Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Exotic Learning Machine

I've talked some this term about learning, and comparing it to the detection process in these books and films.

Real learning is an active process, and I've also discussed my ongoing concern that the lecture format that is common in public universities doesn't encourage active learning.  I assigned my piece about advising in France earlier this term, and am planning to add a layer to this on Tuesday.

Then today the New York Times published an interesting piece about learning.  Towards the end it says this:
One reason scientists suspect that studying in pairs or groups can be helpful is that students are forced to talk to one another about the material — or better yet, argue about it. These are all forms of self-examination, and as such deepen learning more than passively rereading or reviewing the material.
So that's your WRG's for you!  And then there's my favorite paragraph:
The brain is an exotic learning machine, to put it mildly. It does not take orders well. You can tell it to remember the major players in the settling of Manhattan, stress how crucially important that is, and on the test a week later very little comes back. And yet you might remember nearly every play in the San Francisco Giants’ Game 7 World Series victory. Why? Because the brain doesn’t listen to what you say; it watches what you do. And thinking often about Madison Bumgarner pitching, talking about the game, arguing about it: These are mental actions, as well as subtle forms of testing knowledge.
Cognitive scientists aren't just re-installing another testing regime, but trying to figure out the role of self-testing in learning. There are some good ideas in this piece. The book he mentions, Making it Stick, has a lot of ideas that could make your college studying much more effective.  To be continued Tuesday . . .

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