Information

Does learning too much useless information weaken my memory?

Does learning too much useless information weaken my memory?



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From what I understand, since we receive a lot of information every day, our brains are tasked with remembering the few important bits and ignoring (or forgetting) everything else. I also know of habituation, how we become ignorant of stimuli that repeat often and are irrelevant. I also know of the "learning pyramid". This is what I'm interested in: the internet, especially some parts (reddit, facebook, 9gag and so on), constantly bombards us with various "facts" - generally useless information. Is it possible that our brains, as a reaction to extensive internet usage, learn to ignore information that is only heard or read (we go two/three steps up on the learning pyramid)?

I ask this because I think it was a lot easier for me to remember things a few years back (I'm 17 now), when I wasn't using the internet as much, or at all. I know you learn easier when you are younger, but I don't think I'm that old yet.


Current evidence suggests that internet access is not weakening memory, but changing what information is prioritized. This study referenced below suggests that when people expect to have future access to information, they are less likely to remember the information itself and more likely to remember where or how that information can be found.

Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips Betsy Sparrow, Jenny Liu, Daniel M. Wegner Science 5 August 2011: Vol. 333 no. 6043 pp. 776-778.

DOI: 10.1126/science.1207745


Informal learning should no longer be regarded as an inferior form of learning whose main purpose is to act as the precursor of formal learning it needs to be seen as fundamental, necessary and valuable in its own right, at times directly relevant to employment and at other times not relevant at all. (Coffield 2000: 8)

We must move away from a view of education as a rite of passage involving the acquisition of enough knowledge and qualifications to acquire and adult station in life. The point of education should not be to inculcate a body of knowledge, but to develop capabilities: the basic ones of literacy and numeracy as well as the capability to act responsibly towards others, to take initiative and to work creatively and collaboratively. The most important capability, and the one which traditional education is worst at creating is the ability and yearning to carry on learning. Too much schooling kills off a desire to learn…. Schools and universities should become more like hubs of learning, within the community, capable of extending into the community… More learning needs to be done at home, in offices and kitchens, in the contexts where knowledge is deployed to solve problems and add value to people’s lives. (Leadbeater 2000: 111-112)

Introduction

Commentators in the UK adult education and lifelong learning field have shown an increasing interest in informal learning. Bentley (1998) has examined ‘learning beyond the classroom’ Coffield (2000) ‘the necessity of informal learning’ Marsick and Watkins (1990) and Dale and Bell (1999) ‘informal and incidental learning in the workplace’ and McGiveney (1999) ‘informal learning in the community’. However, this interest has not been reflected in any significant way thus far in policy statements and reviews. As Coffield (2000: 1) notes, for all the talk of lifelong learning and the learning society the focus remains on formal provision, qualifications and accountability.

This interest in informal learning has run alongside developments in thinking around informal education (although, significantly, there is no reference to this in any of the above studies). It also links to explorations of learning through participation in the life of a group or association – la vie associative. Within social anthropology there has also been a longstanding concern with ‘informal learning’– reflected in studies such as Heath on literacy practices (1983) and Henze (1992). These have fed through into thinking about practice (Heath and McLauglin 1993 and Smith 1994). Work on the distributed cognition (Salomon 1993) and situated learning (Lave and Wenger 1991) has also helped to deepen our appreciation.

While it is surely right to explore and deepen ‘learning beyond the classroom’, there is some doubt as to whether the notion of informal learning is the most useful way forward. Michael Eraut, for example, has suggested that the utility of such a ‘catch-all’ label is not very great (2000: 12). He suggests the notion of ‘non-formal learning’ might be more helpful. However, as we will see, it isn’t the most illuminating path either. Within much that is written and said about the area, learning and education are confused and there is an over-concern with institutional setting or sponsorship as against process and content.

In this piece I explore informal learning as an administrative concept the competing claims of ‘non-formal education’ the significance of tacit knowledge and the production of social knowledge through distributed and situated learning. I argue that the most useful way of exploring and developing what is a fundamental area of human endeavour, is to put ‘informal learning’ on one side for the moment and to focus on:

  • learning in its various guises – implicit, reactive and deliberative, for example, and
  • self-directed and communal forms of education.

The idea of ‘informal education’, I suggest, does have utility.

Informal learning – an administrative concept

We can begin to see some of the problems associated with the term ‘informal learning’ as soon as we glance at the definitions offered. For example, Veronica McGivney used the following in her study. Informal learning is:

  • Learning that takes place outside a dedicated learning environment and which arises from the activities and interests of individuals and groups, but which may not be recognised as learning.
  • Non course-based learning activities (which might include discussion, talks or presentations, information, advice and guidance) provided or facilitated in response to expressed interests and needs by people from a range of sectors and organizations (health, housing, social services, employment services, education and training services, guidance services).
  • Planned and structured learning such as short courses organized in response to identified interests and needs but delivered in flexible and informal ways and in informal community settings.

Margaret Dale and John Bell (1999) define informal learning somewhat more narrowly for their purposes as:

Learning which takes place in the work context, relates to an individual’s performance of their job and/or their employability, and which is not formally organized into a programme or curriculum by the employer. It may be recognized by the different parties involved, and may or may not be specifically encouraged.

The central and defining feature of informal learning in this view is context – or more accurately administrative setting and sponsorship. Crudely, learning that takes place in dedicated educational institutions such as schools is seen as formal, that which occurs beyond the school walls as ‘informal’. Coombs and Ahmed used a similar distinction with regard to education. In their view, informal education is:

… the lifelong process by which every individual acquires and accumulates knowledge, skills, attitudes and insights from daily experiences and exposure to the environment – at home, at work, at play: from the example and attitude of families and friends from travel, reading newspapers and books or by listening to the radio or viewing films or television. Generally informal education is unorganized, unsystematic and even unintentional at times, yet accounts for the great bulk of any person’s total lifetime learning – including that of a highly ‘schooled’ person. (Coombs and Ahmed 1974: 8)

We can see the similarities here with the above discussion of ‘informal learning’. Significantly, it carries with it many of the same problems. Informal education is set against non-formal education – organized educational activity outside formal systems and formal education – the hierarchically structured, chronologically graded ‘education system’. The distinction made is largely administrative. Formal education is linked with schools and training institutions non-formal with community groups and other organizations and informal covers what is left, e.g. interactions with friends, family and work colleagues.

There is an important point for policy in this distinction. If schools and colleges have only a limited place in the learning that occurs in a society, questions must be asked about the focus on such institutions. Would funding be better deployed elsewhere? Does the current obsession with accreditation have any merit? Should researchers explore learning in everyday life in more depth? However, once this point is noted, there is little conceptual mileage in this particular division of learning.

The main problem with regard to theoretical development is that as soon as we begin to look at the characteristics of learning activities within ‘dedicated’ and non-dedicated learning environments we find a striking mix of educational and learning processes in each (Smith 1988: 125-126). For example, as Henze and others have shown, people teach and organize educational events as part of their everyday experience. A grandfather might show a child how to use a key to unlock a door a mother may work with her daughter around reading – and so on. These educational events fall inside McGivney’s first focus – yet in their essence they may be little different to what happens in a classroom. Both grandfather and mother may set out to teach particular skills. For this reason, any discussion of informal and formal learning, or informal and formal education must move beyond a simple focus on context or setting, and look to the processes and experiences involved in each. In the case of the latter, it can be argued that informal education is largely driven by conversation (and has formal interludes), while formal education is curriculum-driven (and has informal interludes). Setting or context is still a factor. Different settings will offer a novel mix of resources and opportunities for learning and will have contrasting expectations associated with them (Jeffs and Smith 1990: 1-23).

A further issue is that many of those commentating on informal learning do not seem to make an adequate distinction between learning and education. The latter can be characterized as setting out to foster environments for learning that involve a commitment to certain values such as a respect for truth and for persons (Jeffs and Smith 1999: 12-16 – see education). Learning can be seen as a product or thing – a memory or understanding or as a process – as a form of thinking. What is sometimes described as informal learning is, thus, better described as self-education, or self directed learning. (Alan Tough has explored people’s participation in learning projects. He began by calling this phenomenon ‘self-teaching’, later self-directed learning.)

‘Non-formal’ learning as implicit, reactive and deliberative

Michael Eraut has contributed one of the most helpful discussions of ‘informal learning’ in recent years. He suggests, but doesn’t really make the case for, a focus on non-formal learning. The argument is that the term ‘informal’ is associated with so many other features of situations – such as dress, behaviour, discourse – ‘that its colloquial application as a descriptor of learning contexts may have little to do with learning per se’ (Eraut 2000: 12). Unfortunately, the notion of ‘non-formal learning’ in itself may not be any more helpful.

Firstly, we cannot ignore the tradition of thinking and administrative practice associated with non-formal education as it will tend to colour the way many professionals in the lifelong learning and adult education arena will approach the notion. Non-formal education in its classic definition by Coombs and Ahmed (1974: 8) is ‘any organized, systematic educational activity, carried on outside the framework of the formal system, to provide selected types of learning to particular subgroups in the population, adults as well as children’. It includes agricultural extension programmes, youth clubs and groups with substantial educational purposes and community-based programmes of health education. As Malcolm Tight notes, a simpler definition has been employed by OECD as: ‘education for which none of the learners is enrolled or registered’ (OECD 1977: 11, quoted by Tight 1996: 69). Such activity could be course-based or more conversational – and would run close to the second and third elements of informal learning identified by McGivney (above). This is a narrow interpretation of the territory that Eraut seeks to explore and has the danger of focusing us again on the administrative context rather than the characteristics of the learning process.

Secondly, the use of the term ‘non-formal’ invites dualism. We inevitably tend to contrast it with ‘formal’ learning. This is learning that takes place in a situation where there is:

  • A prescribed learning framework
  • An organized learning event or package
  • The presence of a designated teacher or trainer
  • The award of a qualification or credit
  • The external specification of outcomes. (Eraut 2000: 12).

We may well want to question this characterization of formal learning, but presumably non-formal learning could be seen as involving a non-prescribed learning framework, internal or non-specification of outcome, no designated teachers and so on. The point that Eraut seeks to make is that we need to explore the full range of learning processes or modes that fall within the domain of ‘non-formal learning’. Here he is surely right in trying to point us in the direction of processes and experiences but in so doing he undermines the case for a distinction between non-formal and formal. Some of the very processes he directs our attention to could equally be labelled ‘formal’. It would seem that a focus on setting or context (informal, non-formal and formal) has only a limited usefulness – and then principally in the broad discussion of policy.

Eraut’s argument gets interesting when he begins to look at the level of intention in learning. He creates a continuum with implicit learning – ‘the acquisition of knowledge independently of conscious attempts to learn and the absence of explicit knowledge about what was learned’ (Reber 1993 quoted by Eraut 2000: 12) on one extreme. On the other is deliberative learning where time is specifically set-aside for learning. Between the two is reactive learning. Here learning is explicit but almost takes place spontaneously and in response to recent, current or imminent situations but without any time being set aside for it. These categories come very close to Donald Schön’scategories ‘knowledge in use’, ‘reflection on action’ and reflection in action. (Eraut 1994 views Schön’s last category as problematic because he believes it is also sometimes used to refer to a metacognitive awareness that is not a form of learning in itself). He asks a further question – are the events that provide the focus from the past, something happening in the present, or part of some possible future action? He then suggests that we can then produce a typology on ‘non-formal learning’.

Michael Eraut’s typology of non-formal learning (2000: 13)

This presentation is useful as soon as we unhook it from the notion of ‘non-formal learning’. Eraut dismisses using the idea of self-directed learning because it can refer to what he has defined as formal and non-formal situations. However, so can his notion of deliberative learning. Indeed, implicit and reactive learning can also do so. As Eraut (2000: 26) admits, a multitude of processes and outcomes occur in formal settings like lessons in schools (as they do in informal moments like chance meetings on the street). It is probably more useful to look at learning as implicit, reactive and deliberative (plus some other possible candidates) and to explore interaction with context. Effectively, this would mean going well beyond a crude separation of contexts into informal and formal. The focus on these more substantive categories of learning allows us to connect with substantial traditions of thinking and practice and so develop a better appreciation of the experiences of learners and how their efforts might be enhanced.

