Pre-emptive concept development

Posted on April 17, 2017


One of the things that wowed me about my Java I course was the ability of our instructor to teach concepts pre-emptively, consciously laying groundwork with “future common errors” in mind. We worked with the concept of “object orientation” and variables being the address where a value lived, not the value itself. He kept coming back to it at every opportunity instead of acting as if of *course* we included that in our thought processes. It’s why I can still explain it.

You see, if you just learn the first stuff, even if you are told the concept, you’re likely not to really apply it to the simple stuff that has to be what you start with.   You get practice with a simpler model that won’t hold up later.   We weren’t allowed to do all that stuff in our heads.  We had to show where things were pointing.   So… when things got more complicated… I knew how to show where things were pointing.

I know there would be those for whom that wasn’t necessary, at all.   The more complicated model would make sense and … these would be the “naturals.”   If they were the teacher, they might think that spending all that extra time was wasted.  It wasn’t wasted for the students, who saved 10 times as much time not having to fix their mistakes later, and trying to build the concept with the more complicated materials while trying to unlearn the weak model.    Still, many the teacher and programmer thinks that this is the natural weeding out of the people who shouldn’t be programmers anyway.

First, that’s just bogus.   Half the “naturals” will look that way but have outside help… it’s how the privileged inherit privilege. Second, Some of the weedouts will be, oh, anybody lacking confidence or growth mindset (which could be squashed with this approach).   Third.. there’s really room for non-naturals to learn the stuff…

Substitute math for the above and multiplication and division for the beginning. I’m thinking that it’s worth “wasting” some extra time on the language of “1/2 of” meaning multiply by 1/2 and divide by 2, with pictures and pointers.

Don’t have “billy had 96 fliers to post; he posted 5/8 of them on Monday.   On Tuesday, he posted 1/3 of the remainder.  How many does he still have left to post?”   on top of  “a 24 foot pipe is divided into 3/8 foot pieces.  How many pieces?”   without a firm, firm grounding…  look ahead to where people break down and find a way to apply that …


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