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# Some notes on Gestalt learning theory

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Notes to accompany a taught session on 10 February 2010. Module blog at http://www.bedspce.org.uk/mod2/2010/02/10-february-gestalt-etc.html

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• Classic optical “illusion”: you are looking at the cube from above or from below, and switch between them; what is difficult is to see it as a purely two-dimensional pattern.
• Classic optical “illusion”: you are looking at the cube from above or from below, and switch between them; what is difficult is to see it as a purely two-dimensional pattern.
• Classic optical “illusion”: you are looking at the cube from above or from below, and switch between them; what is difficult is to see it as a purely two-dimensional pattern.
• Same again—despite the picture not actually being quite symmetrical. Technically, this is the figure/ground problem. Our brains are trying to decide what is being represented, and what is the background
• Which do you see? Get students involved in explaining to those who can’t see both. One pattern can become extablished almost to the exclusion of another.
• This is a concave image: the inside of a mask. The light is coming from the viewer’s right. It is possible to hold this view for a few moments but our minds insist on popping it back the other way as soon as we relax.
• The preceding examples were contrived
• Silly interlude: get suggestions! Top left: ship arriving too late to save a drowning witch Bottom left: worm sliding across a razor-blade Bottom right: bear climbing a tree
• Silly interlude: get suggestions! Top left: ship arriving too late to save a drowning witch Bottom left: worm sliding across a razor-blade Bottom right: bear climbing a tree
• Silly interlude: get suggestions! Top left: ship arriving too late to save a drowning witch Bottom left: worm sliding across a razor-blade Bottom right: bear climbing a tree
• Silly interlude: get suggestions! Top left: ship arriving too late to save a drowning witch Bottom left: worm sliding across a razor-blade Bottom right: bear climbing a tree
• ### Some notes on Gestalt learning theory

1. 1. Some notes on „Gestalt” (This is in no way intended to constitute a proper introduction, but to accompany the selective discussion in class.) 10 February 2010 See also http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/gestalt.htm and links from there.
2. 2. <ul><li>Stimulus—Response </li></ul><ul><li>Stimulus— Organism —Response </li></ul>Hard-line behaviourists worked on the basis of relationship between these two... From Skinner onwards there has been a recognition that the Organism itself plays a critical role And it is the study of the learning Organism which takes centre stage in cognitive theories
3. 3. <ul><li>Although actually pre-dating much behavioural theory, the first cognitive theory was „Gestalt”, associated with Wertheimer and his students Köhler and Koffka. </li></ul><ul><li>Some of the principles of Gestalt can be teased out through visual illusions... </li></ul>
4. 4. Necker cube This is just a two-dimensional pattern—but you can’t see it as such. It insists on being 3-d
5. 5. Necker cube More than that—is this face the front or the back?
6. 6. Necker cube Ditto this?
7. 7. I didn’t use this one; it’s a great illusion, but what is the teaching point? (Perhaps it is that the quality of the illustration is not the point!
8. 8. Faces or Vase? This is the classic “figure-ground” issue studied by the Gestalt pioneers.
9. 9. The appearance and disappearance of the black dots may represent the brain’s search for pattern...
10. 10. Response to overload— habituation and exhaustion may account for this
11. 11. Which circle in the middle is bigger? They’re both the same. (Measure them) But we are influenced by context
12. 12. What is it?
13. 13. Dog sniffing among leaves
14. 14. Old or young woman?
15. 15. Insistence on mostly likely version <ul><li>Which side is the light coming from? </li></ul>See the note on the blog about this one (with video)
16. 16. Even when the parts make sense, but the whole? M C Escher, Waterfall , 1961.
17. 17. Dolphins <ul><li>Put up your hand up when you can see at least seven dolphins. </li></ul>Children apparently get this a lot faster than adults. I wonder why?
18. 18. <ul><li>Brain insists on finding patterns („Gestalten”) wherever possible. </li></ul><ul><li>So it is not neutral and passive. </li></ul>
19. 19. Cognitive Theories 1 <ul><li>If it ain't biological, behaviourist or humanist, it's cognitive . </li></ul><ul><li>It all starts with Gestalt theories [Wertheimer, Köhler and Koffka]: originally theories of perception, Gestalt moved into problem-solving learning. </li></ul><ul><li>Influenced by developmental psychology of Piaget (as amended), focusing on the maturational factors affecting understanding. </li></ul>
20. 20. <ul><li>Broadly, cognitive theory is interested in how people understand material, and thus in; </li></ul><ul><ul><li>aptitude and capacity to learn (thus fringing onto psychometrics and testing), </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>and learning styles (initially an honorable field of study, now exposed as not even wrong). </li></ul></ul>
21. 21. What are they?
22. 22. What are they? Ship arriving too late to save a drowning witch
23. 23. What are they? Worm wriggling across a razor blade
24. 24. What are they? Koala climbing a tree
25. 26. OK, you got the others, But this a woman in a dressing-gown bending down to stroke her cat.
26. 27. <ul><li>Mild tension until everything “falls into place” (usually indicated by laughter) </li></ul><ul><li>Active mental work without behavioural action </li></ul><ul><li>Learning as problem-solving </li></ul><ul><li>Not just confined to human beings </li></ul>
27. 28. Learning curves Knowledge/ skill Time Notional behavioural curve The learning curve produced operant conditioning may look something like this
28. 29. Learning curve (2) Notional Gestalt curve “ Ah-hah” or “ knack” This one includes a “step” (exaggerated here) characteristic of a break- through or flash of insight Knowledge/ skill Time Notional behavioural curve
29. 30. K öhler’s chimps 1 Such insight may reasonably be inferred to be demonstrated by one of Kohler’s apes deliberately piling up boxes to get at out-of-reach bananas
30. 31. K öhler’s chimps 2 (1925) Or this one, using shorter sticks to get a longer one to reach the fruit.
31. 32. Betty the crow Or this New Caledonian Crow bending a wire into a hook to fish food out of a tumbler. Search for Betty Crow video for video
32. 33. <ul><li>Can’t leave mind out of it. </li></ul><ul><li>Mind makes meaning </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Search for patterns („Gestalt”) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Trial and error” can take place in a purely mental form </li></ul><ul><li>So need to study mental processes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Development </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Intelligence” </li></ul></ul>
33. 34. “ Range of Convenience” What kind of theory is best for illuminating what kind of learning? Incremental skill acquisition “ Penny dropping” Academic study … . Behavioural   ? Gestalt   ? Cognitive ? ?  … .
34. 35. References and Links at http://www.bedspce.org.uk/mod2/2010/02/10-february-gestalt-etc.html (c) James Atherton 2010