Tacit knowledge

Another path into the notion of informal learning is to view it simply as implicit learning. Such learning results in what Polanyi (1967) calls tacit knowledge – ‘that which we know but cannot tell’. However, as Eraut (2000: 16) again points out, a string of writers have explored how what they talk of as tacit knowledge can be made explicit (and how explicit learning can lead to tacit knowledge). It may be that no knowledge is totally implicit or explicit. Much of Eraut’s discussion of ‘non-formal learning’ is concerned with identifying different types of situation in which tacit knowledge may be gained or used (simultaneously or otherwise). Six main situations were named:

  • knowledge acquired by implicit learning of which the knower is unaware
  • knowledge constructed from the aggregation of episodes in long-term memory
  • knowledge inferred by observers to be capable of representation as implicit theories of action, personal constructs, schemas, etc
  • knowledge that enables rapid, intuitive understanding or response
  • knowledge entailed in transferring knowledge from one situation to another
  • knowledge embedded in taken-for-granted activities, perceptions and norms (2000: 28).

Tacit knowledge provides much of the basis for the way we interact with people and situations. We have a ‘taken-for-granted’ understanding of others. Because this is not explored in any coherent way, such knowledge can be self-perpetuating and lead to behaviour that is inappropriate, or not the most productive. This is a compelling argument for the exploration of implicit learning (and attempting to make tacit knowledge more explicit). Once revealed it can be tested and developed. Not unexpectedly there are major difficulties with this process (see the discussion of experiential learning and reflection on action). Indeed, if we follow Polanyi’s definition it may not be possible at all.

We also need to recognize the reverse process – that of making explicit knowledge tacit. Here we may learn and develop routines and habits to deal with situations. This can range from developing the ability to touch-type to being able to respond to situations quickly – for example dealing with a medical emergency. In the case of the latter we may quickly fall into a pattern of actions without any significant deliberation. We respond to certain characteristics of a situation. Competence in a field depends on our abilities to both name and explore what could be described as ‘tacit knowledge’, and to ‘unthinkingly’ make use of it in appropriate circumstances.

From the brief discussion above it can be inferred that there is little mileage in simply renaming implicit learning as informal learning. First, there is a strong body of literature that deals explicitly and successfully with tacit knowledge – and it would seem pointless to re-label a phenomenon that has a comprehensive literature. Second, the production of tacit knowledge involves implicit, reactive and deliberative learning. To focus down on one of these is to miss a, perhaps ‘the’, significant point. It is the interrelation of these modes of learning, and the mix of informal and formal education, that demands our attention.

Situated learning

This leads on to a fourth avenue of exploration – viewing informal learning as an expression of situated learning (see learning). This takes us beyond understandings of learning as being internal, or ‘within the skin’, of individuals (see discussion of atomized notions of the self) towards an understanding that takes in the social. When looked at in conjunction with the processes Eraut outlined with respect to non-formal learning <href=”#nonformallearning”>abovepowerful possibilities emerge.

A useful starting point is the notion of distributed cognition that gained some currency in the early 1990s. Much of the experimentation and theorizing concerning cognitive processes and development has treated cognition as being ‘possessed and residing in the heads of individuals’ (Salomon 1993: xii). Those interested in distributed cognition have looked to the tools and social relations ‘outside’ people’s heads. They are not only ‘sources of stimulation and guidance but are actually vehicles of thought… It is not just the “person-solo” who learns, but the “person-plus”, the whole system of interrelated factors’ (ibid.: xiii). People think in relationship with others and use various tools. Different cognitions will emerge in different situations.

So it is that we can talk of ‘situated learning’. It can be seen as involving participation in communities of practice.

Learning involves the whole person it implies not only a relation to specific activities, but a relation to social communities – it implies becoming a full participant, a member, a kind of person. In this view, learning only partly – and often incidentally – implies becoming able to be involved in new activities, to perform new tasks and functions, to master new understandings. Activities, tasks, functions, and understandings do not exist in isolation they are part of broader systems of relations in which they have meaning. (Lave and Wenger 1991: 53)

Novices enter at the edge – their participation is on the periphery. Gradually their engagement deepens and becomes more complex. They become full participants, and will often take on organizing or facilitative roles (see our discussion of learning in associations). Knowledge is, thus, located in the community of practice. Furthermore, in this view ‘it makes no sense to talk of knowledge that is decontextualized, abstract or general’ (Tennant 1997: 77).

Four propositions are common to the range of perspectives that now come together under the banner of situated learning:

  1. High-level or expert knowledge and skill can be gained from everyday experiences at work, and in community or family.
  2. Domain-specific knowledge is necessary for the development of expertise (i.e. much of expertise relies on detailed local knowledge of a workplace, locality or industry).
  3. Learning is a social process.
  4. Knowledge is embedded in practice and transformed through goal-directed behaviour. (Tennant 1999: 170).

From the above we can see how discussions of informal learning becomes linked with situated learning. The focus on communities of practice rather than dedicated learning environments the interest in implicit learning and the concern with relationship and conversation can lead us in that direction. In terms of the administrative or institutional definition of informal learning (see <href=”#informallearning”>above) there is an immediate problem, however. We can approach learning that takes place in the community of practice that is the school as situated. Moreover, as with ‘tacit knowledge’, there is now a vibrant literature that deals explicitly and successfully with situated learning – and it would be misleading to re-label the phenomenon.

Self-education and informal education

Thus far, the argument has been that the notion of informal learning only has a limited use as a means of highlighting the extent of learning and education activity beyond the school. As a basis upon which to develop significant theory or to deepen practice it has little to recommend it. Indeed, it could be argued that it diverts attention away from what are more productive lines of enquiry. The question inevitably arises – can a similar argument be made around the distinction between informal and formal education?

The answer is ‘Yes’, if we use definitions of informal, non-formal and formal education that draw upon the sort of administrative concerns articulated by Coombs and Ahmed (1974). However, if we look to a more sophisticated appreciation of informal and formal education, then the answer is ‘No’. The key dimension, in many respects, is intention. Education is a conscious activity learning isn’t necessarily. People may not have a clear idea of the knowledge or skill they want to acquire, but they are committed to a process. This focus on intention in education allows us to explore different ways of organizing and articulating this. My own preference is to separate those approaches that depend upon the planning and sequencing of learning (via something like a curriculum) and those that are essentially dialogical or conversational (and hence hold little prospect of pre-organizing if we to stay true to their nature). The former can be seen as formal, and the latter as informal, education. As John Ellishas argued it is best to see these as a continuum (see below)

Street educators probably work more towards X schoolteachers toward Y. This means both have a mixture of formal and informal practice. Put another way – both are facilitators, both are teachers. Much of the work of youth workers, for example, will be around conversation (a). However, they will also be running small projects and groups, perhaps organizing residentials (b). Here they may sit down with those involved and talk through the programme. They decide together what they will do – they negotiate a curriculum. Workers may also be interested in water-sports. Here they may well organize a course on safety – where they decide the content and the process (c) (Jeffs and Smith 1999).

Educators that are largely working around conversation can be seen as informal, those working through set curricula are formal. It could be argued that those largely working with negotiated curricula are either engaged in non-formal because of the ‘bottom up’ approach to planning content and process (following Fordham [1995]) or in some form of self-education.

One of the interesting features of this simple model is that it can be applied to self-education and self-directed learning. These terms tend to be used interchangeably – although the latter has gained significantly in popularity in the last decade or so. However, they are different. While both are concerned with conscious attempts to learn, self-education also carries with it a commitment to certain values like respect for others, the search for truth and so on. Self-directed learning need not. If we think in terms of the above model, then it can be seen that people might seek to ‘teach themselves’ through conversation, through constructing some sort of learning plan, or by following programmes of learning constructed by others (for example, teaching themselves French via a language course on CD and book).

Conclusion

My basic line of argument here has been that once the obvious point is made that much learning takes place beyond the formal confines of the classroom, then the usefulness of the notion of ‘informal learning’ quickly fades. Part of the reason for this has been the eagerness of policymakers, academics and practitioners to substitute the learning for education (lifelong learning rather than lifelong education adult learning rather than adult education and so on – see lifelong learning). A focus on learning is important, but when it is at a cost of thinking about education (and the values it carries), then a grievous disservice is done to all involved. Learning is a process that is happening all the time education involves intention and commitment. Education is a moral enterprise that needs to be judged as to whether it elevates and furthers well-being.

Four key areas of endeavour would appear to merit our sustained attention:

  • Exploring tacit knowledge. Much that has been written about informal learning (especially in the workplace) is, perhaps, better approached as the revealing or unearthing of tacit knowledge, or the re-packing of expertise into tacit knowledge. In notions such as ‘situated learning’, reflection on action and skill acquisition (after Dreyfus and Dreyfus 1986) we have some suggestive possibilities. These fundamental processes require our attention.
  • Supporting self-education. The development of a range of accessible and usable opportunities for self-education is an obvious implication for policy and practice. Perhaps the most significant aspect here is the need to approach people as both learners and educators. This means moving away from seeing learners as consumers of different packages and opportunities, into viewing them as creators and constructors of learning. This entails cultivating communities animated by dialogue, democracy and respect for truth – and seeing education and learning not as individual acts but as an aspect of living together.
  • Strengthening associational life. A follow-on from the above, is the need to develop more democratic and elevating forms of group and organizational life. Not only do we need to attend to the significance of situated learning and distributed cognition, we also must look to building relationships and interactions that allow us to flourish and to grow, and to take responsibility for our lives and our part in the world.
  • Developing informal education. A further aspect is the need to focus attention on informal education and the place it has alongside formal education. Working with groups and associations, developing local forms of educating and learning, requires a special mix of dispositions, skills and knowledge.

What we can see here is that the discourse around ‘informal learning’ is significant. However, while it opens up some interesting possibilities, for example around tacit learning, it leads away from others. We need to put education back in the equation.

Further reading and references

Coffield, F. (2000) The Necessity of Informal Learning, Bristol: The Policy Press. 80 + iv pages. Useful collection of material arising out of ESRC Learning Society Programme. Includes Coffield on the significance of informal learning an excellent piece by Michael Eraut on non-formal learning – implicit learning and tacit knowledge in professional work Field and Spence on informal learning and social capital Barron et al on implicit knowledge, phenomenology and learning difficulties Davies on the impact of accreditation and Fevre etal on necessary and unnecessary learning.

P. H. Coombs and M. Ahmed (1974) Attacking Rural Poverty. How non-formal education can help, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press. See, also, Coombs, P. H. with Prosser, C. and Ahmed, M. (1973) New Paths to Learning for Rural Children and Youth, New York: International Council for Educational Development. There were several reports involving Coombs that popularized the institutional split between informal, formal and non-formal education.

Dewey, J. (1933) How We Think 2e, New York: D. C. Heath. Classic and highly influential discussion of reflective enquiry, with Dewey’s famous five elements: suggestion, problem, hypothesis, reasoning, testing. For a discussion that focuses on learning communities see, J. Dewey (1915) The School and Society, 2e., Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Marsick, V. J. and Watkins, K. E. (1991) Informal and Incidental Learning in the Workplace, London: Routledge. Interesting exploration of the nature of informal education which is grounded in an examination of a number of specific examples of practice.

References

Batsleer, J. (2008) Informal Learning in Youth Work. London: Sage.

Bekerman, Z., N. C. Burbules and D. Silberman Keller (2006) Learning in Places – the informal education reader, New York: Peter Lang.

Bentley, T. (1998) Learning beyond the Classroom: Education for a changing world, London: Routledge.

Boud, D. and Garrick, J. (eds.) (1999) Understanding Learning at Work, London: Routledge.

Cross, Jay (2006) Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Dale, M. and Bell, J. (1999) Informal Learning in the Workplace. DfEE Research Report 134, London: Department for Education and Employment. Summary: DfEE Research – Informal learning in the workplace

Davies, L. (2008) Informal Learning. Aldershot: Gower.

Dreyfus, H. L. and Dreyfus, S. E. (1986) Mind Over Machine. The power of human intuition and expertise in the era of the computer, Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Ellis, J. (1990) ‘Informal education – a Christian perspective’ in T. Jeffs and M. Smith (eds.) Using Informal Education, Buckingham: Open University Press. Full text is in the archives.

Eraut, M. (1994) Developing Professional Knowledge and Competence, London: Falmer Press.

Eraut, M. (2000) ‘Non-formal learning, implicit learning and tacit knowledge in professional work’ in F. Coffield The Necessity of Informal Learning, Bristol: The Policy Press.

Garrick, J. (1997) Informal Learning in the Workplace, London: Routledge.

Green, L. (2008) Music, Informal Learning and the School. A new classroom pedagogy. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Heath, S. B. (1983) Ways with Words. Language, life, and work in communities and classrooms, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Heath, S. B. and McLaughlin, M. W. (eds.) (1994) Identity and Inner-City Youth: Beyond ethnicity and gender, New York: Teachers College Press.

