We all have gaps in our knowledge. You know, that information we should know but don’t. Teachers, professors, professional development leaders, parents, tutors, corporate trainers, grandparents, etc. must remember that sometimes we will encounter the oddest knowledge gaps in our students and ourselves. How we identify and address those gaps is essential. It’s what separates the good teachers from the great.
Example of My Own Weird Gap
Me: Desdemona’s hair is so long and thick. Her ponytail looks like an actual tail of a pony.
Timon: Hahaha! That’s why they are called ponytails.
Timon: Wait. Ms. P, you knew that, right? Ponytail, pony’s tail?
Me: Ummm. Yeah. Pish. Of course I knew that. I sure did. Shoot, everybody knows that. Especially me. I knew that so good.
Timon: (disbelieving look) Hahaha, okay Ms. P. It’s cool*.
I didn’t know that! I never thought about it before in my whole entire life. I never actually made the connection that a ponytail was called a ponytail because it looked like a pony’s tail. No clue why my brain never bothered to make that connection. We all have those gaps. Other gaps can include technology, science, history, literature, math, pop culture, sports…
That is why it is so important to consistently assess prior knowledge to identify those gaps and address them. We need to get a firm understanding of what our students know and don’t know so that we can help them learn effectively. Sometimes it is surprising what students may be missing, and at no time is it appropriate to make them feel bad about their gaps. Timon didn’t make me feel bad. And I would never do that to my students. It’s just the natural process of learning. Questioning is a great technique to identify what students know, and there are many other effective ways to gather evidence of prior learning.
Have you ever encountered interest or funny gaps in your students, children, workshop participants, or audience members? What are your gaps? Besides questioning, how do you assess prior knowledge?
I’m not ashamed though. I agree that it’s kind of crazy I didn’t know about the ponytail thing.
K. Renae P., you’re never pasture prime to learn.
*We say “it’s cool” when somebody makes a mistake, but it’s really no biggie. It helps the kids not sweat the small stuff.