope and cover more skills, awareness of personality-driven limitations becomes more essential to success.


IQ is also a measure of how easy it is for you to analyze without interest. People with straight As didn't show passion, yet they clicked very easily on things.

That said, passion can drive you super far.


physiologist have studied the relationship between activation(arousal, "passion?") phase of the motivational process and the performance. It turns out that more activation doesn't lead to more performance, but each task has its own optimal activation level, and it seems to be inversely correlated with how hard intellectually is the task. While it might be linearly correlated for physical tasks like running from a predator.

See Yerkes and Dodson law[1] and I think Hebbs[2] also touched on this topic.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yerkes–Dodson_law

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_O._Hebb


It's worth noting that, despite its status as dogma in psychology, the Yerkes-Dodson "law" is almost completely unsubstantiated, having been generously extrapolated from an experiment on mice with somewhat dubious methodology, and not reliably replicated since then; the beautiful normal-distribution bell curves one so often sees are complete fabrications.

The mice were given 5 levels of (uncalibrated!) electric shocks, which has since been taken to be the "arousal" axis; their task was to learn not to go down a dark hallway, and the number times they attempted this before learning that dark hallway = shock has since been taken to be "performance". This resulted in a jagged 5-point line in which the fastest learning did not occur at the highest or lowest shock levels.

That's it. That's the experiment. Needless to say, even if the result were perfectly trustworthy, extrapolating this out to a neat bell curve that describes the performance of humans studying for a calculus test is unscientific. But like all pseudoscience, it has a sort of intuitive appeal. It should be noted that Yerkes and Dodson themselves never made any claims about "arousal" and so on - they were just trying to measure the effect of electric shocks on the speed of animal habit-formation.

Here's a fairly comprehensive review of the methodological flaws with Yerkes-Dodson, too numerous to go into detail on here: https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/jhpee/vol7/iss1/3/


> not reliably replicated since then

My understanding tis that the studies were replicated in rats, cats and humans.

From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2657838/

> Despite the limitations of their study, the findings of Yerkes and Dodson were subsequently replicated in cats (Dodson, 1915), rats (Broadhurst, 1957; Telegdy and Cohen 1971) and people (Dickman, 2002; Bregman and McAllister 1982; Anderson, 1994), and became part of the lexicon of the field of psychology as the “Yerkes-Dodson Law” (Young, 1936; Eysenk, 1955).


Thanks a lot, I love pointers like these


Woah, very cool. Thank you.


You become more proficient at the things you do, so I'm guessing a lot. A slight tendency as a baby plus a supportive environment probably makes up a lot of the variation.


There's a really peculiar aspect of IQ that many are not aware of. The heritability of IQ changes as you age - becoming more heritable over time. What this means is that environmental factors can play major differences in a youth's IQ. For instance a child that goes to great schools, has a supportive family, and so forth and so on will generally have a substantially higher IQ than a child from a less favorable environment.

But the weird thing is that if you take two adults and compare their IQs the difference there has a negligible weighting for environmental factors. Modern studies put the heritability of adult IQ upwards of 80%. This also has the extremely counter intuitive implication that our privileged child's academic advantage in youth doesn't necessarily carry over into adulthood. And similarly an adult who came from a less fortunate background will not often suffer (at least in terms of intellectual ability in so much as IQ can measure) for it, as an adult.

The reason I mention this is because the person coming from a privileged background would ostensibly have a much higher degree of belief in themselves and presumably a wider array of well supported interests. Our '8 year old solves nuclear fusion in spare time' clickbait articles invariably, coincidentally, happen to have a parent or two who is a nuclear physicist. Yet in the end that self confidence and supported interests don't amount to anywhere near as much as we'd expect.

