Instructor Blog: The Importance of Instructions

Imagine if you will for a moment, how easy it is to make a peanut butter & jelly sandwich.  Simple, right? 
I bet you could even show someone how to do it in under a minute.  Now, write it down, step-by-step as though someone had never seen bread, a jar of peanut butter, or jelly before in their life.  Trust me; it just got a lot harder. Following directions and especially complicated directions can be a very important tool that serves you well throughout your life. 
What does this have to do with going to college?  College instruction is full of following directions.  One of the most common mistakes that most students make is not fully reading and comprehending instructions.  Often students skip over the steps of the instruction with the understanding that they know what tasks need to be done.  And before long, they grow frustrated because the tasks they performed did not give them the result they wanted.
Why is this a critical skill?  Imagine having this skill in the office environment.  Your boss rushes in with a panicked look on their face.  They have a meeting in the afternoon, and need you to whip up a presentation as they hand you their sketchy notes before they rush off to another meeting.  You have no one to ask.  You have to do your best with what you were given.  Now, relate this back to coursework.  Sometimes students feel that instructions for assignments should be written differently, or “better”.  Although Instructors try very hard to make comprehensive instructions for students, sometimes they just don’t cover every possible outcome.  Students are learning to use their critical skills, and think through the assignment.  Move forward, give your best effort, and then learn from the experience.
Can you ask your Instructor to clarify certain points for you?  Absolutely.  But trust yourself.  Many of us do not like to give students examples because students tend to copy exactly what they see, and the creativity that lives in every student dies.  Most often, Instructors appreciate the efforts of students who give an assignment their very best effo