“Feature Creep” and “Feature Fatigue”

I’m currently reading Keith Stanovich’s book What Intelligence Tests Miss that discusses how rationality is different from what we commonly measure as intelligence. As a teacher who is looking into why seemingly smart students are not succeeding in higher education, it offers many insights.

As I read through the chapter on myside processing this morning, I couldn’t help but stop and reflect on the section about the myside bias that engineers often have when designing and upgrading products. Myside bias is the “tendency for people to see and respond to a situation from their own perspective”. As engineers we design things the way we would like them to work, often forgetting that we are not the typical user. We also get so familiar with our products that we feel the need to “improve” them by constantly changing or adding  features. As experts, we sometimes wrongly assume that everyone will really appreciate all these enhancements, when all the consumer really wants is a reliable, straight-forward, easy-to-use product.

The same can be said about teachers. How many times have we jokingly said “I’ve taught this class five times before, haven’t you got it yet?” The first time we teach a particular course, we spend much of our time filtering through resources to extract and organize the curriculum in a way that will make it easy for our students to learn and understand the key concepts. The next time we’re assigned that course, we reflect on what went well, and focus on improving what needs to be changed. Usually by the third time, we’ve got it … the bugs have been worked out, the content is well organized, examples, assignments and labs have been honed, and all is well. Beyond that is when “feature creep” and “feature fatigue” set in! We get tired of doing things the same way (feature fatigue) so, to keep our own interest up, we feel the need to add a bit more content, make things more challenging, or introduce new tools and techniques (feature creep). We forget that the core concepts are new and often difficult for our students to master (as they probably were for most of us the first time we encountered them!). Change is good, as long as it improves and enhances student learning … as the experts, we have to make sure that feature creep and fatigue aren’t finding their way into our classrooms!

About N. Nelson

A college professor with more than 30 years of teaching experience, I am constantly exploring how the current educational paradigm can be adapted to better meet the needs of today’s learners, while still reaching the mandate placed on us by the community and employers to prepare these students for life and careers beyond the college. I enjoy sharing my teaching experiences and expertise through Professional Development Workshops on topics such as Project-Based Learning, Flipping your Classroom, Impacting Student Success, Engaging Large Classes, and Stretching your Teaching Comfort Zone. I am also willing to share my experiences and expertise on the processes required to meet the updated CEAB engineering accreditation requirements.
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