----

One other major argument against this is the sharp rise of parenting where parents genuinely belief, and work to prove, that their child is the next Einstein. And this happening at the same time that the Flynn effect has entirely disappeared, and in some cases substantially reversed, in much of the developed world. The Flynn Effect was the observation that IQs were increasing over time. IQ is a relative value with 100 always set as the mean with a standard deviation of 15 points. But a '100' in 1900 was scoring, in absolute terms, worse than a 100 in e.g. 1920. And this kept happening. But then sometime around the 1990s this trend began reversing. [1]

Flynn observed an average increase of about 3 points per decade. In many places in the world today we are seeing a decline of about 2 points per decade. Think about what that means in absolute values. That's a net change of -5 points per decade. That is one third of a standard deviation decline, per decade! Getting into hypotheses here is counter productive and outside the point I'm making which is simply that we've, in most parts of the developed world, decided to begin pretending that every child is special. If IQ were connected to self confidence and belief in oneself - we'd expect to see something at least vaguely looking like a positive correlation here. Instead we've seen a completely unprecedented and sharp reversal in IQ.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect#Possible_end_of_p...


> But the weird thing is that if you take two adults and compare their IQs the difference there has a negligible weighting for environmental factors. Modern studies put the heritability of adult IQ upwards of 80%.

20% isn't negligible.


To be clear heritability is about the differences within individuals and not a raw value by itself. For instance if we have a trait with 80% heritability and one individual is measured at 120 against the average of 100, then this would mean that 4 points (20% of the 20 point difference) would be attributable to non-genetic factors. Some confuse the term to mean that e.g. 20% of the entire value would be attributable to environmental factors. In other words a heritability of 80% does not mean that 80% of a trait is genetic - it means that 80% of observed differences in a trait can be attributed to genetics.

As a not directly related aside this also leads to another really interesting aspect of heritability. It changes as the average environmental situation changes. As we get closer and closer to environmentally equal, any given trait's heritability approaches 100% as the only differences left between individuals become genetic. As an obvious example consider height. Malnourishment tends to stunt an individual's growth. So in an area where some significant chunks of the population were malnourished and others were not, you'd see a much lower heritability for height than in places like the US where that environmental factor has been mostly eliminated.


It's actually very true for me. If I don't feel sincerity of the instructor, or they're cold & rude against the class; my grades for that particular class doesn't go up much.

However, if the instructor is sincere, likes what he/she's doing, or I'm not being emotionally or wordly punished for my mistakes, my grades can easily compete with the top three.

It's a response to perceived hostility / cooperation. I need to feel that we're on the same side. If I feel otherwise, I just study enough to pass the class, because my life is more important than a petty hostility in a class. The bad thing is, when I feel that cooperation, I study even less and get much higher grades, because I can listen and learn in class, since I don't spend any effort to protect myself from the instructor, and concentrate instead.


I always, and suggest it to other college students, to pick classes by professor. A shitty class can be made great by a great professor and vice versa. Can't take all ratemyprofessor stuff seriously but the rating has never been too far off for me. (just check the class the review is for!)


I check Rate My Professors for every registration. It's very reliable once you learn to read between the lines of some reviews.

One professor is particular is really great, and I'd sign up for a class with him each semester even if the topic isn't interesting to me. He even suggested pursuing publication for a term paper I wrote, and helped me through the process.

It takes a special kind of person to be able to do that, and it seems like those types of professors are the kind of people who are happy spending all day working on academic stuff. The previously mentioned professor goes home in the evenings and devours books and news to catch up with the latest developments in his field. Another professor sits in his office until 7-8 in the evening. They live in breathe their studies but I try not to fault those who want to have a life outside of academia too.


A lot of human existence is emotional transfer underneath.

ps: to elaborate, we want to share things with other beings, when we bond over positive emotions, our mind get engaged, motivated, open, happy. As an example, my college math class was mostly the bottom of the barrel (me included). Our teacher though, was very invested both in the topic and in making us understand. Nobody cared at first, but with time, even the most uninterested of us ended coming on optional weekend classes. Why ? He cared. There are other similar stories about management. Dehumanized management creates more problems, a simple honest/respectful manager, even if harsh, will get 10x more results.


Flip side of this: if there is a teacher / professor who's made a difference in your life, and you have the means & the opportunity to do so, drop by and say hi. As someone who's been teaching for a little while, it is truly gratifying to get a visit from a former student. It matters very little to me whether the student was a "good" student (i.e., got a good grade), or whether they've found what I taught them of any use. Just good to see how people have grown, and done different (and almost always interesting and productive) things with their lives.


