Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dan Willingham debunks

Dan Willingham presents some good debunking of dubious educational theories, fads, pop neuroscience and the like:
  • That learning styles are very much over-rated and should not influence classroom practice. There is individual variation in modalities (visual, auditory, kinesthenic) but the important thing is meanings not modalities
  • Understanding the brain through neuroscience operates at a different level to understanding children in the classroom. The connections are hard to make and 95% of books and articles on neuroscience and learning ought not to be taken seriously.
  • Teaching of reading as a thing in itself should not be allowed to marginalise reading about general knowledge about the world. Once students have learnt how to decode then that general knowledge matters a lot to their comprehension. He quotes some stats showing how little science and social studies is typically taught in first and third grades
  • It might be important to draw a distinction between rote learning ( "memorizing form in the absence of meaning" ) and inflexible knowledge ("meaningful, but narrow; it’s narrow in that it is tied to the concept’s surface structure..."). Inflexible knowledge is how we initially learn something. Inflexible knowledge can turn into flexible mastery over time as more knowledge and expertise is acquired.
I wrote some summaries about Dan's work at learning evolves. Thanks to Graham Wegner for his post initially alerting me to this educator.

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