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Many years ago I took a steak cooking class where the instructor told us, “If you’re not sure if the steak is done, it’s better to undercook it than overcook it. The reason why is because you can always throw the steak back on the grill if it’s undercooked, but you can never undo overcooking.” Strangely, I have learned that this same philosophy applies to education.

When you’re teaching students, you should always aim to be less helpful. If you are too helpful (such as giving students strategies they can use before they’ve had a chance to discover their own), there isn’t anything you can do to remedy the situation. Like an overcooked steak, it just stays that way.

Instead, consider undercooking your students. Begin with questions like, “What have you already tried?” or “What strategies were you considering?” They may not be particularly helpful, but just like with a steak, you can always throw it back on the grill and provide additional assistance.


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