Demystifying desirable difficulties 2: What they’re NOT

3-Star learning experiences

Mirjam Neelen & Paul A. Kirschner

In the first blog, we attempted to demystify what Robert and Elizabeth Bjork meant by desirable difficulties (and later also many others!), hoping that we can stick to their definition and call the ‘other things’… other things. Today, in blog 2, we discuss two ‘other things’ that are often mistaken for or confused with desirable difficulties.

There are two general misconceptions (maybe more, but these are the ones that we’ve run into repeatedly) where people refer to desirable difficulties incorrectly. First, when they talk about Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development and second, when they discuss the idea that errors support learning.

Desirable difficulties are NOT challenges and efforts caused by the difficulty of the task

Desirable difficulties are often explained in the context of Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development[1]. This ‘zone’ refers to the difference between what a child can do…

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