Context & Details for Understanding

 Understanding is a part of learning, but conversely, learning is a part of understanding. Context and detail are critical in bringing your classroom participants along the learning journey.  Seek to understand their context, and provide the detail for them to understand yours.

This morning my son and I admired a new vehicle as it passed us during our commute.  A second after we discussed its attributes he popped up with this comment, “Mommy, they have paper plates.”

Due to the pause, I did not connect his statement with the car.  I was confused.  My first thought was to wonder why I cared about paper plates.  Why did he care about paper plates?  Upon inquiry, he explained, the car that had just gone by had “paper license plates.”  Ah, 30 day tags; the car was new.

Two important understanding and learning concepts came into play during this short conversation: context and detail.

Detail: It continually fascinates me how a simple change in words can lead to greater understanding.  As a non-driver, my son did not yet know that we call them “30 day tags” instead of calling them paper plates.  His description was accurate, but including the word “license” in his follow up explanation included greater detail.

Context: I might have followed his thinking and line of visual sight if we had still been admiring that vehicle, but the pause allowed my thinking to diverge into new topics.  He and I no longer shared the same context.  In addition to the added detail, his explanation brought me back to his topic by saying, “on that car.”

When planning seminars and trainings, how can you anticipate the context of your topic relative to your learners?  What details are necessary to include them?  Small changes have a significant impact in learning.


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