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A teacher of teachers in a field I'm involved in frequently says:

the best teachers are often those who only recently learned the material themselves

The rationale for the statement is that someone who has recently learned the material is more intimately aware of the stumbling blocks someone goes through when learning it, and can therefore be cognisant of those when teaching it to other beginners, thus making them a better teacher.

By contrast, someone who has known the subject matter for many decades may have completely forgotten what it was like when first learning the material, and could be therefore prone to impatience, or underestimating complexity or learning time.

Question

Does this concept have a name? Or is there any study that backs up the idea that more experienced instructors can sometimes be blind to the most basic concepts in their discipline (since they take them for granted), and therefore (paradoxically) make worse teachers than those with less subject matter expertise?

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    I posted a question on whether the curse of knowledge is a real effect, for those interested in discussing that. See here. – Dan Romik Mar 14 at 18:38
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This is called the curse of knowledge. From Wikipedia:

The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, communicating with other individuals, unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand. [...]

For example, in a classroom setting, teachers have difficulty teaching novices because they cannot put themselves in the position of the student. A brilliant professor might no longer remember the difficulties that a young student encounters when learning a new subject.

Writer and organizational psychologist Adam Grant nicely illustrates the concept in this article:

Two decades ago, I arrived at Harvard as an undergraduate excited to soak up the brilliance of professors who had won Nobels and Pulitzers. But by the end of the first month of my freshman year, it was clear that these world-class experts were my worst teachers. My distinguished art history professor raved about Michelangelo’s pietra serena molding but didn’t articulate why it was significant. My renowned astrophysics professor taught us how the universe seemed to be expanding, but never bothered to explain what it was expanding into (still waiting for someone to demystify that one). It wasn’t that they didn’t care about teaching. It was that they knew too much about their subject, and had mastered it too long ago, to relate to my ignorance about it. Social scientists call it the curse of knowledge. As the psychologist Sian Beilock, now the president of Barnard College, writes, “As you get better and better at what you do, your ability to communicate your understanding or to help others learn that skill often gets worse and worse.”

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    To all those discussing if the effect is real, I posted a separate question about this, see here. – Dan Romik Mar 14 at 18:35
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Good teachers are good teachers. Experts are experts. Good teachers aren't always experts and experts aren't always good teachers.

Some of the smartest people I know couldn't teach you how to tie your shoes, and some of the best teachers I know are dumber than a big bag of hammers.

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    @DaveLRenfro Really? I'd categorize at least 10% of the PhDs I know as people who couldn't get water out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel. I worked in construction when I was an undergrad and I don't know what the literary basis is for some of the phrases I learned. – user133933 Mar 12 at 19:40
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    @DaveLRenfro : Bag of hammers: english.stackexchange.com/a/114217/129225 – Eric Towers Mar 12 at 23:37
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    -1 The question asked for either a name for this concept, or a study that looks into it. This post provided neither. Therefore, it is not an answer. – Brian Drake Mar 13 at 6:01
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    @BrianDrake The question also called it a 'paradox' which it obviously isn't - hence this answer – user133933 Mar 13 at 13:25
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    @Libor The question called it a “paradox”, which it obviously is. But regardless of what we think of the word “paradox”, the question is still valid, so this post neither explains why the question is invalid nor answers it. – Brian Drake Mar 14 at 7:47
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It is often said but I have never seen firm evidence of it to be true. (I have seen bad teachers hide behind the equally false pretence that "therefore" they must surely be brilliant scientists!)

The biggest confounders are the Dr Fox effect and the Dunning-Kruger effect, which lead students to make erroneous assessments as to how well they have been taught.

Teachers who have themselves not mastered the material often fall back on the same coping strategies as poor students: "Do not try to understand this. Just, whenever you see an equation like this, follow these three steps..." Clearly the poor student believes that this teacher speaks their language, but it is far less clear if anyone is learning anything in such an exchange.

This happens mostly with TAs. It is nice to get positive feedback on the module because the TA follows this pattern, but not so nice to see what the students' heads have been filled with, come exam marking time.

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    I hadn't heard of the Dr Fox effect before - very interesting! – stevec Mar 13 at 14:20
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Another related model is Dreyfus model of skill acquisition.

The premise being that someone at the Expert level might struggle teaching someone at Novice level since they way they perceive the domain and problems are very different.

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It is not a "paradox" unless one assumes - incorrectly - that an expert in a field must ipso facto be an excellent teacher as well. As has been mentioned, teaching is a skill and requires experience and training that a substantive expert in the field may not have. Similarly, an expert in a field (scientific, humanities or otherwise) may not be a good writer. Those are simply different skills. It is commonly - and correctly - stated that lawyers (my field) are often poor writers. I am not aware of any specific name for this misconception.

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    The supposed paradox is that if there are two people who are equally skilled at teaching and one knows more than the other about a certain subject, then — if the claim is to be believed — the one who knows less about the subject would likely be better at explaining it than the one who knows more. This is a stronger statement, and a more counterintuitive one, than just saying that teaching ability is not correlated with subject matter expertise. Now whether this claim is true or not is open to debate, but your answer doesn’t even acknowledge there’s anything surprising being claimed. – Dan Romik Mar 14 at 2:24
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    -1 “It is not a ‘paradox’ unless one assumes - incorrectly - that …” I think you can say this about all paradoxes. More importantly, this is not an answer to the question posed. – Brian Drake Mar 14 at 8:45
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    @DanRomik "The supposed paradox is that if there are two people who are equally skilled at teaching and one knows more than the other about a certain subject, " That's a possible question with assumptions that someone might ask, but that is not what the OP asked. The OP asked simply if there is a term to describe the statement that "the best teachers are often those who only recently learned the material themselves." And I did in fact answer the question - no such term afaik. As for whether all paradoxes are based on incorrect assumptions, who knows, but this one certainly is. – Neithea Mar 14 at 20:50
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    @BrianDrake well, "this sentence is false" is a paradox with no prior assumptions. Good for detecting people who are secretly robots, though. – user253751 Mar 15 at 13:43

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