

Bottlenecks Across the
Disciplines
"...Expert teachers are sensitive to those
aspects of the discipline that are especially hard or easy for
new students to master. This means that new teachers must develop
the ability to 'understand in a pedagogically reflective way;
they must not only know their own way around a discipline, but
must know the conceptual barriers likely to hinder others'
(McDonald and Naso, 1986:8). These conceptual barriers differ
from discipline to discipline."
Bransford, J., Brown, Brown, A., and Cocking, D. (2000). How
People Learn. Washington,DC: National Academy Press.
 Students, who have been successful at
memorization, do not know how to move beyond it to start the
problem solving process.
 Students often cannot see the "double
and triple meanings" in a passage of text, and when this is
taught, some students feel I am making the obvious obscure and
even absurd.
 Students have difficulty relating mathematical
equations/solutions to physical phenomena.
 Students have difficulty relating computer
model results to the real world.
 Students do not know how to check whether
a mathematical or computer result makes sense.
 Students cannot correlate two dimensions
of data on a graph.
 Students are unable to move from terminology
and verbal descriptions to visualizations of function or processes.
 In creative writing students cannot
distinguish between "telling" and "describing."
 Students cannot parse a broad topic
down into manageable and researchable concepts.
 Students want to focus on details (what
they call facts ) rather than mastering big concepts.
 Students have difficulty deciphering
information presented in graphical formats.
 Students cannot distinguish fact from
an author's argument.
 Students do not recognize that they
need different intellectual tools to solve different problems.
 Students generalize too quickly (i.e.
from "this is true" "this is always true").
 Students move automatically from issues
of fact to issues of value (i.e. from "this is" to "this is
good/bad").
 Students begin _____ discipline with
incorrect notions of what practitioners actually do in the field.
 Students assume that there is only one
possible answer.
 Students don't reflect on their own
learning (lack of metacognition).
 Students are not able to make assumptions
concerning information not provided in a case.
 Students personalize a problem or filter
it through their own personal experience to the point of distortion.
 Students don't know what they don't
know.
 Students are unwilling to allow uncertainty
to continue long enough.
 Students spend so much time focusing
on details that they might be tested on that they are unable
to get the "big picture."
For Further Reading: "One
Bottleneck at a Time," written by J. Jose Bonner (2000
FLC Fellow), William Harwood, and Christine Lotter, Dec. 2004.