Henze, R. C. (1992) Informal Teaching and Learning: a study of everyday cognition in a Greek community, Hillsdale, N. J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Jeffs, T. and Smith, M. (1990) (eds.) Using Informal Education, Buckingham: Open University Press.

Kolb, D. A. (1984) Experiential Learning, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.: Prentice Hall.

Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning. Legitimate peripheral participation, Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.

Leadbeater, C. (2000) Living on Thin Air. The new economy, London: Penguin.

McGiveney, V. (1999) Informal Learning in the Community. A trigger for change and development,Leicester: NIACE. 99 + xii pages. Report of a short DfEE-funded study that focuses on the role of informal learning in ‘starting people on a learning pathway’.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (1977) Learning Opportunities for Adults Vol IV: Participation in Adult Education, Paris: OECD.

Polanyi, M. (1967) The Tacit Dimension, New York: Doubleday.

Reber, A. S. (1993) Implicit Learning and Tacit Knowledge. An essay on the cognitive unconscious, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Salomon, G. (ed.) (1993) Distributed Cognition: Psychological and educational considerations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 275 + xxi pages. Fascinating collection of articles exploring debates around distributed cognition.

Schön, D. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner. How professionals think in action, London: Temple Smith.

Schön, D. (1987) Educating the Reflective Practitioner, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Smith, M. (1988) Developing Youth Work. Informal education, mutual aid and popular practice, Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Smith, M. K. (1994) Local Education. Community, conversation, action, Buckingham: Open University Press.

Tennant, M. (1997) Psychology and Adult Learning 2e, London: Routledge.

Tennant, M. (1999) ‘Is learning transferable?’ in D. Boud and J. Garrick (eds.) Understanding Learning at Work, London: Routledge.

Tight, M. (1996) Key Concepts in Adult Education and Training, London: Routledge.


Learning exam two

If you say you're just testing the gun, they won't run- so what's the stimulus?

Initial instructions of not running- stimulus- set and stimulus influence behavior

Humans behave in order to maintain optimal level of arousal

Ideas are a proposal for a theory

Brought consideration of physiology into learning theories and behavior

Important role of motivational theorist- motivation-performance

Work on sensory deprivation

Emphasize and try to understand predictable, machine-like aspects of human behavior

Cognitions drive behaviors, rather than meaningless S-R reactions

Rat runs freely in maze to reach goal

Place barriers in some paths and observe rats' reactions

Knowledge of environment where these goals are to be found

Significate=expectation of reward that follows learning

Tolman- behavior is purposive,m and cognitive, and reinforcement establishes and confirms expectancies

Cognitions develop after stimulus-reward sequences

Large units of behavior unified in that they are governed by purpose

Purpose, rather than goal itself, guides behavior

Link between stimuli and expectancies

Expectancies- function of exposure to situations in which reinforcement is possible

Relational thinking- requires mental reorganization of problem elements and recognition of correctness of new organization

Only through an understanding of its structure and organization that people know things

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

⭐️Behavior cannot be understood through its parts ⭐️

Cannot be reduced to isolated sensations, like introspection does, or distinct stimuli and responses

Whole is different from the parts

Insightful solutions involve abrupt reorganization of materials

Brain appears to be directed by a tendency for whatever is perceived to take the best form possible

Exact nature of that form for all perceptual and cognitive experiences governed by 4 principles

Aka principle of good continuation

Learned material achieves best structure possible relative to laws of perceptual organization

Tendency towards symmetry or towards a toning down of peculiarities of a perceptual pattern

Almost opposite of leveling- emphasizing distinctness of a pattern

Reproduced object is modified to conform to previous memories

Tends towards making the remembered object more like what it appears to be

With physical environment, always effects someones behavior

Physical field clearly effects behavioral field

Gestalt emphasizes difference between physical reality and what seems to be real

Rejected behaviorism for being overly mechanistic, incomplete, and unsuitable for explaining higher thought processes

Present problems in meaningful, real life ways and guides students to get the answers for themselves

Constructivism rather than direct teaching

Describes instead of explaining

Highly essential in humanistic psychology

Mainly interested in higher mental functions rather than observable behavior

Emphasis shift from animal studies to human studies

Principal goal- make plausible and useful inferences about the mental processes that interfere between input and output, and about what we think of as meaning

How info (input) is modified/changed- emphasis on how perceptual and conceptual processes allow one to perceive

Perception- determines actions- underlies thinking, remembering, solving problems, etc

Learning involves information processing- learner not passive receiver of info, but active participant in the learning process

Meaning depends on relationships among concepts

2nd- amplified sensory capacity (telescope)

1st, kids represent objects through their own immediate sensations of them

Develop sequentially, but not in place of each other

Bruner- represented in the muscles

Corresponds to human evolution- emphasis on amplification of motor abilities

Bruner- corresponds to human evolutionary period in which human inventions amplified sensory abilities

Communal tool kit which, upon use, makes one part of the community

All human cognitive activity involves

Parts must by assembled in a certain way- combination of criterial attributes

Category assigns weight to various properties- some properties more criterial than others

Allows them to treat different events or objects as though they were equivalent

Incoming info put into pre existing categories or causes creation of new ones

End product- decision about ID of stimulus input and implicit inferences

All interactions with works

IDing object- making decision about whether it belongs in a given category

Top most category- most general (generic)/ free of specifics

To remember a specific, usually sufficient to recall coding system to which it is a member

Involves almost all models of categorizing

People develop generalized notion of most typical or representative features of a concept- buts and pieces from examples put together to form one

New input compared to this prototype

Prototype- won't look like specific example, but like key characteristics of all

We construct our own notions of reality and make our own meaning

Student centered educational approach emphasizing learners role in discovering relationships and building meaning

Profoundly influenced by culture, language, and other symbol systems

Results from attempts to weave different events of our lives into a meaningful coherent story

Feeling of continuity, orderliness, and predictability

Advocates use of active rather than passive learning and teaching processes

Emphasis- encouraging learner's involvement in the educational process

Stresses mental reorganization rather than simply increasing the number of facts and procedures learned

Developmental- looks at processes by which children achieve a progressively more advanced understanding of their environment and their selves

Semistructured interview technique in which subjects answers to questions often determine what next question will be

Interviewer listens while child talks

Interviewer goes where the child's explanations and questions lead

Due to Piaget's early training in biology

How can species be classified

For kids- what characteristics allow them to adapt to their environment

Make info fit into existing schemas

Add new info to relevant schema- ignore info that doesn't fit

Of stimulation can be responded to using previous knowledge

Any distinct activity can be labeled a schema

Make existing schema fit the new knowledge

A change in understanding

Too much assimilation=no new learning

Process by which activities and events in real world become represented mentally

Basis of cognitive learning

Internalized representation of what is being repeated

Preoperational (preconceptual: 2-4 intuitive: 4-7)

Concrete operational (7-11 or 12)

Absence of language and internal representation

World only exists when child senses or does things with it

Understand world through senses and motions

Development of ability to symbolize and communicate

Language accelerated thinking

Can represent objects internally

Reacts to all similar objects as though they were the same/identical

Can identify class, but cannot distinguish between members of classes

Cannot understand that mall Santa is not the Santa

Thinking transduction, rather than inductive or deductive

Deductive- general to specific

Transductive- faulty logic based on making inferences from one specific to another

Thinking governed more by perception than logic

Lack of conservation, are egocentric, have issues with classification

Conservation- mislead by appearances and lack of specific logic abilities

Egocentrism- only see one aspect of a situation

Ie- the doll and mountain task

Conservation of objects- 7 or 8 (substance)

Conservation of area- 9 or 10

Conservation of volume- 11 or 12

Use of reversibility, identity, and compensation

While constructing knowledge (interacting) child discovers that logic governs actions and relationships

Identity- for every operation there is another operation that leaves it unchanged

Compensation- combinativity- logical consequences of combining more than one dimension

Learn class- interacting and manipulating objects

Seriating- order objects in a series and set up correspondences between more than a series


Photographic memory?

Photographic memory in terms of remembering text on a page of a book, how many of you would consider your selves to have an Eidetic memory?

When it comes to revision I have an extremely good memory, to the point that I am able to remember every single world from the textbook page by page, and I am able to recall it word for word if I want to.

Now this obviously does make it very easy for me to revise as I don't really have to do much I have never referred back to my notes as I can read a textbook and understand everything and recall it under pressure like in an exam for instance.

So I have just read the Biology textbook for unit 1 and know all of the spec points by heart now - completing a past paper and getting 54/60.

Is it a photographic memory if you have to think about it?

How many of you have a photographic or very good memory?

Not what you're looking for? Try&hellip

(Original post by Loiks94)
Photographic memory in terms of remembering text on a page of a book, how many of you would consider your selves to have an Eidetic memory?

When it comes to revision I have an extremely good memory, to the point that I am able to remember every single world from the textbook page by page, and I am able to recall it word for word if I want to.

Now this obviously does make it very easy for me to revise as I don't really have to do much I have never referred back to my notes as I can read a textbook and understand everything and recall it under pressure like in an exam for instance.

So I have just read the Biology textbook for unit 1 and know all of the spec points by heart now - completing a past paper and getting 54/60.

Is it a photographic memory if you have to think about it?

How many of you have a photographic or very good memory?

everything in the boday requires trainning to keep it in shape, the brain is no different, i like to think i still have a remants of a photographic memory just not a full one

and i don't think you can 'learn' to have a photographic memory, i think it might be genetic but ofc it can loose it's 'potancey' (if you wanna call it that) without 'trainning'

(Original post by Loiks94)
Photographic memory in terms of remembering text on a page of a book, how many of you would consider your selves to have an Eidetic memory?

When it comes to revision I have an extremely good memory, to the point that I am able to remember every single world from the textbook page by page, and I am able to recall it word for word if I want to.

Now this obviously does make it very easy for me to revise as I don't really have to do much I have never referred back to my notes as I can read a textbook and understand everything and recall it under pressure like in an exam for instance.

So I have just read the Biology textbook for unit 1 and know all of the spec points by heart now - completing a past paper and getting 54/60.

Is it a photographic memory if you have to think about it?

How many of you have a photographic or very good memory?

If what you say is true, I suggest you head down to the World Memory Championships in London later this month to unofficially participate. Only since the deadline for registration has already passed.
Not once has anyone who makes a claim that they can memorise pages and pages of text just by reading over them have come down and proven it. Never has anyone like that even competed.

In the history of science, no claim of photographic memory has ever been verified and every such claim has failed the tests assigned. Only one questionable exception exists, and that is within an extremely biased and plot-twisty paper where the psychologist ended up marrying his test subject and they both refused to have her take part in any further testing.
http://www.slate.com/articles/health. yndrome.2.html (Note that the author is the 2006 US Memory Champion).

Photographic memory, eidetic memory and eidetic imagery are often conflated in discussion. It's an important distinction to make. Good memories do exist. Eidetic memories exist. Phenomenal memories exist. Chess players can hold many positions in their head. Being able to play multiple games at once while blindfolded. Is this because they have a naturally good memory? Nope. They've learned to do that. K. Anders Ericsson has done extensive research on the area of expertise.

Simon Reinhard holds the record for memorising a deck of cards. Dr Yip Swee Choi learned a 1774 page Chinese-English dictionary. I mean, just check out these records. Even the guy who memorised 84,000 digits of pi doesn't have a naturally good memory. They taught themselves to memorise like that.

People's memories can do a lot more than they think. "I have a poor memory" should be replaced by "I haven't learned how to best use my memory". For example, if OP does have any sort of phenomenal memory, it is a result of him either learning to, or naturally, exploiting his memory. Perhaps this is an unconscious exploitation? Who knows.

Studies have shown that there is no structural brain difference between people with phenomenal memories and those with poor memories. The only difference was the parts of the brain that those with phenomenal memories used. The only case of a structural difference has been in the case of London taxi cab drivers.


The Stressed Brain

Even when homework is well-designed and does foster learning, too much of it can be damaging. Children who have more than one hour of homework each night overwhelmingly report that they feel stressed about their ability to complete their work. Over time, this stress can create real problems for a developing brain. When we are under stress, the brain produces cortisol, which lowers immune function and processing speed. On a short-term basis, cortisol can help us deal with stress. But when the brain is constantly releasing cortisol, development and learning can slow. This is especially damaging for children, whose brains are rapidly laying down neural connections. Even more troubling, excessive doses of cortisol can damage the hippocampus, which plays an important role in memory, inhibition, and spatial reasoning.


