Understanding Understanding

Have you ever explained something to a student, only to realize later that they totally missed the point? One year I recall that I introduced my students to the work of Frida Kahlo. I skillfully guided remarks about her eyebrows into a discussion about how she used her self-portraits to communicate messages about her conflicted inner state more than her exterior appearance.

So when I later asked my students, What did Frida Kahlo communicate through her paintings?, I expected something more sophisticated than, “She liked her eyebrows!”

Often, teachers are able to guide students to a place where they can pass a test, but once the questions veer away from the classroom script, it becomes clear that students lack true understanding. They are not able to explain the concept in a meaningful or accurate manner, they are unable to perceive its appropriate context, and they struggle to apply the idea to solve new problems.

To explore this topic more, my MAET group, Los Triángulos, decided to investigate the electoral college and find out what people actually understood about it. We designed a set of questions to tease out others’ understanding. Then, we talked to people on MSUs campus and invited online participants to complete a survey with our questions. Finally, we analyzed the results to see how well people understood the electoral college and its impact on our elections. Find out about our results in the video below!

Want to learn more? You can take a look at our website that explains our procedure and results.

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