Evaluating Contributions to a Social Network
On Directed and Flow Learning Goals

Lying for Learning

Over the weekend I Stumbled this post on an interesting learning strategy--lying:

One of my favorite professors in college was a self-confessed liar.

I guess that statement requires a bit of explanation.

The topic of Corporate Finance/Capital Markets is, even within the world of the Dismal Science, (Economics) an exceptionally dry and boring subject matter, encumbered by complex mathematic models and obscure economic theory.

What made Dr. K memorable was a gimmick he employed that began with his introduction at the beginning of his first class:

“Now I know some of you have already heard of me, but for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar, let me explain how I teach. Between today until the class right before finals, it is my intention to work into each of my lectures … one lie. Your job, as students, among other things, is to try and catch me in the Lie of the Day.”

And thus began our ten-week course.

This was an insidiously brilliant technique to focus our attention - by offering an open invitation for students to challenge his statements, he transmitted lessons that lasted far beyond the immediate subject matter and taught us to constantly check new statements and claims with what we already accept as fact.

I love this! Not only does it focus attention, it also teaches people to challenge what they hear from "experts" and to begin thinking for themselves. It also forces them to dig deeply into the meat of the learning.

Although this was a strategy used for a semester-long course, I think it could be adapted for shorter time-frames, even down to several lies in a single day-long workshop. I may be trying this in my next training session. . .


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I have not used this technique per se (although I might try next semester!), but I have made really outlandish claims and then sat back to see if anyone challenged me. When they don't, I challenge my students' complicity. I usually do this within the first few classes so my students know that I am not the total authority on everything. I also give them information (cases, activities, presentations) that purposely have mistakes in them, and then challenge them to find the mistakes.

What is amusing for me is how many times they find things that I didn't even intend! It's great because then I can pretend it was intended all along!

However, I have been accused, especially by education majors, of being unethical in doing this. They consider it "tricking" and they feel that teachers should never "trick" students. I often won't let education students know ahead of time that there are errors because I want them to experience the frustrations of ill conceived lessons on the part of the student and to develop strategies when a lesson does not turn out the way you want it to.

I love this! What a great idea!

Thanks Virginia and Talia!

Virginia, I think it's interesting that the response you get from Ed majors is that challenging them to find your outlandish claims is "tricking" them. That actually says a lot about what happens in classrooms because it's clear that their paradigm is that of teacher as expert imparting wisdom to the masses--exactly what we don't want or need in schools today!

I agree Michele. The majority of those that object often are the ones that are very vocal in presenting themselves as "student centered" teachers (as long as the students think like them...is what is going on in my mind as they say this)

Thanks for linking to Zen Moments - much appreciated.

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