PASSING EXAMS WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING

How often has a colleague, from an upper-division course, inquired if you covered a specific topic in your class? Your colleague was concerned because the students in his/her class (a class after yours) acted as if they never heard of the topic? Or, how often have you just completed a series of lectures on a subject only to encounter students who were unable to discuss even the simplest concepts you covered? From these experiences, we were convinced that our students were memorizing the content and passing exams without understanding the material. Memorization occurs when the learner makes little or no effort to relate new information to existing knowledge or novel situations. Or, memorization is what we resort to when what we are learning makes no sense. For example, please read and study the following paragraph for 3 min (30). After reading and studying the paragraph for 3 min, without referring to the paragraph, please answer the following questions:

Last Fernday, George and Tony were in Donlon peppering gloopy saples and cleaming, burly greps. Suddenly, a ditty strezzle boofed into George's grep. Tony blaired, “Oh George, that ditty strezzle is boofing your grep!”

When were George and Tony in Donlon?

What did the ditty strezzle do to George's grep?

What kind of saples did George and Tony pepper?

What do you imagine happened next?

Based on the incidents in this story, do you think George and Tony will want to return to Donlon? Why or why not?

Please check your responses with the correct answers below.

Tony blaired, “Oh George, that ditty strezzle is boofing your grep!”

Almost any answer will receive partial or complete credit.

Almost any answer will receive partial or complete credit.

Assign 17 points for each correct response and assign partial credit (1–16 points) for each partially correct response. Using this format, did you receive a passing grade (e.g., did you “pass” this exam)?

Most students receive enough points to “pass” this exam. However, because the paragraph was nonsense, there was no meaningful learning or learning with understanding. Thus our students may be passing exams without understanding the material.


Too Much Screen Time Can Have Lasting Consequences for Young Children’s Brains

G rowing data suggests that exposing young children to too much time in front of a TV or computer can have negative effects on their development, including issues with memory, attention and language skills.

In the latest look at the topic, researchers report in JAMA Pediatrics that more screen time is linked to poorer progress on key developmental measures such as communication skills, problem solving and social interactions among young kids over time.

Sheri Madigan, an assistant professor of psychology at University of Calgary in Canada, and her colleagues studied 2,441 mothers and children enrolled in the All Our Families study, which followed young children from ages two to five. Mothers reported on how much time their children spent in front of a television or computer screen on a typical day, and also reported on developmental measures by answering questions about their children&rsquos communication skills, behavior and social interactions. The data were collected at the start of the study, when the children were two years old, then again when they were three and five.

Many studies have looked at the connection between screen time and developmental issues at one point in time, but by following the children over many years, Madigan and her team could learn more about how screen time and development interact. For example, while some studies suggested that increased screen time might contribute to slower development, it was also possible that parents with children with behavioral issues and developmental delays might be more likely to use movies, TV or video games to calm or quiet their child.

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Heavily Decorated Classrooms Disrupt Attention and Learning In Young Children

Maps, number lines, shapes, artwork and other materials tend to cover elementary classroom walls. However, too much of a good thing may end up disrupting attention and learning in young children, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Psychology researchers Anna V. Fisher, Karrie E. Godwin and Howard Seltman of Carnegie Mellon University looked at whether classroom displays affected children’s ability to maintain focus during instruction and to learn the lesson content. They found that children in highly decorated classrooms were more distracted, spent more time off-task and demonstrated smaller learning gains than when the decorations were removed.

“Young children spend a lot of time — usually the whole day — in the same classroom, and we have shown that a classroom’s visual environment can affect how much children learn,” said Fisher, lead author and associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Should teachers take down their visual displays based on the findings of this study?

CMU researchers found that children in highly decorated classrooms (bottom image) were more distracted, spent more time off-task and demonstrated smaller learning gains than when the decorations were removed (top image).

“We do not suggest by any means that this is the answer to all educational problems. Furthermore, additional research is needed to know what effect the classroom visual environment has on children’s attention and learning in real classrooms,” Fisher said.

“Therefore, I would suggest that instead of removing all decorations, teachers should consider whether some of their visual displays may be distracting to young children.”

For the study, 24 kindergarten students were placed in laboratory classrooms for six introductory science lessons on topics they were unfamiliar with.

Three lessons were taught in a heavily decorated classroom, and three lessons were given in a sparse classroom.

The results showed that while children learned in both classroom types, they learned more when the room was not heavily decorated.

Specifically, children’s accuracy on the test questions was higher in the sparse classroom (55% correct) than in the decorated classroom (42% correct).

“We were also interested in finding out if the visual displays were removed, whether the children’s attention would shift to another distraction, such as talking to their peers, and if the total amount of time they were distracted would remain the same,” said Godwin, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology and fellow of the Program in Interdisciplinary Education Research (PIER).

However, when the researchers tallied all of the time children spent off-task in both types of classrooms, the rate of off-task behavior was higher in the decorated classroom (38.6% time spent off-task) than in the sparse classroom (28.4% time spent off-task).

The researchers hope these findings lead to further studies into developing guidelines to help teachers optimally design classrooms.

This work was supported by Grant R305A110444 from the Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, and by Graduate Training Grant R305B090023, awarded to Carnegie Mellon University by the Department of Education.

To learn more, watch this interview with researchers Anna V. Fisher and Karrie E. Godwin from Carnegie Mellon University:


Why We Need More Testing, Not Less

Testing has become a bad word in our society, largely because our educational system places a strong emphasis on high-stakes assessments and standardized evaluations. For many students — perhaps even for most students — getting high test scores is their primary goal in school. And who could blame them? Getting good grades, attaining high SAT/ACT scores, and receiving college acceptance letters depends on how well one can perform on tests. It’s no wonder it’s a source of enormous stress for students, teachers, and parents alike. Heck, I’m getting stressed out just writing about testing!

What, if anything, should be done about this? Given my opening remarks, it may surprise you that my proposed solution is more testing, not less, with the major qualification being that we start viewing — and using — tests more as learning tools than assessment tools. Allow me to explain…

Over the last century, research in cognitive psychology has ushered in the following undeniable empirical reality: Testing enhances learning. Attempting to retrieve information from memory leads to a host of direct and indirect benefits with respect to the retention, understanding, and application of knowledge and skills. Learning scientists call this the testing effect (or the retrieval practice effect), and it’s one of the most robust and reliable findings in the scientific literature on human learning and memory.

Let’s start with the direct effect of testing on learning, which can be summarized as follows: Retrieving from memory strengthens memory. To illustrate, consider a study conducted by Roediger & Karpicke (2006) in which students were assessed on their ability to remember a reading assignment. After an initial reading of a passage on general topics like the sun and sea otters, students either re-read the passage or took a practice test on it that did not provide any kind of feedback on how well they did. The students then returned for a final test five minutes, two days, or one week later. As you might expect, when they were tested five minutes later, students who re-read the passage did a little bit better than those who took the test without getting a chance to re-read the material. But after two days, the pattern reversed: The students who took the practice test remembered more than those who re-read the passage. After a week, the results were even more pronounced: The students who re-read the passage remembered only 42% of the material, whereas the students who received an interim practice test remembered 56% of what they read. In other words, taking a test after studying once led to much better long-term retention than studying the information twice.

In a follow-up experiment, the same researchers wondered if repeatedly re-reading the material might make a difference, so they tested that, too. One group of students studied a short passage during four study periods. On average, they read the passage about 14 times during the study sessions. Another group studied the material during one study session and then took three consecutive practice tests on the material, again receiving no feedback after those tests. These students were able to read the passage about three times before the practice testing started. A week later both groups of students were tested to see how much of the passage they remembered.

Now, intuition would suggest that reading a short passage 14 times would lead to exceptional long-term learning, if not outright memorization. But when they were tested a week later, students who read the passage 14 times recalled only 40% of the material. What about the students who read that passage three times and then completed three practice tests? They recalled 61% of the material! Thus, the more students were tested, the more they remembered. That’s because the process of retrieving information from memory helps the information stick.

Testing has significant indirect effects on learning, too. The results of a test reveal what students do and don’t know. This is important for teachers because it can help inform their future lesson plans, and it’s important for students because it can inform their future study plans. For an empirical example of this, Dr. Robert Bjork (UCLA) and I found that for students who studied information repeatedly, taking an intervening practice test led to more efficient and effective re-studying compared to when no intervening practice test was given (Soderstrom & Bjork, 2014). This suggests that even the assessment qualities of a test can — and should — be harnessed to improve later learning.

One issue that often comes up during discussions of testing is test anxiety, an overwhelming feeling of dread, worry, and fear of failure that occurs before and during testing situations. Obviously, this is a real and debilitating problem for many students and one that hits close to home for me. If I’m concerned about test anxiety, why would I endorse more testing? Wouldn’t more testing just create more test anxiety? You may be surprised to hear that research on this topic shows that testing — or retrieval practice — reduces test anxiety. For example, one study of nearly 1,500 middle- and high-schoolers found that 72% of students who attended classes that incorporated frequent retrieval practice exercises — like quizzes — reported that the retrieval practice made them feel less anxious about upcoming tests in their classes (Agarwal et al., 2014). As counterintuitive as it may seem, more testing results in less test anxiety.

To take greater advantage of testing as a learning tool and antidote to test anxiety, we should encourage our students to retrieve information from their own long-term memories as much as possible. Frequent low- or no-stakes quizzing is an obvious way to do this, but there are many others. For example, having students teach material to their peers (or someone at home) requires memory retrieval, as does playing certain memory games (e.g., retrieval practice challenge grids see Tweet).

Asking lots of questions during class can also be effective, especially if you can find ways of getting all your students to participate in answering them. To help with this, try having students use index cards with answer choices (e.g., true/false, A-D) written on them, or small dry-erase boards for students to display their answers. Instead of “exit tickets,” consider using “entrance tickets” (see Tweet below) to capitalize on the benefits of long-term memory retrieval. Finally, be sure to communicate with your students that testing — or retrieval — is good for their learning and encourage self-testing regularly. Tell them that Google should be used as a last resort, not as a first instinct!

To be clear, I’m not advocating for more high-stakes assessments. I think kids take enough of those. What I’m arguing here is that we should take greater advantage of testing as a learning tool. Most people think of testing as a way to measure what’s been learned, but decades of research have shown that testing improves learning itself. Therefore, we should start viewing and using tests as a means to an end, a powerful way to equip our students with the knowledge and skills we want them to possess.

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Agarwal, P. K., D’Antonio, L., Roediger, H. L., McDermott, K. B., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Classroom-based programs of retrieval practice reduce middle school and high school students’ test anxiety. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 3, 131–139.

Roediger, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). Test-enhanced learning: Taking memory tests improves long-term retention. Psychological Science, 17, 249–255.

Soderstrom, N. C., & Bjork, R. A. (2014). Testing facilitates the regulation of subsequent study time. Journal of Memory and Language, 73, 99–115.


The Impact Of Tiredness And Fatigue On Learning

CM Group has recently been working with some of our clients on projects related to sleep and fatigue and their relationship to cognitive ability and memory. Fatigue Risk Management Science Limited (FRMSc) is working with CM Group to develop and roll out the web-based version of their System for Aircrew Fatigue Evaluation (SAFE) program, which monitors aircrew work patterns for the major airlines and identifies the factors that may affect their alertness and capabilities. This and other projects have raised some interesting questions about the place of sleep and tiredness in learning.

Sleep

There are innumerable studies on sleep and how much of it we should get. Advice conflicts and changes over the years. The current mainstream view is that adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per day to maintain optimum functionality. Without it you are at increased risk of health problems and, most interestingly for this blog, a “decreased ability to pay attention…and remember new information” (National Sleep Foundation). The fact that most adults in the UK now get only 6-and-a-half hours sleep per night is becoming an issue for business, as staff can become more prone to lapses in concentration or falling ill. How much can an extra hour’s sleep change you? (BBC News 2013.) So what is the relationship between sleep and learning? We all feel more alert after a good sleep. It is not simply the fact that the body is rested. The brain has actually been working pretty hard while you are asleep. The physiology is complex, but the brain spends much of the time that you are in a deep sleep consolidating memories. Memories for facts and knowledge (declarative memories) are consolidated from the hippocampus to neocortical networks forming so called “strong memories”. Sleep scientists emphasise that different things are happening during the different types of sleep with emotional stability impacted by the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep a person gets, and this generally follows on from period of deep sleep. Interestingly, sleep and memory retention are closely linked.

Fatigue

Fatigue is also a complex area of psychological research. A fatigued state can be brought on by a number of factors. The two main ones are tiredness and boredom the “are we there yet” syndrome. Tiredness is essentially a function of lack of sleep, but boredom from repetitive actions or activities can induce just as damaging a response for learning. If people become bored they establish less effective short-term memories in the hippocampus and, therefore, are less likely to consolidate these into strong, more permanent memories while they sleep.

