In class, why do we always grind through our work in the same way we always have? We take notes, speed through homework, pour over the notes before a test, and then forget most of the material soon afterwards. Why is there so little process-innovation? Why don’t the students or teachers experiment with different strategies on an individual (rather than institutional) level?
One big reason: Grades. When failure is punished, innovation is stifled. Their methods work well enough, and trying different methods carries a high risk of failure. This is one of the main reasons that grades should be tossed through the window: they teach students not to experiment which they carry into the rest of their lives.
The grades-as-punishment idea gives a coherent reason why people do not experiment with their methods in school, and a plausible reason why they do not do so elsewhere. Are there other reasons? Perhaps. One other likely candidate is that people simply do not think about the process. It is less obvious than the task, and so much easier to ignore. Can we prompt people out of this routine? How? This is a question in which I am deeply interested. We could simply “spread awareness.” Although I do not generally like the idea, it does appear to apply well in cases where individuals are the only actors.