David SchlusselbergFoundations – Week 10 – CognitionCompare the Key Findings of "How People Learn," with Willinghams pedagogicalprinciples.What are the similarities and differences?Similarities1. Willingham - “We understand new things in the context of things we already know”"How People Learn”–“Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the worldworks. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp the new concepts andinformation that aretaught, or they may learn them for purposes of a test but revert to theirpreconceptions outside the classroom.”Both agree that background information is fundamental to one’s forward progress in learning. Agreat teacher must gather a student’s background knowledge in order to tweak (not re-teach) the falseinformation so that students have an accurate picture of what it is they are going to be building theirknowledge on.2. Willingham - “Cognitive science has shown that what ends up in a learner’s memory is notsimply the material presented--it is the product of what the learner thought about when he orshe encountered the material”"How People Learn” – “Some children have beenfound to hold onto their preconception of a flatearth by imagining a round earth to be shaped like a pancake.”Although this quote from "How People Learn” is in line with the first similarity I mentioned above, Ido think it sheds light on the visual dimension of the learner. We clearly see that when a child istaught information, he/she pictures that information in their mind. This example demonstrates thatour imagination plays a strong role in how we learn information. We see that if our mental image isinaccurate, it will take a longer time to replace that information with an accurate mental model.
3. Willingham- “Factual knowledge precedes skill.”"How People Learn” – “To develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must: (a) have adeep foundation of factual knowledge.”In order to advance ones academics, one must have a foundation of factual knowledge. Whether thatfurther pursuit is a “skill” or to, “to develop competence in an area of inquiry,” a base of factualknowledge must exist.4. Willingham – “The students’ knowledge has meaning (unlike rote knowledge), in that thestudents understand each isolated part, but their knowledge lacks the deeper meaning thatcomes from understanding the relationship among the parts.”“Cognition is fundamentallydifferent early and late in training.”"How People Learn” - To develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must: (a) have adeep foundation of factual knowledge, (b) understand facts and ideas in the context of aconceptual framework, and (c) organizing knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval andapplication.Both agree that a novice is on a different level of understanding than that of an expert. A novice maybe able to have facts memorized, but may have difficulty connecting facts to form a greater contextand conceptual framework. On the other hand, an expert knows how to use facts of information toconnect to one another, and to build a deeper knowledge based off of those facts that he alreadyunderstand within its context.5. Willingham – “Proficiency requires practice.”"How People Learn” - Teachers must teach some subject matter in depth, providing manyexamples in which the same concept is at work and providing a firm foundation of factualknowledge.In all areas of life, practice makes perfect. For a teacher to successfully ensure that the studentsacquire the information taught, the teacher must provide ample examples and constant reinforcementof the knowledge being learnt.
Differences1. Willingham - “Children are more alike than different in learning.” Oops! If Willingham iscorrect, most teachers have wasted a lot of in-service time on identifying visual, auditory andkinesthetic learners. Willingham asserts that even though people have different abilities andpreferences, it is the content that should determine the mode of instruction. Using a variety ofinstructional strategies in the classroom is good practice for all students."How People Learn” - Focusing on how people learn also will help teachers move beyondeither-or dichotomies that have plagued the field of education.Willingham notes that teachers should use different modes of teaching based on the information thatis being taught. Willingham writes that many teachers falsely believe that every child learnsdifferently, which is why teachers use different techniques to appeal to different learning modesamongst students. Willingham would say that if you are learning geography, than the best way toteach the information would be through visual techniques since geography is a topic that is bestlearnt through a visual aid. Others would argue that some students are auditory learners, and someare visual learners etc. They maintain that the teacher should use different modes of teaching basedon the students preferred method.2. Willingham - “Cognitive science has shown that what ends up in a learner’s memory is notsimply the material presented--it is the product of what the learner thought about when he orshe encountered the material”“There is one factor that trumps most others in determiningwhat is remembered: what you think about when you encounter the material.”There is deliberately no quote from "How People Learn” because it is simply not addressed in thearticle. Willingham places a strong emphasis on what students think. Willingham believes that ateacher must always gear a lesson based on what they expect a student to think about throughout eachsegment of the lesson.Which do YOU find more helpful and why?I find Willingham’s methods of cognition to be more helpful. I feel that it is more helpfulto construct a lesson based on the best mode of learning for that topic. When learning about how
Bnei Yisrael camped in the dessert, I used a picture to convey how they camped, because I knewthat would be most helpful. For me to always teach a “visual learner” through pictures would bealmost useless when learning about certain concepts. When discussing why korach decided torebel against Moshe, it wouldn’t be beneficial to draw a picture for something that is based off ofa narrative text. I try to gear my lessons towards thinking about what I want to teach, and whatmethod will be most effective in ensuring the students will process the information. I also feelthat Willingham makes a correct point that a teacher must always be aware of what the student isthinking about throughout the lesson. It is important for a teacher to envision how a child willprocess the information, and what they will be thinking about when presented new information.