Teachers Do Their Best Work When They Are Assistant Learners

How is hockey like flying a fighter jet, like financial planning, like life?

They are all dynamic. A changing environment with a changing operator within them.

If you are coaching young people to play a fast moving sport like hockey, a key requirement is for them to learn “situational awareness.” Situational awareness is a complex area and has been a subject for serious discussion in the air force. How do some people understand complicated 3D environments and know what is likely to happen next while others do not? Is it possible to teach them how?

Thinking about that will lead you a conclusion. Complex things cannot be taught, they must be learned. The best the teacher can do is create situations where it is possible for the student to learn.  Like life. Like financial planning, like piloting a fighter jet, like hockey.

Mica Endsley, PhD, has been Chief Scientist of the United States Air Force, Founder and CEO of a cognitive engineering firm, and professor at MIT and Texas Tech. She has studied situational awareness for more than two decades. She has found people in complex environments make mistakes under predictable circumstances:

  1. They didn’t know what is happening in their environment
  2. They did not have enough background knowledge about similar situations
  3. They didn’t understand their own thinking process.
  4. They don’t plan or rehearse responses
  5. They don’t understand how relationships within the situation work or can work

Her teaching method is to become an assistant learner.

Help people to understand the value of anticipation. Show them how to ask themselves what if questions. What if I lose my job for six months? What if that player tries to beat me outside? What if my fuel runs out? What if I get sick?

Another approach was to help people learn about their thinking methods. Explaining situations to themselves is the key. Explaining is a wonderful way to learn. When I was at university one of my friends was a PhD candidate in physics. He would go home at night and explain what he had learned that day to his wife.  According to him, she seldom understood it, but usually by the end of it, he did.

Learning is a skill. Addressing how you do it helps you become better at it. Being a better learner helps you become better at whatever subject you apply it to.

In hockey, a defenseman that knows the winger wants to go to the net can give him a choice of ways to get there with one obviously preferred and then take that one away once the winger has committed. The player will not improve materially until he realizes that at any point on the ice, with players in certain positions there are very few best options. Knowing what those are is something the player can learn and use the knowledge to anticipate the play. Watch others play and decide why they do what they do.

The best players seem to have a sixth sense. They are nearly out of time with the rest. It is deep knowledge and it is achievable with, what is happening? why that? what could happen next? kind of questioning.

Those easily lead to what skills must I develop to be able to compete at that level. Then traditional teaching can help.

Asking what if questions forces people to understand, notice and look for more information. Explaining the process helps identify conflicts and voids. These simple techniques clarify a huge range of financial decisions.

Use them.

Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario.  In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you.  don@moneyfyi.com  866-285-7772

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