The difference between understanding and thinking that you do …

This is one more of those grey area posts – where I am myself not so certain about anything – and in the end it turns out to be – just some sort of general loud musing actually …
The story begins with my brother (with no prior computer programming experience whatsoever) turning up to me two days before his IT exam and asking me to teach him javascript programming.
The task was pretty much uphill from the beginning itself, as he had no experience at all – and he gave me so much little time to teach him in.
So anyways, I thought of giving it a shot and got down to teaching him.
After a couple of hours of tutoring and assignments, he told me that he had understood whatever I had taught him and seeing that he was getting the hang of things and actually doing the assignments right, I thought he had too.
So, I left it at that and decided to continue with much more advance topics the next day.
However, when I did start the next day, I realised that he had not understood a thing – had got all his concepts wrong, but still somehow, was able to do the assignments that I had given him.
He had found some vague similarity and a coincidental method by which he was able to solve the assignments. His method, though not entirely incorrect, was a one off thing and actually ended up being a series of (coincidental) flukes which made him think that what he had understood was correct.
Hence, in short, what had actually happened was that he “thought” he had understood, whereas he clearly hadn’t.
Which brings me back to the post … the difference between “actually understanding something” and “thinking” that you understood something …
This boils down to some sort of a paradox, because how can you say you understand something unless you “think” you do, and vice versa …
Also, even though you think you understood something because your application worked using the principles that you applied (which you thought were correct), how will you know for sure whether what you “think” you have understood was the exact same thing the author / teacher was supposed to make you understand?
You can probably run a larger number of test cases but then again, there is no limit to how many different cases there could be and for how many your theories would fail …
Which kinda brings us to the thought that nothing in this world is absolute – and everything is relative …
Or then maybe, we just need to invent some higher means (or forms) of communication by which we could eliminate all these paradoxes and come to absolute conclusions …
Here is me again wandering off into the oblivion … :p

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Comments (3)

  • mullingovermythoughts 14 years ago Reply

    interesting topic bro… i suppose i am not well qualified to comment on the topic cause iv never been up that alley or maybe im so grossly mesmerised with my perception that i am in the right, that i have never realised my folly!!! in either case, you have opened up a great topic for debate!

  • Id it is 14 years ago Reply

    I guess that’s what makes teaching different from showing or modelling. An important step in teaching is the very last one; that of assessment and evaluation;a whole area by itself in the field of education that teaches teachers to find out whether the taught actually ‘understood’ the material presented, and to what degree would he be able to apply it in real time and in a real situation.

    Interesting lead.

  • Shalini 14 years ago Reply

    Great Blog!

    I SO understand what u mean!!

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