How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (英語) ペーパーバック – 2000/9
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First released in the Spring of 1999, How People Learn has been expanded to show how the theories and insights from the original book can translate into actions and practice, now making a real connection between classroom activities and learning behavior. This edition includes far-reaching suggestions for research that could increase the impact that classroom teaching has on actual learning.
Like the original edition, this book offers exciting new research about the mind and the brain that provides answers to a number of compelling questions. When do infants begin to learn? How do experts learn and how is this different from non-experts? What can teachers and schools do-with curricula, classroom settings, and teaching methods--to help children learn most effectively? New evidence from many branches of science has significantly added to our understanding of what it means to know, from the neural processes that occur during learning to the influence of culture on what people see and absorb.
How People Learn examines these findings and their implications for what we teach, how we teach it, and how we assess what our children learn. The book uses exemplary teaching to illustrate how approaches based on what we now know result in in-depth learning. This new knowledge calls into question concepts and practices firmly entrenched in our current education system.
Topics include: How learning actually changes the physical structure of the brain. How existing knowledge affects what people notice and how they learn. What the thought processes of experts tell us about how to teach. The amazing learning potential of infants. The relationship of classroom learning and everyday settings of community and workplace. Learning needs and opportunities for teachers. A realistic look at the role of technology in education.
Committee on Developments in the Science of Learning with additional material from the Committee on Learning Research and Educational Practice, National Research Council
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But the final chapter- Conclusions- is a tremendous disappointment, at least for this reader. Half the conclusions offered are so simple, and so obvious, as to be laughable. The other half are either contradictory or simply unjustified.
Consider this gem: "Transfer and wide application of learning are most likely to occur when learners acheive an organized and coherent understanding of the material; when the situations for transfer share the structure of the original learning; when subject matter has been mastered and practiced; when subject domains overlap and share cognitive elements; when instruction includes specific attention to underlying principles; and when instruction specifically emphasizes transfer."
Translated, that means that people can best use things they learn when they've learned them very well, that practice helps, and that it helps to learn something in a way similar to how you're going to use it.
Or this: "The predominant indicator of expert status is the amount of time spent working and learning in a subject area to gain mastery of the content" That's Edu-Speak for "the best way to learn material is to practice it"
The author then concludes with an attempt to justify the "new approaches to teaching" that had their genesis in the ed school of the 60s and 70s in a way that in no way follows what was found in the last 230 pages:
"Traditional education has tended to emphasize memorization and mastery of text. Research on the development of expertise, however, has shown that more than a set of general general problem solving skills or memory for an array of facts is necessary to acheive deep understanding..."
Wait a minute. Didn't we just learn that people who learn things best are those who practice them?
The biggest problem with this book is that it, like so many education books, is written by people with a lot of time in schools of education, but little or no time in a classroom or a basic psychology lab. The authors misinteprret the findings of others, they ignire a few centuries of existing knowledge, and they tend to use an overly complex terminology that parodies the language of psychology. And they confuse the principles of basic learning with the techniques and strategies of more skilled practitioners. Sometimes the results are merely amusing, but often they have tragic consequences.
A perfect example is to be found in the great whole word vs. phonetics debate of the past twenty years. Some education researcher came across the interesting tidbit that skilled readers don't sound out words; they recognize whole words at a glance. This was seized on by the education community, and within a short time phonics were out, whole word was in, and reading acquisition skills plummeted. The educators, amazingly enough, missed the obvious: That the skills required for initial acquisition are very different from the strategies used later on. Even the best readers rely on phonological skills when they encounter new words. If all you learn is whole word, there's no way for you to learn on your own or to sound out new words. Despite the overwheling data in favor of phonetics, Ed schools still push the supposedly superior whole-word teaching method. (The tremendous commercial success of the "Hooked on Phonics" program should be evidence enough regarding which method works better.)
As anyone who has actually read the cognitive memory and learning literature of the past few decades will tell you, there are a number of facts regarding learning that are pretty much undisputable. One is that all learning is essentially unconcious. The brain tries to make patterns from repeated stimuli, and to associate these patterns with other patterns. Another is that repeated presentation strengthens these associations. This is something that's been demonstrated down to the cellular level back in the 1960s (Hebb, et al)
What this means is that initial learning is all about repetition, and lots of it. The best way to learn to play clainet is to practice clarinet, and the best way to learn to perform multiplication is to practice the heck out of your multiplication tables. You can use all the audio-visual aids, enrichment activies and voyages of self-discovery you want, but the only way to acquire inital skills is through repetition. Somehow, this message still hasn't gotten through to the education schools.
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