Evaluating Directions (and My Own Assumptions)

In class, my partner and I were assigned the task of learning how to jump a car with a dead battery.  I am slightly ashamed to say that I wasn’t 100% sure exactly how to jump a car. I thought I knew the basics. Open the hood, attach the jumper cables to the battery of the vehicle with the dead battery to the battery of a car without the dead battery, etc.

So when my instructor proposed this task I jumped (pun intended) at the chance to learn this skill. I am, after all, well-educated in many areas, but I must admit, cars are not my area of expertise. So we dove right in. There was one thing we discovered was assumed when dealing with this every day problem:

  • Creators of tutorials often assume their audience has a general understanding of car mechanics (which every person does not have)

Through a series of general searches we came away with two sets of directions to evaluate. Take a look at the linked video below. It was posted by a well-known auto parts chain.

How to Jump Start a Car Battery-Advance Auto Parts

Now look at the image below:

Image found at: http://i.imgur.com/Piwnj7L.png
Image found at: http://i.imgur.com/Piwnj7L.png and http://imgur.com/a/p36rk

I must admit, that had I attempted to jump a car prior to viewing the two tutorials, there may have been a mishap, and fire…and perhaps the need for paramedics. Just as you have to connect positive to negative terminals to complete a circuit or put batteries into a kid’s toy, I had assumed the same held true to charge a battery…not so!

As I looked at both examples, I began to wonder if I also assume things about my audience (my students) that may not be true. I thought back to tutorials I had created that involved a learner learning how to complete a task using only the video/written directions I had created.

When I post directions on the board, it is with the assumption that the students understand the academic vocabulary and have understood the connected whole group lessons. When I give students independent work, that line of assumptions continues. As a teacher with a high population of ELLs (English Language Learners) I know that I must explain the academic vocabulary so that my students understand what I am asking them to do. I provide a lot examples through modeling and anchor charts. I use video and other forms of multimedia as well. I am sure that what I am asking is not always as clear as I hope.

Still I am always striving to do my best. The folks at Edutopia put it so well:  

Before I end this post, I must add that nearly 48 hours after class I attempted to start my vehicle and got the dreaded CLICK! CLICK! CLICK! of a dead battery. Even though I did not jump the vehicle myself, I knew how!


4 thoughts on “Evaluating Directions (and My Own Assumptions)

    • I’m finding the text we are using to be very interesting and am looking forward to learning more. It’s an exciting subject because it fits so well into how I deliver instruction.


  1. Love this!! Not only did I learn that I had No idea how to jump a car… but every thing else you said really made my mind think!!!! Great job

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is nothing like how I thought you did it! I felt my initial assumptions were logical, but very, VERY wrong! I feel like this post was partial public service announcement, part me wondering if I am being as effective as I could as a teacher. So glad it made you think, Sherry!


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