Klemow, K.M. 1989. HOW TO ALLAY STUDENTS' FEARS IN PRESENTING COMPLEX MATERIAL: INTRODUCING THE BEWILDERMENT- STUDY EFFORT CURVE. Contributed paper: Pennsylvania Academy of Science meeting. Abstract: Journal of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science 63:50.


Due to the inherent complexity of the material, students in science courses often become confused (bewildered) to the point that they question their ability to "do science" and avoid further study. In this paper, a model will be presented asserting that bewilderment is a natural, though transitory, state that all students experience. In the model, the learning process is defined as having five phases: (1) Pre-Exposure; (2) Initial Exposure; (3) Crystallization; (4) Facility; and (5) Mastery. A student makes the transition from each phase to the next through additional study effort. Bewilderment is low during the first phase because the student has little conception of what he/she does not know. During the initial exposure to the material (phase 2), the student often experiences a rapid increase in the sense of bewilderment, especially if the material is complex and involves considerable new terminology or a novel conceptual approach. Students often become highly frustrated at this point. After additional study, the student enters the Crystallization phase, where he/she begins to synthesize information and different concepts start to fit together in the student's mind. Bewilderment decreases during the Crystallization phase, occasionally to the point that the student has a false sense of security with his/her grasp of the material. Next, the student passes into the Facility phase, in which the student can express the concepts with ease. Ultimately, the student enters into the Mastery phase in which he/she seriously considers the current research in the discipline and alternative approaches to explaining the concepts. Bewilderment is very low at this last level. Keeping this model in mind, students can work through their sense of bewilderment, and successfully learn the material.


This page posted and maintained by Kenneth M. Klemow, Ph.D., Biology Department, Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766. (570) 408-4758, kklemow@wilkes.edu.