Instructional Design And Teaching

What effect should this have on our training design? Well, unless you can regulate your students’ sleep patterns, tiredness may seem a little beyond your control. For fatigued students the challenge is to pique their interest, so that a subject becomes fascinating. However, there are a couple of useful thoughts.

1. Tiredness Patterns

Received wisdom is that people learn best in the morning, but only if people have had a good night’s sleep. However, a number of studies of school children indicate that they actually retain learning better in the afternoon (Do children learn better in the morning or afternoon, Val Dowson). Some of this may be explained by the fact that teenagers need a lot more sleep than adults, but are less likely to go to bed early to get it, which may explain why they often annoyingly stay in bed a lot longer. It may also be to do with circadian rhythms. People have peaks and troughs in their level of alertness during the day. For most adults, these dips occur between 2am and 4am and again between 1pm and 3pm. The first is fine, as it is unlikely that you will be doing any training during the wee hours. The second aligns all too well with the post-lunch lull that most trainers have experienced. In light of this, the practice of putting the complex and challenging modules first thing in the morning may have little basis in fact. You may be better utilising the morning in recap and practical sessions that reinforce the information covered the day before, so that they can refresh their memories. And as most experienced trainers will almost instantly do, try and get some lighter, activity focused sessions early in the afternoon. There is also a point for instructors to think about with regards to the age of their audience. As I have said, teenagers need more sleep, but they also have slightly longer and later circadian dips, between about 7.00 am and 9.30 am and again between about 3 pm and 5 pm, so if you have a young audience, you should emphasise fun and physically active training components at these times. At around 50 years of age people start to become “morning people”. If you have a class of older students you should focus more challenging content in the mornings.

2. Fighting Fatigue With Fascination

For fatigue there is less empirical evidence, but still some useful indicators from psychological studies. One of the most interesting is the place of “fascination” in learner engagement. For a subject to be fascinating it must have an intrinsic interest, which keeps students from becoming bored. In an exploratory study of the effect of high and low fascination environments on attentional fatigue (Berto et al, 2009), the study looked at students’ ability to remember details from a number of photographs that had been rated for their fascination value. The results showed that after undertaking repetitive, predictable tasks students could recall more of the high fascination value images than those rated as low fascination. The implications for instructional designers and trainers are challenging. You need to identify the intrinsically interesting elements of your training and focus these at the circadian dips. Fatigued students will remember fascinating content more easily than they will other content, not because they are any more alert but because fascinating content is easier to absorb. In training, the most fascinating content is usually practical exercises, role-plays and so forth. But this is not just a question of “putting in an exercise”. If the exercise actions are repetitive or they have a predicable outcome students will quickly become bored which will increase their fatigue. So don’t make it easy. The activities must be challenging and the outcomes interesting enough to create a state of “flow” in students that level of interest that makes a learner want to persevere irrespective of the effort, because it becomes effortless.

Fatigue and tiredness have significant, measurable effects on learning. While people commissioning or delivering training should strongly recommend that students get a good night’s sleep to get the best out of their training, there is design and delivery work that harness the circadian rhythms of the audience to make the training even more effective.


Too much, too young: Should schooling start at age 7?

AT WHAT age should children start formal schooling? England is one of a few countries to say the answer is as young as 4 years old.

A long-running debate on this question has been reignited by a letter, signed by about 130 early childhood education experts. It called for an extension of informal, play-based preschool provision and for the start of formal schooling in England to be delayed until the age of 7, from the current effective start at age 4.

This would bring it in line with the overwhelming evidence showing that starting school later is best, and the practice in many countries, such as Sweden and Finland. These countries have better academic achievement and child well-being, despite children not starting school until age 7.

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The fear is that the English system – which was introduced in 1870 in order to get women back into work, rather than on the basis of any educational benefit to children – is now causing profound damage. A similar story applies in the rest of the UK, and there is pressure for greater formality in preschools in other countries, such as the US.

“The fear is that the English system, introduced in 1870, is now causing profound damage”

Why a renewed call for change now? The UK minister for education, Michael Gove, and his team are continuing to advocate earlier formal teaching of literacy and numeracy and earlier formal assessment of children. The head of the UK’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) has also suggested that schools could take children aged 2. The learning style for this proposal wasn’t spelled out, but critics quickly warned against formal methods.

If we consider the contribution of play to children’s development as learners, and the harm caused by starting formal learning at 4 to 5 years old, the evidence for a later start is very persuasive.

This evidence comes from anthropological, psychological, neuroscientific and educational studies. For example, research on children’s play in extant hunter-gatherer societies, and evolutionary psychology studies of other mammalian young, have identified play as an adaptation that enabled early humans to become powerful learners and problem-solvers.

Neuroscientific studies have supported this view of play as a central mechanism in learning. The 2009 book The Playful Brain&colon Venturing to the limits of neuroscience, for example, reviewed many studies showing that playful activity leads to the growth of more connections between neurons, particularly in the frontal lobe – the part of the brain responsible for uniquely human higher mental functions.

Yet another study, in 2002, demonstrated that, by the end of their sixth year in school, children in the US whose preschool learning had been academically directed achieved significantly lower marks compared with those who had attended play-based programmes.

Developmental psychologists have identified two mental processes that underpin this relationship between play and learning. First, much of children’s play involves pretending that one thing represents another, for example that a cardboard box is a space ship. This ability is thought to be unique to humans and underpins language, drawing and other ways in which we convey meaning.

James Christie at Arizona State University and Kathleen Roskos at John Carroll University in Ohio have reviewed evidence that such an approach to language learning, as opposed to formal instruction, offers the most powerful support for the early development of phonological and literacy skills.

Second, through all kinds of physical, constructional and social play, children become more aware of, and more in control of, their physical and mental activity. This allows them to gradually rely less on adult support and become more “self-regulating”, both intellectually and emotionally. A growing number of empirical studies suggest that encouraging play early on enhances this ability, and that educational interventions supporting it are the most powerful predictors of children’s development as learners.

There is another important strand of evidence. In 2004, a study of 3000 children, funded by the UK Department of Education, showed that an extended period of play-based preschool education made a significant difference to learning and well-being through the primary school years.

In New Zealand, several key investigations compared children who started formal literacy lessons at age 5 with those who started age 7. They showed that early formal learning doesn’t improve reading development, and may even be damaging. By the age of 11, there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups. However, those who started aged 5 developed less positive attitudes to reading and showed poorer text comprehension than those who had started later.

Further research exploring the relative reading achievement of 15-year-olds, across 55 countries, found no significant evidence that an early start brings later benefits.

There is an equally substantial body of research concerning the worrying increase in stress and mental health problems among children whose childhood education is being “schoolified”. It suggests strong links with loss of playful experiences and increased achievement pressures.

Taken together, all these strands of evidence raise important and serious questions about the trajectory of early education policy in England.

In the interests of children’s academic achievements and their emotional well-being, the UK government should take this evidence seriously.

This article appeared in print under the headline “Too much, too young”


Why We Need More Testing, Not Less

Testing has become a bad word in our society, largely because our educational system places a strong emphasis on high-stakes assessments and standardized evaluations. For many students — perhaps even for most students — getting high test scores is their primary goal in school. And who could blame them? Getting good grades, attaining high SAT/ACT scores, and receiving college acceptance letters depends on how well one can perform on tests. It’s no wonder it’s a source of enormous stress for students, teachers, and parents alike. Heck, I’m getting stressed out just writing about testing!

What, if anything, should be done about this? Given my opening remarks, it may surprise you that my proposed solution is more testing, not less, with the major qualification being that we start viewing — and using — tests more as learning tools than assessment tools. Allow me to explain…

Over the last century, research in cognitive psychology has ushered in the following undeniable empirical reality: Testing enhances learning. Attempting to retrieve information from memory leads to a host of direct and indirect benefits with respect to the retention, understanding, and application of knowledge and skills. Learning scientists call this the testing effect (or the retrieval practice effect), and it’s one of the most robust and reliable findings in the scientific literature on human learning and memory.

Let’s start with the direct effect of testing on learning, which can be summarized as follows: Retrieving from memory strengthens memory. To illustrate, consider a study conducted by Roediger & Karpicke (2006) in which students were assessed on their ability to remember a reading assignment. After an initial reading of a passage on general topics like the sun and sea otters, students either re-read the passage or took a practice test on it that did not provide any kind of feedback on how well they did. The students then returned for a final test five minutes, two days, or one week later. As you might expect, when they were tested five minutes later, students who re-read the passage did a little bit better than those who took the test without getting a chance to re-read the material. But after two days, the pattern reversed: The students who took the practice test remembered more than those who re-read the passage. After a week, the results were even more pronounced: The students who re-read the passage remembered only 42% of the material, whereas the students who received an interim practice test remembered 56% of what they read. In other words, taking a test after studying once led to much better long-term retention than studying the information twice.

In a follow-up experiment, the same researchers wondered if repeatedly re-reading the material might make a difference, so they tested that, too. One group of students studied a short passage during four study periods. On average, they read the passage about 14 times during the study sessions. Another group studied the material during one study session and then took three consecutive practice tests on the material, again receiving no feedback after those tests. These students were able to read the passage about three times before the practice testing started. A week later both groups of students were tested to see how much of the passage they remembered.

Now, intuition would suggest that reading a short passage 14 times would lead to exceptional long-term learning, if not outright memorization. But when they were tested a week later, students who read the passage 14 times recalled only 40% of the material. What about the students who read that passage three times and then completed three practice tests? They recalled 61% of the material! Thus, the more students were tested, the more they remembered. That’s because the process of retrieving information from memory helps the information stick.

Testing has significant indirect effects on learning, too. The results of a test reveal what students do and don’t know. This is important for teachers because it can help inform their future lesson plans, and it’s important for students because it can inform their future study plans. For an empirical example of this, Dr. Robert Bjork (UCLA) and I found that for students who studied information repeatedly, taking an intervening practice test led to more efficient and effective re-studying compared to when no intervening practice test was given (Soderstrom & Bjork, 2014). This suggests that even the assessment qualities of a test can — and should — be harnessed to improve later learning.

One issue that often comes up during discussions of testing is test anxiety, an overwhelming feeling of dread, worry, and fear of failure that occurs before and during testing situations. Obviously, this is a real and debilitating problem for many students and one that hits close to home for me. If I’m concerned about test anxiety, why would I endorse more testing? Wouldn’t more testing just create more test anxiety? You may be surprised to hear that research on this topic shows that testing — or retrieval practice — reduces test anxiety. For example, one study of nearly 1,500 middle- and high-schoolers found that 72% of students who attended classes that incorporated frequent retrieval practice exercises — like quizzes — reported that the retrieval practice made them feel less anxious about upcoming tests in their classes (Agarwal et al., 2014). As counterintuitive as it may seem, more testing results in less test anxiety.

To take greater advantage of testing as a learning tool and antidote to test anxiety, we should encourage our students to retrieve information from their own long-term memories as much as possible. Frequent low- or no-stakes quizzing is an obvious way to do this, but there are many others. For example, having students teach material to their peers (or someone at home) requires memory retrieval, as does playing certain memory games (e.g., retrieval practice challenge grids see Tweet).

Asking lots of questions during class can also be effective, especially if you can find ways of getting all your students to participate in answering them. To help with this, try having students use index cards with answer choices (e.g., true/false, A-D) written on them, or small dry-erase boards for students to display their answers. Instead of “exit tickets,” consider using “entrance tickets” (see Tweet below) to capitalize on the benefits of long-term memory retrieval. Finally, be sure to communicate with your students that testing — or retrieval — is good for their learning and encourage self-testing regularly. Tell them that Google should be used as a last resort, not as a first instinct!

To be clear, I’m not advocating for more high-stakes assessments. I think kids take enough of those. What I’m arguing here is that we should take greater advantage of testing as a learning tool. Most people think of testing as a way to measure what’s been learned, but decades of research have shown that testing improves learning itself. Therefore, we should start viewing and using tests as a means to an end, a powerful way to equip our students with the knowledge and skills we want them to possess.

Interested in more of my work? Sign up here to receive my latest articles and follow me on Twitter.

Agarwal, P. K., D’Antonio, L., Roediger, H. L., McDermott, K. B., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Classroom-based programs of retrieval practice reduce middle school and high school students’ test anxiety. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 3, 131–139.

Roediger, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). Test-enhanced learning: Taking memory tests improves long-term retention. Psychological Science, 17, 249–255.