He died pretty early... at his funeral it felt like every nerd who ever attended the school was in that church. I think about 200 former students came. Teachers matter.


I do this a fair lot, and it doesn't fail to make me cry and feel embarassed for myself.


Mildly interesting article, though sadly at no point it actually expands on the title. There's nothing about how or why "students learn from the people they love".

Slightly related: students learn a lot because of having a crush on someone. I've learned a bunch of things this way too. It's not something that can be structurally exploited, though.


>It's not something that can be structurally exploited, though. //

If you're motivated to learn in order to impress a potential mate, rev that seems like something that might rely reduce - in part - to seeing sexual stimulation? That element might be exploitable, there may even be a way to do that morally?


Having a typo cheat sheet now: to some extent, maybe, though I didn't mean (just) the learning that's, in student's mind, explicitly motivated by desire to sleep with someone. I meant primarily the kind of implicit change that I've both observed and experienced to happen when one starts having romantic feelings - suddenly everything that's related to the other person gets much more interesting, including school subjects one believes the other person seems to like.

As for exploiting this, or a bunch of other "nonstandard" sources of motivation, I worry in practice about what I personally call "educational games problem" - both teens and adults quickly notice when all you're doing is sprinkle some artificial "fun" on top of the same old drudgery. They're not tricked by it. It's the education part, not motivation part, that has to be secondary and sneaked in, for the whole thing to work. That's why you can get 12-yo to study undergrad-level physics as a side effect of Kerbal Space Program - they naturally learn to get better at the activity they find intrinsically rewarding.


rev -> then

rely -> really

seeing -> seeking

Perhaps a small volume of typo corrections could be allowed as edits for longer than the normal edit period.


> rev -> then

I wonder how you made this one :). Mobile?


I don't think it's written to be interesting I think it's written as propaganda, ehm, I mean to raise awareness.


Propaganda? I’m curious now, explain.


You see, treating other people with decency is a conspiracy put together by Big Life



Very well done piece. I'd just add that students can also learn a lot from a person they don't love, if that person happens to be very good at something the student is internally motivated to learn more about.

Someone driven to know more about something will somehow manage to overlook teacher's humanity.

First principle: It's a lot easier to teach someone something once they understand why it's important to them.


Same can be said about people students hate. If a child hates his or her parents, the child will learn everything to be nothing like their parents. I think the article is a fluff piece. School was a complete waste of time for myself. The only benefit was for social connections. Everything useful I learned "career wise" was from online and where I found good C++ videos that got me into programming. I doubt much has changed and even expect it's becoming even more dominate where you have a better chance of succeeding if you're a self learner who can navigate online to whatever is needed to be learned.


>School was a complete waste of time for myself. The only benefit was for social connections.

With all respect, I’m calling bullshit on this. Social connections were thee only thing you learned? Where did you learn how to read so you could understand the C++ texts you were reading? Who gave you lessons to help with critical thinking so you could understand programming is not a linear process? Hell, who taught you how to count? If you had done none of this, you’d be claiming you self taught since an infant.

Simply casting your entire education to the side is extreme. There may be parts of the system that you disagreed with, perhaps the structure of the school day, but saying it had no benefit makes it sound like a pendejo argument.


My experience of formal education was that it was a net negative. In my case my mum taught me to read before I started school and I was an avid reader as a kid. All my positive educational memories involved books, my parents or other adults outside of school and later the Internet.

The teacher I have the most positive memories of is the math teacher who told me I wasn't going to learn anything more in his classes and gave me permission to spend them in the library practicing for the exams instead.

Obviously I learned some things in school simply by virtue of having to spend so much time there as a kid. That doesn't mean I couldn't have had a better educational and life experience not going. The fact that I attended an elite university probably helped me getting some jobs early in my career but it wasn't a positive educational experience for me either.


I agree with this sentiment.

