A Reader Writes . . .

Nathan Stein, a graduate student and this year’s Departmental Teaching Fellow in the Statistics Department, wrote in to share an insight he had while listening to Steven Pinker’s talk at the recent HILT Symposium:

[Pinker] said that the challenge of writing was converting a network of ideas into a linear string of words. He also mentioned the “curse of knowledge” – that the more knowledgeable you are, the harder it can be to teach, because you can no longer understand or remember what it’s like NOT to know what you know.

These ideas are closely connected: the more knowledge you have, the richer and more complicated your network of ideas, possibly making them even harder to translate into a linear sequence others can follow. The flipside is that trying to become a better teacher by practicing that translation process can yield benefits in writing and research.

Overcoming the “curse of knowledge” in a way that’s beneficial both to teaching and writing/research is a great goal for any academic. Does anyone have any practical tips to help reverse this particular “curse?”

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