Soderstrom, N. C., & Bjork, R. A. (2014). Testing facilitates the regulation of subsequent study time. Journal of Memory and Language, 73, 99–115.


The Impact Of Tiredness And Fatigue On Learning

CM Group has recently been working with some of our clients on projects related to sleep and fatigue and their relationship to cognitive ability and memory. Fatigue Risk Management Science Limited (FRMSc) is working with CM Group to develop and roll out the web-based version of their System for Aircrew Fatigue Evaluation (SAFE) program, which monitors aircrew work patterns for the major airlines and identifies the factors that may affect their alertness and capabilities. This and other projects have raised some interesting questions about the place of sleep and tiredness in learning.

Sleep

There are innumerable studies on sleep and how much of it we should get. Advice conflicts and changes over the years. The current mainstream view is that adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per day to maintain optimum functionality. Without it you are at increased risk of health problems and, most interestingly for this blog, a “decreased ability to pay attention…and remember new information” (National Sleep Foundation). The fact that most adults in the UK now get only 6-and-a-half hours sleep per night is becoming an issue for business, as staff can become more prone to lapses in concentration or falling ill. How much can an extra hour’s sleep change you? (BBC News 2013.) So what is the relationship between sleep and learning? We all feel more alert after a good sleep. It is not simply the fact that the body is rested. The brain has actually been working pretty hard while you are asleep. The physiology is complex, but the brain spends much of the time that you are in a deep sleep consolidating memories. Memories for facts and knowledge (declarative memories) are consolidated from the hippocampus to neocortical networks forming so called “strong memories”. Sleep scientists emphasise that different things are happening during the different types of sleep with emotional stability impacted by the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep a person gets, and this generally follows on from period of deep sleep. Interestingly, sleep and memory retention are closely linked.

Fatigue

Fatigue is also a complex area of psychological research. A fatigued state can be brought on by a number of factors. The two main ones are tiredness and boredom the “are we there yet” syndrome. Tiredness is essentially a function of lack of sleep, but boredom from repetitive actions or activities can induce just as damaging a response for learning. If people become bored they establish less effective short-term memories in the hippocampus and, therefore, are less likely to consolidate these into strong, more permanent memories while they sleep.

Instructional Design And Teaching

What effect should this have on our training design? Well, unless you can regulate your students’ sleep patterns, tiredness may seem a little beyond your control. For fatigued students the challenge is to pique their interest, so that a subject becomes fascinating. However, there are a couple of useful thoughts.

1. Tiredness Patterns

Received wisdom is that people learn best in the morning, but only if people have had a good night’s sleep. However, a number of studies of school children indicate that they actually retain learning better in the afternoon (Do children learn better in the morning or afternoon, Val Dowson). Some of this may be explained by the fact that teenagers need a lot more sleep than adults, but are less likely to go to bed early to get it, which may explain why they often annoyingly stay in bed a lot longer. It may also be to do with circadian rhythms. People have peaks and troughs in their level of alertness during the day. For most adults, these dips occur between 2am and 4am and again between 1pm and 3pm. The first is fine, as it is unlikely that you will be doing any training during the wee hours. The second aligns all too well with the post-lunch lull that most trainers have experienced. In light of this, the practice of putting the complex and challenging modules first thing in the morning may have little basis in fact. You may be better utilising the morning in recap and practical sessions that reinforce the information covered the day before, so that they can refresh their memories. And as most experienced trainers will almost instantly do, try and get some lighter, activity focused sessions early in the afternoon. There is also a point for instructors to think about with regards to the age of their audience. As I have said, teenagers need more sleep, but they also have slightly longer and later circadian dips, between about 7.00 am and 9.30 am and again between about 3 pm and 5 pm, so if you have a young audience, you should emphasise fun and physically active training components at these times. At around 50 years of age people start to become “morning people”. If you have a class of older students you should focus more challenging content in the mornings.

2. Fighting Fatigue With Fascination

For fatigue there is less empirical evidence, but still some useful indicators from psychological studies. One of the most interesting is the place of “fascination” in learner engagement. For a subject to be fascinating it must have an intrinsic interest, which keeps students from becoming bored. In an exploratory study of the effect of high and low fascination environments on attentional fatigue (Berto et al, 2009), the study looked at students’ ability to remember details from a number of photographs that had been rated for their fascination value. The results showed that after undertaking repetitive, predictable tasks students could recall more of the high fascination value images than those rated as low fascination. The implications for instructional designers and trainers are challenging. You need to identify the intrinsically interesting elements of your training and focus these at the circadian dips. Fatigued students will remember fascinating content more easily than they will other content, not because they are any more alert but because fascinating content is easier to absorb. In training, the most fascinating content is usually practical exercises, role-plays and so forth. But this is not just a question of “putting in an exercise”. If the exercise actions are repetitive or they have a predicable outcome students will quickly become bored which will increase their fatigue. So don’t make it easy. The activities must be challenging and the outcomes interesting enough to create a state of “flow” in students that level of interest that makes a learner want to persevere irrespective of the effort, because it becomes effortless.

Fatigue and tiredness have significant, measurable effects on learning. While people commissioning or delivering training should strongly recommend that students get a good night’s sleep to get the best out of their training, there is design and delivery work that harness the circadian rhythms of the audience to make the training even more effective.


Too much, too young: Should schooling start at age 7?

AT WHAT age should children start formal schooling? England is one of a few countries to say the answer is as young as 4 years old.

A long-running debate on this question has been reignited by a letter, signed by about 130 early childhood education experts. It called for an extension of informal, play-based preschool provision and for the start of formal schooling in England to be delayed until the age of 7, from the current effective start at age 4.

This would bring it in line with the overwhelming evidence showing that starting school later is best, and the practice in many countries, such as Sweden and Finland. These countries have better academic achievement and child well-being, despite children not starting school until age 7.

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The fear is that the English system – which was introduced in 1870 in order to get women back into work, rather than on the basis of any educational benefit to children – is now causing profound damage. A similar story applies in the rest of the UK, and there is pressure for greater formality in preschools in other countries, such as the US.

“The fear is that the English system, introduced in 1870, is now causing profound damage”

Why a renewed call for change now? The UK minister for education, Michael Gove, and his team are continuing to advocate earlier formal teaching of literacy and numeracy and earlier formal assessment of children. The head of the UK’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) has also suggested that schools could take children aged 2. The learning style for this proposal wasn’t spelled out, but critics quickly warned against formal methods.

If we consider the contribution of play to children’s development as learners, and the harm caused by starting formal learning at 4 to 5 years old, the evidence for a later start is very persuasive.

This evidence comes from anthropological, psychological, neuroscientific and educational studies. For example, research on children’s play in extant hunter-gatherer societies, and evolutionary psychology studies of other mammalian young, have identified play as an adaptation that enabled early humans to become powerful learners and problem-solvers.

Neuroscientific studies have supported this view of play as a central mechanism in learning. The 2009 book The Playful Brain&colon Venturing to the limits of neuroscience, for example, reviewed many studies showing that playful activity leads to the growth of more connections between neurons, particularly in the frontal lobe – the part of the brain responsible for uniquely human higher mental functions.

Yet another study, in 2002, demonstrated that, by the end of their sixth year in school, children in the US whose preschool learning had been academically directed achieved significantly lower marks compared with those who had attended play-based programmes.

Developmental psychologists have identified two mental processes that underpin this relationship between play and learning. First, much of children’s play involves pretending that one thing represents another, for example that a cardboard box is a space ship. This ability is thought to be unique to humans and underpins language, drawing and other ways in which we convey meaning.

James Christie at Arizona State University and Kathleen Roskos at John Carroll University in Ohio have reviewed evidence that such an approach to language learning, as opposed to formal instruction, offers the most powerful support for the early development of phonological and literacy skills.

Second, through all kinds of physical, constructional and social play, children become more aware of, and more in control of, their physical and mental activity. This allows them to gradually rely less on adult support and become more “self-regulating”, both intellectually and emotionally. A growing number of empirical studies suggest that encouraging play early on enhances this ability, and that educational interventions supporting it are the most powerful predictors of children’s development as learners.

There is another important strand of evidence. In 2004, a study of 3000 children, funded by the UK Department of Education, showed that an extended period of play-based preschool education made a significant difference to learning and well-being through the primary school years.

In New Zealand, several key investigations compared children who started formal literacy lessons at age 5 with those who started age 7. They showed that early formal learning doesn’t improve reading development, and may even be damaging. By the age of 11, there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups. However, those who started aged 5 developed less positive attitudes to reading and showed poorer text comprehension than those who had started later.

Further research exploring the relative reading achievement of 15-year-olds, across 55 countries, found no significant evidence that an early start brings later benefits.

There is an equally substantial body of research concerning the worrying increase in stress and mental health problems among children whose childhood education is being “schoolified”. It suggests strong links with loss of playful experiences and increased achievement pressures.

Taken together, all these strands of evidence raise important and serious questions about the trajectory of early education policy in England.

In the interests of children’s academic achievements and their emotional well-being, the UK government should take this evidence seriously.

This article appeared in print under the headline “Too much, too young”


Informal learning should no longer be regarded as an inferior form of learning whose main purpose is to act as the precursor of formal learning it needs to be seen as fundamental, necessary and valuable in its own right, at times directly relevant to employment and at other times not relevant at all. (Coffield 2000: 8)

We must move away from a view of education as a rite of passage involving the acquisition of enough knowledge and qualifications to acquire and adult station in life. The point of education should not be to inculcate a body of knowledge, but to develop capabilities: the basic ones of literacy and numeracy as well as the capability to act responsibly towards others, to take initiative and to work creatively and collaboratively. The most important capability, and the one which traditional education is worst at creating is the ability and yearning to carry on learning. Too much schooling kills off a desire to learn…. Schools and universities should become more like hubs of learning, within the community, capable of extending into the community… More learning needs to be done at home, in offices and kitchens, in the contexts where knowledge is deployed to solve problems and add value to people’s lives. (Leadbeater 2000: 111-112)

Introduction

Commentators in the UK adult education and lifelong learning field have shown an increasing interest in informal learning. Bentley (1998) has examined ‘learning beyond the classroom’ Coffield (2000) ‘the necessity of informal learning’ Marsick and Watkins (1990) and Dale and Bell (1999) ‘informal and incidental learning in the workplace’ and McGiveney (1999) ‘informal learning in the community’. However, this interest has not been reflected in any significant way thus far in policy statements and reviews. As Coffield (2000: 1) notes, for all the talk of lifelong learning and the learning society the focus remains on formal provision, qualifications and accountability.

This interest in informal learning has run alongside developments in thinking around informal education (although, significantly, there is no reference to this in any of the above studies). It also links to explorations of learning through participation in the life of a group or association – la vie associative. Within social anthropology there has also been a longstanding concern with ‘informal learning’– reflected in studies such as Heath on literacy practices (1983) and Henze (1992). These have fed through into thinking about practice (Heath and McLauglin 1993 and Smith 1994). Work on the distributed cognition (Salomon 1993) and situated learning (Lave and Wenger 1991) has also helped to deepen our appreciation.

While it is surely right to explore and deepen ‘learning beyond the classroom’, there is some doubt as to whether the notion of informal learning is the most useful way forward. Michael Eraut, for example, has suggested that the utility of such a ‘catch-all’ label is not very great (2000: 12). He suggests the notion of ‘non-formal learning’ might be more helpful. However, as we will see, it isn’t the most illuminating path either. Within much that is written and said about the area, learning and education are confused and there is an over-concern with institutional setting or sponsorship as against process and content.

In this piece I explore informal learning as an administrative concept the competing claims of ‘non-formal education’ the significance of tacit knowledge and the production of social knowledge through distributed and situated learning. I argue that the most useful way of exploring and developing what is a fundamental area of human endeavour, is to put ‘informal learning’ on one side for the moment and to focus on:

  • learning in its various guises – implicit, reactive and deliberative, for example, and
  • self-directed and communal forms of education.

The idea of ‘informal education’, I suggest, does have utility.

Informal learning – an administrative concept

We can begin to see some of the problems associated with the term ‘informal learning’ as soon as we glance at the definitions offered. For example, Veronica McGivney used the following in her study. Informal learning is:

  • Learning that takes place outside a dedicated learning environment and which arises from the activities and interests of individuals and groups, but which may not be recognised as learning.
  • Non course-based learning activities (which might include discussion, talks or presentations, information, advice and guidance) provided or facilitated in response to expressed interests and needs by people from a range of sectors and organizations (health, housing, social services, employment services, education and training services, guidance services).
  • Planned and structured learning such as short courses organized in response to identified interests and needs but delivered in flexible and informal ways and in informal community settings.