However, if it's true that people learn from people they love, then it might be hard to learn from a comment that is calling what someone says "bullshit" and calling them a "pendejo".


Was there nothing from school that was useful? Did you learn to read and write, how to work as a group, or anything indirectly related to your current career?

EDIT: fixed typo


I learned outside of school to read and write. Even how to work as a group from active social activities outside of school. Group activities in school didn't promote real strengths because the activities could have been done alone. Yet, I succeeded as a person who could work as a group by the strengths learned outside of school in social activities.

I'm a software developer who was self taught online. All social skills with others at work were as stated developed from social experiences outside school. Forums or even reddit helped me progress in writing. I think school isn't necessary if motivated and the field of interest doesn't require legal obligations to meet by some degree or specialist program. The education system is arguably similar to any other capitalist entity and desiring society to feel it's needed or required. It's a real shame because it's a debt machine in a poor economy where the previous generation didn't need a degree and could get a home in their name young.


I am also a self taught and disagree with this. Everyone’s approach is different. I believe the key is passion and motivation. For us self taughts, we have enough motivation to carry us through. For others, they’ll need to absorb by osmosis. Especially from teachers that share your same passion.


Great teachers can ignite your passion or give you new directions that are hard or impossible to find by yourself.


This is why the future of education is in the hands of educators - it will be less about where you go to school (Harvard) and more about WHO your professor was for a given topic. Think Seth Godin’s altMBA


What about if the best teachers are basically AIs that are so good that you can't even tell it is an AI.

Look up google duplex to see what I am talking about.


Pretty sure the Google Duplex demo has been proven a fraud...


What's your source? I searched for "google duplex fraud" and found a few results indicating that maybe the "businesses" called during the demo weren't real? I can't find anything that proves this assertion, but even if I could I'm not sure I'd label the whole demo fraudulent in terms of displaying the state of the technology. For a fraudulent demo I'd expect to see evidence that the system's responses were actually generated in real-time by a human controller, but I haven't found anything online that makes this claim.


This is all well and good but the headline is a bit awkward when you consider the author’s recent personal life:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/reliable-source/wp/2017/...


Interesting article, but it fails to address the idea that causal link could go the other way. So for example I might connect better with teachers who have some pedagogical skill/training, or teachers who put some effort into their lessons.

I can confirm that I dislike teachers who can't be bothered to properly prepare their lecture. I also find it easier to make connections with teachers that do put effort in.


...that emotion is not the opposite of reason; it’s essential to reason.

I believe reason is informed by emotion to a degree that's difficult to appreciate until it has been tested.

That's why it's so disturbing to see issues such as basic economic security largely ignored in what are generally "good times".


It really depends on the student. If one has great work ethics, the connection to the teacher doesn't really matter because one would learn regardless. Similarly, the student can also "just" respect the teacher in his position and for his knowledge and be animated to learn because of that.

Also, since the article mentions it...fear can have a really positive effect when it comes to learning something. One year, we had a teacher who made us stand up in the beginning of the class and he would then ask for vocabulary. You had only little time to answer and if you got it correct, you were allowed to sit down. Obviously, no one wanted to be the last one standing, especially in a class of 31. It was the best class I've ever had and I learned a lot.


> If one has great work ethics, the connection to the teacher doesn't really matter because one would learn regardless.

That doesn't sound right to me, but I'm not to question it, since I realize how different people can be about such basic matters.

What I'd like to bring here is: could it be that people differ in "types" of work along the same lines as they do politically? Not correlated, but semantically related.

I wonder if there's a divide between the type of student who could dutifully learn something because it's the thing they're supposed to do, and the type of student who won't learn much if they aren't interested, but will quickly become proficient, if not master, the subject if they have the passion for it? The classic divide between dutiful order and creative chaos, in other words.

> One year, we had a teacher who made us stand up in the beginning of the class and he would then ask for vocabulary. You had only little time to answer and if you got it correct, you were allowed to sit down.

Isn't it related to the concept of "eustress" [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eustress]? Fearful stress versus "challenge" stress. I keep hearing bits and pieces about it (particularly from Tim Ferriss), but don't have the large picture.


