Tag Archives: learning and cognition

Jerome Bruner on the Importance of Reiteration

“Children rarely [are provided work in] redefining what has been encountered, reshaping it, reordering it. The cultivation of reflectiveness is one of the great problems one faces in devising curricula: how to lead children to discover the powers and pleasures that await the exercise of retrospection.”

Jerome Bruner

Beyond the Information Given: Studies in the Psychology of Knowing

Excerpted from: Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 1998.

Bruno Bettelheim

Bruno Bettelheim: (1903-1990) Austrian-born American psychologist, educator, and author, Bettelheim came to the U.S. in 1939 as a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. Drawing from this experience, he wrote the widely read and influential study Individual and Mass Behavior in Extreme Situations (1943). He is best known, however, for his psychiatric work with severely disturbed children and its application to the study and education of normal children. Love Is Not Enough (1950), addressed to parents and a general readership, describes his work in his Orthogenic School for emotionally disturbed children and outlines means for meeting both children’s and parents’ needs in the modern family situation. Among his many other books are The Children of the Dream (1969), about communal childbearing in the kibbutz; A Home for the Heart (1974); and The Uses of Enchantment (1976), in which he discusses the psycho-social importance of fairy tales. Surviving and Other Essays (1979) contains diverse essays on problems in American society, on surviving under extreme duress, and on childhood schizophrenia. Freud and Man’s Soul was published in 1983, and Freud’s Vienna and Other Essays appeared in the year of his death.

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Term of Art: Experiential Learning

“experiential learning: Learning based on experiences, rather than lectures or reading. Experiential learning, also referred to as hands-on learning, can be especially helpful to students with a learning disability since it allows them to learn without being hindered by difficulties in reading or writing. An experiential approach to education and learning is based on the belief that students are more motivated and will remember concepts better when they have a direct physical experience.

Experiential learning also may have a strong basis in the nature of memory, especially for individuals with learning disabilities or attention deficit disorders. For many students, learning techniques that incorporate sight and touch are much easier for them to remember and retrieve. Evidence suggests that many individuals with learning disabilities or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have a hard time remembering concepts, rules, and verbal information (semantic memory), while finding it much easier to remember events, people, places, and experience (episodic memory).

To some degree, experiential learning activities may provide a means of bridging those two basic forms of memory, and for enabling individuals to use strengths in one area to compensate in one area for weaknesses in another.”

Excerpted from: Turkington, Carol, and Joseph R. Harris, PhD. The Encyclopedia of Learning Disabilities. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

A Bibliography on Electronic Screens, Child Development, and Learning from Parents Across America

If you’ve been teaching for ten years or more, you probably remember a time in your working life before smartphones became ubiquitous and turned your classroom into a battleground of wills over the presence of these devices in school. I have only one question for people who defend the presence of smartphones in classrooms: would you want your child–or any child–arriving in class every day with a smart television set and a cable modem and wireless router?

That is, of course, a rhetorical question (unless it’s not, which is very bad news indeed for this teacher). But the fact is this: we do allow this smart televisions and cable modems/wifi routers when we allow smartphones in our schools. As I like to tell students, I have nothing, and I do mean nothing, that can compete with the constant stimulation, approbation, distraction, and amusement that these devices offer. What I have is material that requires prolonged attention, engagement, consideration, analysis, and, finally, deep thought. What I offer will more often than not challenge students’ views of the world–which I think is kind of the point of education, after all.

I’ve been waiting for a moment when I would have the stamina to write a lengthy essay to accompany this extended bibliography on the hazards of screens for child development and learning. I can’t summon the outrage–probably because where outrage is concerned, my well runneth dry–to add more than these few words of expository gloss to accompany this excellent document.

But I do want to thank the good people at Parents Across America for this document–and for all the excellent work they do.

Daniel Willingham on Circularity and Hermeneutics

Most of us have this experience at one time or another. You consult a dictionary to get a word definition, perhaps ‘condescending.’ The dictionary defines it as ‘patronizing,’ which is no help because you don’t know the meaning of that word, either. So you look up ‘patronizing’ and find that it is defined as ‘condescending.’

That’s an example of a circular definition, and it’s kind of funny, especially when it happens to someone else. But wait a minute…. Words seem defined by their features (watermelon is the red-on-the-inside, juicy, sweet, fruit), but how are the features defined? By other words. So doesn’t the model amount to a bunch of circular definitions, even if the circles may be bigger than the condescending-patronizing loop.

The way out of this problem is to consider the possibility that some representations are grounded. That means that some mental concepts derive meaning not from other mental concepts, but more directly from experience. For example, perhaps the definition of red is not rooted in language. Indeed, if you look up ‘red’ in the dictionary, the definition is pretty unsatisfying. Perhaps the mental definition of red should be rooted in the visual system; when you see the word ‘red,’ its referent is a memory of what it’s like to actually see red.

In the last twenty years, much evidence has accumulated that some representations are grounded—they are defined, at least in part, by our senses or by how we move. For example, when you read the word ‘kick,’ the part of your brain that controls leg movements shows activity, even though you’re not moving your leg. And the part of your brain that controls mouth movements is active when you read the word ‘lick,’ and that which controls finger movements is active when you read ‘pick,’ Part of the mental definition of kick, lick, and pick is what it feels like to execute those movements.

Excerpted from: Willingham, Daniel T. The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2017.

Term of Art: Encoding

“Encoding: Converting information into a different form or representation, especially (in psychology) the process whereby physical information is transformed into a representation suitable for storage in memory and subsequent retrieval.”

Excerpted from: Colman, Andrew M., ed. Oxford Dictionary of Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

A Lesson Plan on Depression

Moving right along, here is a lesson plan on depression with the work that comprises it, namely this short reading and vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. If you’d like to use slightly longer versions of these documents, they are available under this hyperlink.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.