Margaret Dale and John Bell (1999) define informal learning somewhat more narrowly for their purposes as:

Learning which takes place in the work context, relates to an individual’s performance of their job and/or their employability, and which is not formally organized into a programme or curriculum by the employer. It may be recognized by the different parties involved, and may or may not be specifically encouraged.

The central and defining feature of informal learning in this view is context – or more accurately administrative setting and sponsorship. Crudely, learning that takes place in dedicated educational institutions such as schools is seen as formal, that which occurs beyond the school walls as ‘informal’. Coombs and Ahmed used a similar distinction with regard to education. In their view, informal education is:

… the lifelong process by which every individual acquires and accumulates knowledge, skills, attitudes and insights from daily experiences and exposure to the environment – at home, at work, at play: from the example and attitude of families and friends from travel, reading newspapers and books or by listening to the radio or viewing films or television. Generally informal education is unorganized, unsystematic and even unintentional at times, yet accounts for the great bulk of any person’s total lifetime learning – including that of a highly ‘schooled’ person. (Coombs and Ahmed 1974: 8)

We can see the similarities here with the above discussion of ‘informal learning’. Significantly, it carries with it many of the same problems. Informal education is set against non-formal education – organized educational activity outside formal systems and formal education – the hierarchically structured, chronologically graded ‘education system’. The distinction made is largely administrative. Formal education is linked with schools and training institutions non-formal with community groups and other organizations and informal covers what is left, e.g. interactions with friends, family and work colleagues.

There is an important point for policy in this distinction. If schools and colleges have only a limited place in the learning that occurs in a society, questions must be asked about the focus on such institutions. Would funding be better deployed elsewhere? Does the current obsession with accreditation have any merit? Should researchers explore learning in everyday life in more depth? However, once this point is noted, there is little conceptual mileage in this particular division of learning.

The main problem with regard to theoretical development is that as soon as we begin to look at the characteristics of learning activities within ‘dedicated’ and non-dedicated learning environments we find a striking mix of educational and learning processes in each (Smith 1988: 125-126). For example, as Henze and others have shown, people teach and organize educational events as part of their everyday experience. A grandfather might show a child how to use a key to unlock a door a mother may work with her daughter around reading – and so on. These educational events fall inside McGivney’s first focus – yet in their essence they may be little different to what happens in a classroom. Both grandfather and mother may set out to teach particular skills. For this reason, any discussion of informal and formal learning, or informal and formal education must move beyond a simple focus on context or setting, and look to the processes and experiences involved in each. In the case of the latter, it can be argued that informal education is largely driven by conversation (and has formal interludes), while formal education is curriculum-driven (and has informal interludes). Setting or context is still a factor. Different settings will offer a novel mix of resources and opportunities for learning and will have contrasting expectations associated with them (Jeffs and Smith 1990: 1-23).

A further issue is that many of those commentating on informal learning do not seem to make an adequate distinction between learning and education. The latter can be characterized as setting out to foster environments for learning that involve a commitment to certain values such as a respect for truth and for persons (Jeffs and Smith 1999: 12-16 – see education). Learning can be seen as a product or thing – a memory or understanding or as a process – as a form of thinking. What is sometimes described as informal learning is, thus, better described as self-education, or self directed learning. (Alan Tough has explored people’s participation in learning projects. He began by calling this phenomenon ‘self-teaching’, later self-directed learning.)

‘Non-formal’ learning as implicit, reactive and deliberative

Michael Eraut has contributed one of the most helpful discussions of ‘informal learning’ in recent years. He suggests, but doesn’t really make the case for, a focus on non-formal learning. The argument is that the term ‘informal’ is associated with so many other features of situations – such as dress, behaviour, discourse – ‘that its colloquial application as a descriptor of learning contexts may have little to do with learning per se’ (Eraut 2000: 12). Unfortunately, the notion of ‘non-formal learning’ in itself may not be any more helpful.

Firstly, we cannot ignore the tradition of thinking and administrative practice associated with non-formal education as it will tend to colour the way many professionals in the lifelong learning and adult education arena will approach the notion. Non-formal education in its classic definition by Coombs and Ahmed (1974: 8) is ‘any organized, systematic educational activity, carried on outside the framework of the formal system, to provide selected types of learning to particular subgroups in the population, adults as well as children’. It includes agricultural extension programmes, youth clubs and groups with substantial educational purposes and community-based programmes of health education. As Malcolm Tight notes, a simpler definition has been employed by OECD as: ‘education for which none of the learners is enrolled or registered’ (OECD 1977: 11, quoted by Tight 1996: 69). Such activity could be course-based or more conversational – and would run close to the second and third elements of informal learning identified by McGivney (above). This is a narrow interpretation of the territory that Eraut seeks to explore and has the danger of focusing us again on the administrative context rather than the characteristics of the learning process.

Secondly, the use of the term ‘non-formal’ invites dualism. We inevitably tend to contrast it with ‘formal’ learning. This is learning that takes place in a situation where there is:

  • A prescribed learning framework
  • An organized learning event or package
  • The presence of a designated teacher or trainer
  • The award of a qualification or credit
  • The external specification of outcomes. (Eraut 2000: 12).

We may well want to question this characterization of formal learning, but presumably non-formal learning could be seen as involving a non-prescribed learning framework, internal or non-specification of outcome, no designated teachers and so on. The point that Eraut seeks to make is that we need to explore the full range of learning processes or modes that fall within the domain of ‘non-formal learning’. Here he is surely right in trying to point us in the direction of processes and experiences but in so doing he undermines the case for a distinction between non-formal and formal. Some of the very processes he directs our attention to could equally be labelled ‘formal’. It would seem that a focus on setting or context (informal, non-formal and formal) has only a limited usefulness – and then principally in the broad discussion of policy.

Eraut’s argument gets interesting when he begins to look at the level of intention in learning. He creates a continuum with implicit learning – ‘the acquisition of knowledge independently of conscious attempts to learn and the absence of explicit knowledge about what was learned’ (Reber 1993 quoted by Eraut 2000: 12) on one extreme. On the other is deliberative learning where time is specifically set-aside for learning. Between the two is reactive learning. Here learning is explicit but almost takes place spontaneously and in response to recent, current or imminent situations but without any time being set aside for it. These categories come very close to Donald Schön’scategories ‘knowledge in use’, ‘reflection on action’ and reflection in action. (Eraut 1994 views Schön’s last category as problematic because he believes it is also sometimes used to refer to a metacognitive awareness that is not a form of learning in itself). He asks a further question – are the events that provide the focus from the past, something happening in the present, or part of some possible future action? He then suggests that we can then produce a typology on ‘non-formal learning’.

Michael Eraut’s typology of non-formal learning (2000: 13)

This presentation is useful as soon as we unhook it from the notion of ‘non-formal learning’. Eraut dismisses using the idea of self-directed learning because it can refer to what he has defined as formal and non-formal situations. However, so can his notion of deliberative learning. Indeed, implicit and reactive learning can also do so. As Eraut (2000: 26) admits, a multitude of processes and outcomes occur in formal settings like lessons in schools (as they do in informal moments like chance meetings on the street). It is probably more useful to look at learning as implicit, reactive and deliberative (plus some other possible candidates) and to explore interaction with context. Effectively, this would mean going well beyond a crude separation of contexts into informal and formal. The focus on these more substantive categories of learning allows us to connect with substantial traditions of thinking and practice and so develop a better appreciation of the experiences of learners and how their efforts might be enhanced.

Tacit knowledge

Another path into the notion of informal learning is to view it simply as implicit learning. Such learning results in what Polanyi (1967) calls tacit knowledge – ‘that which we know but cannot tell’. However, as Eraut (2000: 16) again points out, a string of writers have explored how what they talk of as tacit knowledge can be made explicit (and how explicit learning can lead to tacit knowledge). It may be that no knowledge is totally implicit or explicit. Much of Eraut’s discussion of ‘non-formal learning’ is concerned with identifying different types of situation in which tacit knowledge may be gained or used (simultaneously or otherwise). Six main situations were named:

  • knowledge acquired by implicit learning of which the knower is unaware
  • knowledge constructed from the aggregation of episodes in long-term memory
  • knowledge inferred by observers to be capable of representation as implicit theories of action, personal constructs, schemas, etc
  • knowledge that enables rapid, intuitive understanding or response
  • knowledge entailed in transferring knowledge from one situation to another
  • knowledge embedded in taken-for-granted activities, perceptions and norms (2000: 28).

Tacit knowledge provides much of the basis for the way we interact with people and situations. We have a ‘taken-for-granted’ understanding of others. Because this is not explored in any coherent way, such knowledge can be self-perpetuating and lead to behaviour that is inappropriate, or not the most productive. This is a compelling argument for the exploration of implicit learning (and attempting to make tacit knowledge more explicit). Once revealed it can be tested and developed. Not unexpectedly there are major difficulties with this process (see the discussion of experiential learning and reflection on action). Indeed, if we follow Polanyi’s definition it may not be possible at all.

We also need to recognize the reverse process – that of making explicit knowledge tacit. Here we may learn and develop routines and habits to deal with situations. This can range from developing the ability to touch-type to being able to respond to situations quickly – for example dealing with a medical emergency. In the case of the latter we may quickly fall into a pattern of actions without any significant deliberation. We respond to certain characteristics of a situation. Competence in a field depends on our abilities to both name and explore what could be described as ‘tacit knowledge’, and to ‘unthinkingly’ make use of it in appropriate circumstances.

From the brief discussion above it can be inferred that there is little mileage in simply renaming implicit learning as informal learning. First, there is a strong body of literature that deals explicitly and successfully with tacit knowledge – and it would seem pointless to re-label a phenomenon that has a comprehensive literature. Second, the production of tacit knowledge involves implicit, reactive and deliberative learning. To focus down on one of these is to miss a, perhaps ‘the’, significant point. It is the interrelation of these modes of learning, and the mix of informal and formal education, that demands our attention.

Situated learning

This leads on to a fourth avenue of exploration – viewing informal learning as an expression of situated learning (see learning). This takes us beyond understandings of learning as being internal, or ‘within the skin’, of individuals (see discussion of atomized notions of the self) towards an understanding that takes in the social. When looked at in conjunction with the processes Eraut outlined with respect to non-formal learning <href=”#nonformallearning”>abovepowerful possibilities emerge.

A useful starting point is the notion of distributed cognition that gained some currency in the early 1990s. Much of the experimentation and theorizing concerning cognitive processes and development has treated cognition as being ‘possessed and residing in the heads of individuals’ (Salomon 1993: xii). Those interested in distributed cognition have looked to the tools and social relations ‘outside’ people’s heads. They are not only ‘sources of stimulation and guidance but are actually vehicles of thought… It is not just the “person-solo” who learns, but the “person-plus”, the whole system of interrelated factors’ (ibid.: xiii). People think in relationship with others and use various tools. Different cognitions will emerge in different situations.

So it is that we can talk of ‘situated learning’. It can be seen as involving participation in communities of practice.

Learning involves the whole person it implies not only a relation to specific activities, but a relation to social communities – it implies becoming a full participant, a member, a kind of person. In this view, learning only partly – and often incidentally – implies becoming able to be involved in new activities, to perform new tasks and functions, to master new understandings. Activities, tasks, functions, and understandings do not exist in isolation they are part of broader systems of relations in which they have meaning. (Lave and Wenger 1991: 53)

Novices enter at the edge – their participation is on the periphery. Gradually their engagement deepens and becomes more complex. They become full participants, and will often take on organizing or facilitative roles (see our discussion of learning in associations). Knowledge is, thus, located in the community of practice. Furthermore, in this view ‘it makes no sense to talk of knowledge that is decontextualized, abstract or general’ (Tennant 1997: 77).

Four propositions are common to the range of perspectives that now come together under the banner of situated learning:

  1. High-level or expert knowledge and skill can be gained from everyday experiences at work, and in community or family.
  2. Domain-specific knowledge is necessary for the development of expertise (i.e. much of expertise relies on detailed local knowledge of a workplace, locality or industry).
  3. Learning is a social process.
  4. Knowledge is embedded in practice and transformed through goal-directed behaviour. (Tennant 1999: 170).

From the above we can see how discussions of informal learning becomes linked with situated learning. The focus on communities of practice rather than dedicated learning environments the interest in implicit learning and the concern with relationship and conversation can lead us in that direction. In terms of the administrative or institutional definition of informal learning (see <href=”#informallearning”>above) there is an immediate problem, however. We can approach learning that takes place in the community of practice that is the school as situated. Moreover, as with ‘tacit knowledge’, there is now a vibrant literature that deals explicitly and successfully with situated learning – and it would be misleading to re-label the phenomenon.