> I wonder if there's a divide between the type of student who could dutifully learn something because it's the thing they're supposed to do, and the type of student who won't learn much if they aren't interested, but will quickly become proficient, if not master, the subject if they have the passion for it?

I'm not really a fan of the word "divide" here because the dutiful learner can absolutely benefit from the positive effect of being interested in the subject matter. On the other hand, he/she won't suffer the negative consequences of not really being interested.

> Isn't it related to the concept of "eustress"?

Related in the way that some students probably had a positive response. As for me...it was definitely a negative threat, although not as bad as citing a poem in front of the class for example. It also didn't lead to any growth in that department, it was an ever-recurring hurdle to be feared. But, as I said, it worked really well when it came to the aspect of learning the vocabulary. For that alone it was absolutely worth it.


"Divide" is bad choice of words on my part. I meant to suggest that the two instances of a hypothetical student are extremes on a spectrum, upon which we all lie somewhere.

I know I burn out quickly if I'm disinterested, but could work on something exciting — a website redesign was the latest — for hours, forgetting about food and rest.

Back in the uni, I'd postpone some assignments until the very last date if they weren't interesting. They'd still be good, but making them on time wasn't important to me. Same with revising/learning for a test, or an exam.

(To be fair, a lot of it is also in the anxiety. I'd postpone any project — more so one that involves public presentation — if I was afraid to not do well enough, let alone fail.)


Ah, I know what you mean but I don't really like the visualization of a spectrum either. A radar chart with both being pretty much opposite each other should work better, right? At least that's how I would best visualize it.

That's actually another very interesting aspect. The environment (on the basic level) can absolutely matter. Students that pay attention in class and do everything they are told with utmost care may slack with homework because their home is completely different from school. The opposite can be true as well, with students, not being comfortable at all within a school setting, excelling at studying on their own.


> A radar chart with both being pretty much opposite each other should work better, right?

Not when there's only two values measured. What else do you have in mind?

I'd never encountered people who experience separate influences, academically (that I know of). The best-indicative situation I'd seen (or, perhaps, only noticed) are people who don't do well in school because their home environment is discouraging and negative.

That said, my experience is such that, at school, I'd enjoy doing tasks – exercises, experiments etc. – but would avoid homework as much as possible. I wouldn't be able to sit down and learn anything by rote in a library: somehow, it increased internal tension, I was unable to sit down for the process.

On the other hand, I once memorized the Latin noun declension system in an evening, before the exam – more as a result of procrastination on my part than a motivated necessity.


I didn't really have any other value in mind (though, there are likely possibilities, depending on the perspective from which you want to view the whole thing). The problem is, if you only place a single dot...where would you put me? As mentioned above, I'm one of the dutiful learners that benefit from being interested in the subject matter (like maths, history, computer science). If both values weigh against each other, I would be somewhere on the "dutiful learner" side. However, both values don't exclude each other, that's why I'm not really a fan of a spectrum.

I'm one of the people I've described (first example). I do excel in school/work environments. Paying attention for hours on end, regardless of whether it was "boring" or not, was never an issue. That's how I aquired pretty much all my knowledge. However, at home, I had trouble doing my homework, doing assignments or even learning for a test. The latter two I would usually do the day/evening before (at the latest possible opportunity). Homework, I sometimes skipped cough cough. If one class would have been suddenly canceled, I would have had no troubles doing the homework in that time frame at school. My home environment was generally neutral and it's also not like I did something more interesting with my time that I couldn't do it.

That's pretty good. Latin is a case where I wish I had been forced to learn vocabulary at home...because it was absolutely necessary since we basically only read Latin texts during class, every single time, with the exception of grammar every blue moon.


> However, both values don't exclude each other, that's why I'm not really a fan of a spectrum.

I see what you mean. It reminds me of the way modern computer RPGs handle character morality.

It used to be (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Fallout: New Vegas) that the player character's goodness/badness would be measured on a spectrum. You'd be considered more "good" (moral, altruistic, kind) the more "good" things you did, and vice versa. Your "good" actions could eventually negate all the "bad" actions you've done over the course of the game, as long as there are enough opportunities to gain those morality points.

