Fear of Looking Stupid

Inside Higher Ed has recently published two items about faculty resistance to adopting new teaching methods. A study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University by anthropologist Lauren Herckis found that the main reason faculty members shun new and potentially more effective classroom techniques is that they fear students will think they are stupid. The stories are at these links:

Fear of Looking Stupid

The Necessity of Looking Stupid.

I must admit that I really don’t understand this behavior. To me it’s evidence that a lot of people in academia are trying to compensate for low self-esteem or suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect. I’ve never been reluctant to respond to a student’s question with “I don’t know, let’s see if we can figure out the answer.” I try to emphasize to students that while I might not remember everything I once learned, I at least know some reasonably successful strategies for finding the information I need to answer whatever question I’m faced with. To me this is a more useful skill than being able to regurgitate facts from memory.

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