Learning requires mental effort. Yet, we are constantly told ways to make learning easier. Perhaps we should be trying to make learning harder.
We know from psychology that when situations seem to fit easily into our past experiences that subconscious processes take over. However, because subconscious processes are based on generalizations, such subconscious processes are prone to error. That is, when walking up to a door that has a handle, our immediate reaction is to pull (even if the door says “push”).
If our subconscious mental processes are prone to error, we should be trying to steer learners out of subconscious processes and into more conscious processes (usually associated with working and short-term memory). Although these conscious processes are slower, they are the processes needed for learning new material.
Perhaps our routines should not be so routine. One in particular comes to mind. Maybe we shouldn’t display our objectives on the board. Instead, maybe the kids should tell us what the objective was at the end of the lesson. This might prevent the objective being mindlessly (subconsciously) written down never to be considered again.
What other routines should we be questioning? In what other ways should we be purposefully making things more difficult so that kids might actually learn?