Nowadays (Mass Effect, Tyranny), it leans more towards a two-scale solution, where your "good" actions are measured alongside your "bad" ones. In this case, your saving the smith's child doesn't make people forget how you'd ruthlessly killed an innocent merchant for their stuff earlier. You could be totally "good", totally "bad", and anywhere in between; a divisive figure (with both "good" and "bad" scales tipped up high), or someone who doesn't take that bright of a stance, opting for not rocking the boat instead.

(Tyranny, in particular, handles the social reaction to your actions brilliantly, in my opinion.)

> However, at home, I had trouble doing my homework, doing assignments or even learning for a test.

Now that you say it like that, I do remember that I found doing the homework at the uni more... "possible", I guess, to doing it at home. There were often "windows" in our schedule – periods where there are no classes between any other two. I knew that, if I were to go home during a "window" (maybe I was tired, or maybe I was depressed that day), I'm not going back to uni. It felt like the work day was over, in this case.

Do you have any idea why is that so? Is there some sort of mode-switching happening between the workplace and home, where different priorities take hold?

> Latin is a case where I wish I had been forced to learn vocabulary at home

Vocab is a bitch, whatever the language. It's the meanest problem I have. Grammar, phonetics, even subtle semantic differences – I grasp all that pretty well, but vocab? Can't handle it unless I rote it – which, even if you're learning a language at the uni, is a tough nut to crack for me. I just can't memorize stuff that way. I need to work with the lexicon within a context: a book, a newspaper, a film – anything. Otherwise, it doesn't work for me.


> Nowadays (Mass Effect, Tyranny), it leans more towards a two-scale solution, where your "good" actions are measured alongside your "bad" ones.

That's good to hear. It always bothered me in a way that you were able to make your "bad" deeds become forgotten by doing some "good" things here and there. One notable exception was the "Childkiller" status in the early Fallouts (haven't played 3 and beyond) which led to possible encounters with bounty hunters.

> Do you have any idea why is that so? Is there some sort of mode-switching happening between the workplace and home, where different priorities take hold?

I do think it's because of the "tension" disappearing when you are at home. However, even that doesn't work entirely for me. For instance, I'm a night owl. On weekends, it's impossible for me to get up the same time I would on a work day, regardless of how often the alarm bell goes off. So while I would easily get up at 6:00 in the morning on a Monday while going to bed at 2:00, it would be impossible to get up the same time on a Saturday, even if I went to bed 2 hours earlier. One exception would be having to get up to travel somewhere. Now, one could argue that that "tension" isn't tied to a physical environment but that would point against the learning at home/homework stuff we experienced. Of course, there is the possbility that our body distinguishes between getting up at the right time to get to school/work and doing school stuff at home after school due to undetermined differences. I'm also trying to remember how it was when I had, for instance, two hours of school, four hours of free time and then another two hours of school. I do think the tension disappeared once I was home (unless I had a test or something later that day) but it gradually came back when sitting in class. So it's probably a mode that is on as soon as you wake up until you are home again. That mode is likely also emotionally and physically taxing on our body due to the tension. As soon as we hit home and are powering down, we (ideally) recuperate. Getting back up and increasing the tension again is maybe not ideal for our body (?) which would mean that longer pauses (like the four hours I mentioned) are not really beneficial. Something like that, I would guess.

> Grammar, phonetics, even subtle semantic differences – I grasp all that pretty well, but vocab?

We are similar then, as we grasp the feeling for a language rather easily. For instance, I was very good at writing French words (and also pronouncing them) and getting all the accents right. That was due to the sound of the word but also how the word "flowed" or looked. Of course, if I didn't know what the word meant, it would be pretty pointless. At least for me, ideally, I learn the language from the ground up, seperately from any other language. This really helps with trying to translate something from one language into another one when it simply can't really be done, as is often enough the case. And yes, learning words from context is the best.


