Today is the first full day of the InSITE conference held in Montreal this year, and I’m enjoying acting like a student listening to all the talks.  I took a break between the last session and the dinner to catch up on e-mail and saw an article about an interesting study on confusion and learning.  To quote from the article:

They found that by strategically inducing confusion in a learning session on difficult conceptual topics, people actually learned more effectively and were able to apply their knowledge to new problems.

There are lots of disclaimers about this, including that students shouldn’t be purposefully confused, that the confusion should be closely related to the concepts being learned, and that it’s more suitable for advanced learners.  The article does a good job of conveying all of the caveats.

But students often feel that confusion is a very negative thing, and talking about a study that highlights a positive benefit may help them to grapple with it in a more positive way.  I know that my first impulse when faced with confusion is to root out more information, so the study resonated with me.