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The Parking (Learning?) Conundrum

Bad Parking Picture

It happens every year when the snow hits the parking lot. People forget how to park.

Those of us that go to work every day generally park our cars in a parking lot 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year. We don’t seem to have any trouble getting our car parked between the lines, until it snows. As often as we do the task, you would think that we would totally understand it. A correctly parked car is about 2 feet from the car next to it.

So, what happens when it snows?

I came to work this morning and there was snow in the parking lot and the cars were parked haphazardly. Some cars were parked about 2 feet from the adjacent car as they should be, but others were parked 4 feet and even 6 feet apart. Neither of those spacings allows room for another car, although someone may try to squeeze their car into the 6-foot spacing. I don’t understand why this happens. It snows every winter. And it’s not just the first snow that this happens. The bad parking will occur all winter long reducing the parking in each lot by 10 to 20 percent. I find this frustrating.

I see the same thing happen in the classroom. I teach my students a skill and when it is appropriate to use the skill. We practice the skill. And then, a few days or weeks later, we encounter a new situation and my students act like they have never seen the skill needed to solve this new problem. But it is the skill we learned way back and have been using regularly.

What is it that happens in our brains when it snows?

2 Responses to The Parking (Learning?) Conundrum

  1. Avatar
    Melissa Sprenkle November 15, 2019 at 12:12 PM #

    I feel this way too sometimes. My students struggle a lot with transfer of writing strategies from one context to another as well.

  2. Avatar
    Ryan Bernstein November 19, 2019 at 10:49 AM #

    What a great analogy, Deb. Memory is a fickle, funny thing. This reminds me of the Forgetting Curve. Ironically (and to illustrate my point), I don’t quite remember when I first learned about the Forgetting Curve, but it’s all about the “loss of learned information.” You can learn more here if you’re interested:
    True to your analogy, according to the Forgetting Curve we lose about 75% of what was learned within a day or two if the learning isn’t reinforced somehow.

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