It depends on student's self esteem IMHO. When you're new at a school, being subject to school wide bullying in a time where bullying is considered normal and just "children being children", addition of harsh teachers into one's already hard life, "great work ethics" doesn't help much. :)

"Fear being a positive effect" is also dependent on the student's character. For me, being intimidation and motivation by fear has completely negative effect. I always respond with "Come on, is this what best you can do? Using fear, because you can't use a more complicated technique or you can't be sincere with us? We are equal here. You're teaching something, and I'm trying my best to learn it. You don't have permission to harass me with this."

My comments in this thread are still valid for my work life. I still don't work with fear, and don't play along with people which are not sincere and show resistance to them. On the other hand, I'm the guy which others call me "extremely disciplined, and with great work ethics". If you want me to cooperate, just show me what you're aiming for. We can work together towards it, otherwise I'll indefinitely refuse to obey your "instructions" blindly.

Pushing a person for its best is separated with a very thin line from harassing that people. If that line's not well observed, one may burn out a lot of people while trying to motivate. These burn marks heal very slowly and hard, especially in the early ages.


> If one has great work ethics, the connection to the teacher doesn't really matter because one would learn regardless

If one has great work ethics, there is a possibility that the student with connect better with the teacher. Do you have concrete references that prove that under the condition that the teacher has great work ethics, the effectiveness of learning is independent of connection to the teacher. Equivalently, do you have references that show that the effectiveness of learning is more or less the same in both of these cases: (1) Teacher has great work ethics and students have better connection to the teacher (2) Teacher has great work ethics and the students have poorer connection to the teacher.

> fear can have a really positive effect when it comes to learning something

You seem to be presenting a personal anecdote that opposes a peer-reviewed study of Patricia K. Kuhl from University of Washington but you do not present any evidence to corroborate your claim. It's great that fear worked out well for your class but without supporting evidence for it, I doubt if this would work for the majority. I would be wary of using fear as a tool while teaching.


Hmm, you are talking about it from the perspective of a teacher. I, on the other hand, was talking about the perspective of a student which I had been. And while I did take pedagogy classes, I absolutely wouldn't comment on what works best as a teacher, considering I lack sufficient knowledge there.


> ...fear can have a really positive effect when it comes to learning something.

This has a built-in failure mode caused by the fact that the student is optimizing the objective function, "Reduce the potential for public embarrassment," and not the one the teacher wants, which is, "Learn the vocabulary." At some point, the student decides that the safer path is actively refusing to study and refusing to be embarrassed by this choice. No one knows if they could really learn the material or not (probably not even them), and they maintain self-respect by having the balls to stand up to someone they do not like (especially pre-university, where attendance is legally mandatory and you have little to no influence over your assigned teachers).

I have seen this play out with several obviously bright people (to counter your anecdote with another anecdote). It is particularly sad because it fails expressly for those struggling the most with formal education.


In the book, The Secret of our Success, Joseph Henrich offers a perspective of cultural inheritance from evolutionary biology.

How do children determine who to pay attention to? who to learn from? 1. Skill / Competence ("whose arrows hit the target?") 2. Success ("who brings back the big prey?") 3. Prestige (cues of attention, deference) - use what other people are doing - they are worthy of paying attention to 4. Age (ie, scaffold to incrementally experience) 5. Self-similarity - what might be useful to you later? - males copy males, females copy females, etc

https://youtu.be/jaoQh6BoH3c?t=1162 (19:22)


Well established endocrinology of the brain. Hormones have demonstrable positive outcomes on memory, cognition, neuroplasticity. Despite recent trends for de-personalized and distance education. It will be exciting to see what light neuroscience can shed on learning.

Tangential to this is what I consider an absolutely extraordinary phenomenon. The unexpected explosion of creativity that occurs in a subject subsumed in the throes of new romantic love ;)


The title is everything, and kind of blew my mind as soon as I read it.

I had never for a moment considered this a reason why whenever I was asked as a kid "who is your favorite teacher" without hesitation my answer was always "my brother" and never any of my actual school teachers.


