Makomed's Weblog

How to Prevent Study Burnout

Posted on: March 25, 2010

One of our UCSD math TA’s had a nice page where he described briefly his methods of teaching. It’s called the necessity principle. He basically says that in order to maximize learning efficiency, you should do it out of curiosity, not because you’re driven to do well.

Granted, this is a hard pill for me to swallow.It basically says that maximal learning occurs when I’m not stressing over grades or financial motivation. I should just learn for the sake of learning.

But it works. Obviously, its easier to learn when I don’t have fear in my eyes. But will it still make for better grades? I don’t know. But this theory helps to relax me when I’m sinking in fear from doing bad in a class. It reminds me that I’m in the classroom to learn for the sake of learning, not to prove my self-worth. It saves my self-esteem and makes me calm enough to focus on what is being taught.

“My senior year as an undergraduate at UCSD, I researched teaching methods with Professor Guershon Harel. Specifically, I studied the Necessity Principle and how it can be applied towards teaching first year calculus students.

The Necessity Principle states the following:

Students are most likely to learn when they see a need for what we intend to teach them, where by “need” is meant intellectual need, as opposed to social or economic need.

Essentially, if students question “why” something said in class is true, they are following the necessity principle.

Note, this is not the same thing as being motivated to do well.

For example, one may be motivated to learn the material to do well on an exam because a good grade in the course may lead to some social or economic gain. In that instance, one is not following the necessity principle.

By the same token though, if one is motivated to learn why something works, then one is following the necessity principle. The distinction is fine, but crucial.

Those who follow the necessity principle tend to become scientists and thinkers, for they are naturally curious about the subject they are studying.

–The work is by Will Garner, and you can find the website to his teaching methods here.


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