I did REALLY badly on my first Genetics and Evolution test - 40%. I actually thought I had done better, but I struggled through it, knowing I wasn't really clear on some of the calculations. So there was a lesson there. I should have spent more time practising examples until I felt comfortable with them. Do you remember when you were a child and were given a page of repetitive arithmetic to do? By the time you got to the end you were ready to scream, but you had GOT IT. Well, I need to get to that point.
On the other hand I got 92% on my second history test. I am rather proud of this because almost half of it was on the American Revolution, which I knew virtually nothing about before this course, so I really packed a lot in. But you see, history comes easily to me, and math doesn't, so I expected to find this course much plainer sailing than the other one. Really, the history course is a breeze. I am well-suited to it, it is my type of learning. I am just enjoying the ride.
HOWEVER - I am actually getting more satisfaction from the harder course. I keep having lightbulb moments as a concept not only sinks in, but suddenly and spectacularly. When you consider that this sort of thing is being taught:
Lecture 5: Mapping “simple” genetic traits in crosses/ pedigrees
Video 1: Introduction to genetic mapping of traits
Video 2: Mapping a simple genetic trait relative to genetic markers in a cross
Well, perhaps you see why I'm so pleased with myself when I "get it". It's a real workout for the ol' grey matter.
I've had a couple of people ask me why I'm doing this. Especially when they see what a challenge certain aspects of this course are. Well, there are all sorts of reasons, but mostly it's just for the simple pleasure of learning.
I love learning. No, wait...I thrive on it. I love UNDERSTANDING. That's the key. So just being taught isn't enough. It has to go to the next step where I can explain it to somebody else. That, to me, is a sure sign that I understand it.
Some years ago, I got a note home from school that my son James was having difficulty with phonemic awareness. I think he was about 10. There were some examples shown, and basically he wasn't "getting" the concept of rhyming words. I didn't know what phonemic awareness was. To be frank, I didn't even know what a phoneme was, and when I looked it up, the information from the definition just didn't sink in.
So I searched online for more information, and over the course of a week or so I think I read the equivalent of a textbook, from articles here are there, mostly at the linguistic departments of several universities. It was certainly not like taking a linguistics course, but it was a lot of information, and it was only really after I'd investigated it at that level, that I could go back and "get" what a phoneme was.
No wonder my kid was struggling.
I then talked to the teacher about all of this. She gasped. "I could have explained very quickly and easily for you, what a phoneme is!" So I asked her if she had offered that to James. No, she said, it was too complex, it was a term used in reference to what they were learning, but not one taught to the students.
I was angry about this whole situation, about the way it was approached. I was able to explain it to James in a matter of minutes, and so she could have, if she'd made the effort. If she could explain it to me, she could explain it to him. But no, they taught the concept without any definitions.
I have wondered about that ever since. Double-talk in education. Assumptions. Assuming kids wouldn't understand something. Assuming parents already do. Communication seems to be the issue here.
People learn differently. People have different levels of intellect. People have different interests. People have different natural aptitudes. People have different attention spans. Teachers have different approaches. Teachers have different abilities. And so on. But in all cases better communication leads to better results. And communication involves the speaker and the listener.
So I'm wondering why, when something is explained and not understood, we don't just all immediately recognize that the problem is communication straight away. Sometimes all that's necessary is repetition - practice. Sometimes it needs a new angle - "let me put it another way". When I watch a new video in my course, sometimes I feel really challenged, it makes no sense. But after I go through it carefully, look a few things up, try a few exercises out, gradually it comes together, and then DING!
It all involves thinking though. Can't do any of it without thinking.
Guess which course I start on Monday. Go on, guess.