The Learning Bias

During my first few months of coding, I’ve had to go through a lot of online tutorials and courses.  and I mean A LOT.  Additionally, I’ve had to access quite a few online forums in order to have my more detailed questions answered (for those of you who have experienced any semblance of coding, you know that this is an absolute necessity). So, even though I do have a real live mentor at my disposal, I’m doing a lot of learning and taking advice from strangers.

In doing this, I’ve come to realize one of the fallacies of learning.  (Ok, maybe it’s only on a personal level, but yay for self-awareness!)  It’s a pretty basic error in thinking: if the explanation of a concept is confusing or a posted solution didn’t work for me, it’s bad teaching/advice.  If it did, what a great teacher and brilliant programmer he/she is!  In the moment, I truly believe this.

I take it even further when talking with my mentor.  I’ll mention one of the concepts that was well explained, and sometimes she’ll say “well, you should actually never use that” or “sounds like they have a fundamental misunderstanding of what it does.” At these times, I feel a surge of annoyance.  She can’t attack my brilliant teachers like that!  They taught, and I understood it, and they said it was cool, so I thought it was cool, and now I can’t use it, and oh what am I going to do???  I like to be dramatic in my head when it comes to addressing this issue, apparently.

Gradually, I’ll come to realize that my mentor is right about a lot of things. However, it still doesn’t stop me from continually forming arbitrary bonds to random teachers on the web.

I realized that I’ve been developing this habit since I was little….but it started out a little differently: first came love, then came good teaching. I had teachers that I LOVED, and when a classmate or parent would criticize their teaching, I would instantly rush to their defense.  For me, the quality of the teaching was directly correlated to the likability of the teacher (well, that and how well I did in the class).

I suppose this is true for a lot of people.  Affection does cause us to overlook faults.  They’ve even done studies showing that people believe their doctors are more competent when they are nicer.

Since my childhood, I’ve apparently extended this thinking error: if I can understand and do well, then I like the teacher, which means they obviously teach well. QED.

Does anybody else feel this way? What do you do to un-bias yourself?

Featured image from sheepforcomics



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