The article rings true, but it's also true that some people do sometimes learn things from books, videos, or practice on their own. Certainly this happens with computer programming. It seems that face-to-face isn't the only way to make a connection?


I wonder what the effect is in cultures where teachers are respected more. Not because those cultures are "better," but because learning more is usually better than learning less, and I'd like to know what my personal "defaults" are.


Yes, its because they feel comfortable with that person. As a teacher, I also saw that students love those teachers who are more friendly and easy to discuss about their problem.


It’s hard to work through difficulty if your emotions aren’t engaged.-This is actually true.


Cue the extreme cynics suggesting that therefore we should only hire physically attractive teachers.


I can confirm the opposite is true. My most favorite subject was taught by a teacher I hated (psychology of game-design). I passed with a 75% mark and I felt ashamed since I was actively trying to get a 55% (i.e. barely passing).

Edit:

For downvoters, I'd like you to email me. I'd like to have the feedback why this isn't an interesting observation to make (that hating a teacher may produce opposite results).


Perhaps it is the emotional reaction which may spark learning. Many of my strongest lessons have been taught to me by people I don't along with and thoroughly loathe. This is the basis of one of the fundamental lessons I tell all serious students and acolytes: As much as you need mentors you need to have an enemy. Someone who provides dramatic contrast and direct competition can teach important lessons that cannot be learned any other way.


Could you give an example? This particular teacher was a dictator and didn't allow for any autonomy and acted like the class material was much more difficult than it actually was.

Note: we were master students and other classes that didn't do dictatorial handholding were much better. I had studied 2 bachelors and 0.5 masters up to this point.

Why do I then need to come to a lecture on how to learn JavaScript or otherwise I'd fail the class for not coming? I was more knowledgeable than what the guest speaker was teaching! (variables, loops, if-statements, functions)

Teachers that say: it's on you to come to the lecture and if you fail the class because you never show up that's on you, are much more my style.


Love and hate aren't opposites.


Can you expand on that? I think they are almost always grouped as opposites. Sharp and dull, Light and dark, Big and small, Love and hate. You could try for apathy as the opposite of love or of hate, but that is like saying gray is the opposite of white or black - it is just something in the middle.

I've tried to define love and hate in similar terms, minding what I think is their opposite nature. Self sacrifice to help another person is love, self sacrifice to hurt another person is hate. I think it works.


The opposite of love isn't hate. The opposite of love is indifference. Relationships can survive hate and return to love. When they just stop caring, the relationship is over.

Much like depression is not sadness. Sadness is meaningful. Depression is the dullness of absolutely nothing having meaning anymore.


I'd make an exception for contempt. Once you have contempt for another human being, it's hard to recover that.


Of course they can be considered opposites, along a certain axis. It all depends what you think is the most relevant axis for comparison.

In this case, I think emotions lead to memory leads to learning. It's more important to care about the instructor and the material than it is to feel positive about it. To purposefully score low, you need to master the material enough to prevent yourself from being right by accident.


They’re feelings, not actions. You can love and hate something and someone at the same time (see Apple and Star Wars fandom), but it’s quite hard to love or hate something and feel apathetic about it at the same time.


Is that different than the following?:

big and small are just relative descriptions. Something can be both big and small, consider the moon (big to us, small to the sun), but it is hard to describe somethings size while not thinking/comparing/considering about it.

Light and dark can be considered emotions to. You can harbor light and dark thoughts at the same time on the same subject. Light and dark are still opposites, like big and small. I don't find the argument compelling yet that love and hate are not opposites.

If indifference is the opposite of love, it is also the opposite of hate. That would make love and hate the same or close. I don't buy it. I would consider negative and positive to be opposite, and zero to be niether. Zero is apathy/indifference.


You can’t be big and small to something at the same time the way you can love and hate something at the same time.

Your point about 0 is resonable, but it’s more of a U shape.

Both are intense feelings that will stimulate arousal. In practice, it’s easier to move from love to hate and back to love than it is to move either to apathy — and cycling between them doesn’t involve apathy at all.

And then we have things like disgust, which I would say is more dissimilar to love than hate.




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