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Learning: From Speculation to Science

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Learning- From Speculation to Science Response

“These developments in understanding of how humans learn have particular significance in light of changes of what is expected of the nation’s educational systems. “

This was one of the first sentences that really captured my attention in this chapter.  After reading it seemed that the nation’s educational systems often possess two different objectives with regards to teaching, one of which is not particularly concerned with understanding how humans learn but rather how well they repeat factual information. I validate this opinion with the idea that in the public school I attended, there seemed to be a stronger emphasis with students being able to regurgitate information that was presented in the classroom rather than actually acquire this knowledge for themselves and therefore successfully learn it.

This idea coincided with the two definitions of knowledge that were presented in this piece. Where the previous definition of knowledge was being able to repeat information (which seemed synonymous to the goal of my own high school), schools that produce more college bound students seemed to focus on the newer definition of knowledge in which knowledge is actually being able to use the information and apply it to solve different problems and not simply answer a question with facts verbatim from lectures or textbooks.

I then thought about this educational foundation and the relationship between how my particular school taught and the number of students that attend college from each graduating class per year ( which is less than one half of the class). It seems to me that one attends college with the prospect of expanding their own knowledge. If one wants to learn more and be able to repeat this information in the form of a career it seems as though they are hoping to learn more about a particular subject and use this information in an analytical and open-ended manner rather than just memorizing information and then repeating it. It also seems to me that this quench for knowledge seems to be established in the K-12 education and then continues, or stalls, after when one either decides to attend college or decides not to.  Now of course there are many factors that affect whether or not students attend college such as socioeconomic statuses or finances, yet I am not regarding these ideas in this response.  

This reading presented me with many ideas that made me think about my own education because it allowed me to see a correlation that I did not before. It allowed me to see, at least in my own personal education experience, that many of the classes and teaches that encouraged students to think in an open-ended manner and actually apply what they learned in the classroom with short answer question and essay  questions on exams were generally classes that many college-bound students were enrolled in. I also thought about national AP exams that had both open-ended questions and multiple choice questions which were intended for students who were planning on attending some sort of higher education institution. I just thought there was an interesting correlation there that I had never really attributed to the way in which the students were taught.

I also found the evolution of learning and teaching quite interesting. First, the idea that ‘behaviorists conceptualized learning as a process of forming connections between stimuli and responses and that any motivation to learn was driven by drives such as hunger, and the availability of external forces such as rewards and punishments’. However, it was deduced that this trial and error method of learning was not actual learning it was more of a cause and effect approach. This seemed to resonate with me because I feel as though many teachers, particularly in elementary school would provide incentives for performing well on tests or quizzes. For example, if you had received one hundred percent grades on spelling quizzes you could select a prize. Maybe this did encourage some students to study harder to learn the material, however it may have caused them to study more diligently for the sole reason of receiving a prize or it also could have acted as a detriment to the students who studied faithfully yet still could not perform as well as their peers on quizzes and thus became discouraged because they knew they would never receive a prize for their preparation.

As I read the chapter I also came across other points of information that struck me as highly interesting and worth of commenting at a later time because I found them extremely thought provoking. The main points/ideas are listed below as stated in the text:

-Cognitive Science- multidisciplinary approach: anthropology, linguistics, philosophy, developmental psychology, computer science, neuroscience, and several branches of psychology.

-New science of learning- ‘usable knowledge’ is more useful than a list of disconnected facts’

-Humans construct knowledge based on their current/previous knowledge

                How do you teach one class effectively when students possess different previous knowledge?

-Teachers need to take into account pre-existing notions and ideas about certain subjects because that shapes how they perceive new ideas

-Meta-cognition- people’s abilities to predict their performances on various tasks and to monitor their current level s of mastery and understanding (self-assessment/reflection) and transfer information to new settings and events


-Cultural differences that different students bring to the classroom and the affect it has on students working together and collaborating specifically in groups

                How can we overcome cultural differences in the classroom? Language barriers? Integration of ESL students and native English speakers?

-Idea of intelligence and not wanting to risk one’s intelligence to take a risk (because they do not want to look ‘bad’ or essentially un-intelligent

-Learner-center classrooms- more conducive to students…reminded me of the idea of state tests and the mad rush to prepare students for them each spring…is that purely learner centered classrooms?

-Weekly tests in which students are in comparison to their classmates are not effective because students compare each other to one another and the results are based more on what is relative for classmates therefore not measuring an individual’s actual progress

-A community based classroom- one in which students work together (camaraderie)   and assist one another in problem solving

-Spending more time in the classroom ( in comparison to the 14% of the time that the average student spends in the classroom). How do we bring the classroom home for ALL students?