Self-education and informal education

Thus far, the argument has been that the notion of informal learning only has a limited use as a means of highlighting the extent of learning and education activity beyond the school. As a basis upon which to develop significant theory or to deepen practice it has little to recommend it. Indeed, it could be argued that it diverts attention away from what are more productive lines of enquiry. The question inevitably arises – can a similar argument be made around the distinction between informal and formal education?

The answer is ‘Yes’, if we use definitions of informal, non-formal and formal education that draw upon the sort of administrative concerns articulated by Coombs and Ahmed (1974). However, if we look to a more sophisticated appreciation of informal and formal education, then the answer is ‘No’. The key dimension, in many respects, is intention. Education is a conscious activity learning isn’t necessarily. People may not have a clear idea of the knowledge or skill they want to acquire, but they are committed to a process. This focus on intention in education allows us to explore different ways of organizing and articulating this. My own preference is to separate those approaches that depend upon the planning and sequencing of learning (via something like a curriculum) and those that are essentially dialogical or conversational (and hence hold little prospect of pre-organizing if we to stay true to their nature). The former can be seen as formal, and the latter as informal, education. As John Ellishas argued it is best to see these as a continuum (see below)

Street educators probably work more towards X schoolteachers toward Y. This means both have a mixture of formal and informal practice. Put another way – both are facilitators, both are teachers. Much of the work of youth workers, for example, will be around conversation (a). However, they will also be running small projects and groups, perhaps organizing residentials (b). Here they may sit down with those involved and talk through the programme. They decide together what they will do – they negotiate a curriculum. Workers may also be interested in water-sports. Here they may well organize a course on safety – where they decide the content and the process (c) (Jeffs and Smith 1999).

Educators that are largely working around conversation can be seen as informal, those working through set curricula are formal. It could be argued that those largely working with negotiated curricula are either engaged in non-formal because of the ‘bottom up’ approach to planning content and process (following Fordham [1995]) or in some form of self-education.

One of the interesting features of this simple model is that it can be applied to self-education and self-directed learning. These terms tend to be used interchangeably – although the latter has gained significantly in popularity in the last decade or so. However, they are different. While both are concerned with conscious attempts to learn, self-education also carries with it a commitment to certain values like respect for others, the search for truth and so on. Self-directed learning need not. If we think in terms of the above model, then it can be seen that people might seek to ‘teach themselves’ through conversation, through constructing some sort of learning plan, or by following programmes of learning constructed by others (for example, teaching themselves French via a language course on CD and book).

Conclusion

My basic line of argument here has been that once the obvious point is made that much learning takes place beyond the formal confines of the classroom, then the usefulness of the notion of ‘informal learning’ quickly fades. Part of the reason for this has been the eagerness of policymakers, academics and practitioners to substitute the learning for education (lifelong learning rather than lifelong education adult learning rather than adult education and so on – see lifelong learning). A focus on learning is important, but when it is at a cost of thinking about education (and the values it carries), then a grievous disservice is done to all involved. Learning is a process that is happening all the time education involves intention and commitment. Education is a moral enterprise that needs to be judged as to whether it elevates and furthers well-being.

Four key areas of endeavour would appear to merit our sustained attention:

  • Exploring tacit knowledge. Much that has been written about informal learning (especially in the workplace) is, perhaps, better approached as the revealing or unearthing of tacit knowledge, or the re-packing of expertise into tacit knowledge. In notions such as ‘situated learning’, reflection on action and skill acquisition (after Dreyfus and Dreyfus 1986) we have some suggestive possibilities. These fundamental processes require our attention.
  • Supporting self-education. The development of a range of accessible and usable opportunities for self-education is an obvious implication for policy and practice. Perhaps the most significant aspect here is the need to approach people as both learners and educators. This means moving away from seeing learners as consumers of different packages and opportunities, into viewing them as creators and constructors of learning. This entails cultivating communities animated by dialogue, democracy and respect for truth – and seeing education and learning not as individual acts but as an aspect of living together.
  • Strengthening associational life. A follow-on from the above, is the need to develop more democratic and elevating forms of group and organizational life. Not only do we need to attend to the significance of situated learning and distributed cognition, we also must look to building relationships and interactions that allow us to flourish and to grow, and to take responsibility for our lives and our part in the world.
  • Developing informal education. A further aspect is the need to focus attention on informal education and the place it has alongside formal education. Working with groups and associations, developing local forms of educating and learning, requires a special mix of dispositions, skills and knowledge.

What we can see here is that the discourse around ‘informal learning’ is significant. However, while it opens up some interesting possibilities, for example around tacit learning, it leads away from others. We need to put education back in the equation.

Further reading and references

Coffield, F. (2000) The Necessity of Informal Learning, Bristol: The Policy Press. 80 + iv pages. Useful collection of material arising out of ESRC Learning Society Programme. Includes Coffield on the significance of informal learning an excellent piece by Michael Eraut on non-formal learning – implicit learning and tacit knowledge in professional work Field and Spence on informal learning and social capital Barron et al on implicit knowledge, phenomenology and learning difficulties Davies on the impact of accreditation and Fevre etal on necessary and unnecessary learning.

P. H. Coombs and M. Ahmed (1974) Attacking Rural Poverty. How non-formal education can help, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press. See, also, Coombs, P. H. with Prosser, C. and Ahmed, M. (1973) New Paths to Learning for Rural Children and Youth, New York: International Council for Educational Development. There were several reports involving Coombs that popularized the institutional split between informal, formal and non-formal education.

Dewey, J. (1933) How We Think 2e, New York: D. C. Heath. Classic and highly influential discussion of reflective enquiry, with Dewey’s famous five elements: suggestion, problem, hypothesis, reasoning, testing. For a discussion that focuses on learning communities see, J. Dewey (1915) The School and Society, 2e., Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Marsick, V. J. and Watkins, K. E. (1991) Informal and Incidental Learning in the Workplace, London: Routledge. Interesting exploration of the nature of informal education which is grounded in an examination of a number of specific examples of practice.

References

Batsleer, J. (2008) Informal Learning in Youth Work. London: Sage.

Bekerman, Z., N. C. Burbules and D. Silberman Keller (2006) Learning in Places – the informal education reader, New York: Peter Lang.

Bentley, T. (1998) Learning beyond the Classroom: Education for a changing world, London: Routledge.

Boud, D. and Garrick, J. (eds.) (1999) Understanding Learning at Work, London: Routledge.

Cross, Jay (2006) Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Dale, M. and Bell, J. (1999) Informal Learning in the Workplace. DfEE Research Report 134, London: Department for Education and Employment. Summary: DfEE Research – Informal learning in the workplace

Davies, L. (2008) Informal Learning. Aldershot: Gower.

Dreyfus, H. L. and Dreyfus, S. E. (1986) Mind Over Machine. The power of human intuition and expertise in the era of the computer, Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Ellis, J. (1990) ‘Informal education – a Christian perspective’ in T. Jeffs and M. Smith (eds.) Using Informal Education, Buckingham: Open University Press. Full text is in the archives.

Eraut, M. (1994) Developing Professional Knowledge and Competence, London: Falmer Press.

Eraut, M. (2000) ‘Non-formal learning, implicit learning and tacit knowledge in professional work’ in F. Coffield The Necessity of Informal Learning, Bristol: The Policy Press.

Garrick, J. (1997) Informal Learning in the Workplace, London: Routledge.

Green, L. (2008) Music, Informal Learning and the School. A new classroom pedagogy. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Heath, S. B. (1983) Ways with Words. Language, life, and work in communities and classrooms, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Heath, S. B. and McLaughlin, M. W. (eds.) (1994) Identity and Inner-City Youth: Beyond ethnicity and gender, New York: Teachers College Press.

Henze, R. C. (1992) Informal Teaching and Learning: a study of everyday cognition in a Greek community, Hillsdale, N. J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Jeffs, T. and Smith, M. (1990) (eds.) Using Informal Education, Buckingham: Open University Press.

Kolb, D. A. (1984) Experiential Learning, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.: Prentice Hall.

Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning. Legitimate peripheral participation, Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.

Leadbeater, C. (2000) Living on Thin Air. The new economy, London: Penguin.

McGiveney, V. (1999) Informal Learning in the Community. A trigger for change and development,Leicester: NIACE. 99 + xii pages. Report of a short DfEE-funded study that focuses on the role of informal learning in ‘starting people on a learning pathway’.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (1977) Learning Opportunities for Adults Vol IV: Participation in Adult Education, Paris: OECD.

Polanyi, M. (1967) The Tacit Dimension, New York: Doubleday.

Reber, A. S. (1993) Implicit Learning and Tacit Knowledge. An essay on the cognitive unconscious, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Salomon, G. (ed.) (1993) Distributed Cognition: Psychological and educational considerations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 275 + xxi pages. Fascinating collection of articles exploring debates around distributed cognition.

Schön, D. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner. How professionals think in action, London: Temple Smith.

Schön, D. (1987) Educating the Reflective Practitioner, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Smith, M. (1988) Developing Youth Work. Informal education, mutual aid and popular practice, Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Smith, M. K. (1994) Local Education. Community, conversation, action, Buckingham: Open University Press.

Tennant, M. (1997) Psychology and Adult Learning 2e, London: Routledge.

Tennant, M. (1999) ‘Is learning transferable?’ in D. Boud and J. Garrick (eds.) Understanding Learning at Work, London: Routledge.

Tight, M. (1996) Key Concepts in Adult Education and Training, London: Routledge.


Learning exam two

If you say you're just testing the gun, they won't run- so what's the stimulus?

Initial instructions of not running- stimulus- set and stimulus influence behavior

Humans behave in order to maintain optimal level of arousal

Ideas are a proposal for a theory

Brought consideration of physiology into learning theories and behavior

Important role of motivational theorist- motivation-performance

Work on sensory deprivation

Emphasize and try to understand predictable, machine-like aspects of human behavior

Cognitions drive behaviors, rather than meaningless S-R reactions

Rat runs freely in maze to reach goal

Place barriers in some paths and observe rats' reactions

Knowledge of environment where these goals are to be found

Significate=expectation of reward that follows learning

Tolman- behavior is purposive,m and cognitive, and reinforcement establishes and confirms expectancies

Cognitions develop after stimulus-reward sequences

Large units of behavior unified in that they are governed by purpose

Purpose, rather than goal itself, guides behavior

Link between stimuli and expectancies

Expectancies- function of exposure to situations in which reinforcement is possible

Relational thinking- requires mental reorganization of problem elements and recognition of correctness of new organization

Only through an understanding of its structure and organization that people know things

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

⭐️Behavior cannot be understood through its parts ⭐️

Cannot be reduced to isolated sensations, like introspection does, or distinct stimuli and responses

Whole is different from the parts

Insightful solutions involve abrupt reorganization of materials

Brain appears to be directed by a tendency for whatever is perceived to take the best form possible

Exact nature of that form for all perceptual and cognitive experiences governed by 4 principles

Aka principle of good continuation

Learned material achieves best structure possible relative to laws of perceptual organization

Tendency towards symmetry or towards a toning down of peculiarities of a perceptual pattern

Almost opposite of leveling- emphasizing distinctness of a pattern

Reproduced object is modified to conform to previous memories

Tends towards making the remembered object more like what it appears to be

With physical environment, always effects someones behavior

Physical field clearly effects behavioral field

Gestalt emphasizes difference between physical reality and what seems to be real

Rejected behaviorism for being overly mechanistic, incomplete, and unsuitable for explaining higher thought processes

Present problems in meaningful, real life ways and guides students to get the answers for themselves

Constructivism rather than direct teaching

Describes instead of explaining

Highly essential in humanistic psychology

Mainly interested in higher mental functions rather than observable behavior

Emphasis shift from animal studies to human studies

Principal goal- make plausible and useful inferences about the mental processes that interfere between input and output, and about what we think of as meaning

How info (input) is modified/changed- emphasis on how perceptual and conceptual processes allow one to perceive

Perception- determines actions- underlies thinking, remembering, solving problems, etc

Learning involves information processing- learner not passive receiver of info, but active participant in the learning process

Meaning depends on relationships among concepts

2nd- amplified sensory capacity (telescope)

1st, kids represent objects through their own immediate sensations of them

Develop sequentially, but not in place of each other

Bruner- represented in the muscles

Corresponds to human evolution- emphasis on amplification of motor abilities

Bruner- corresponds to human evolutionary period in which human inventions amplified sensory abilities

Communal tool kit which, upon use, makes one part of the community

All human cognitive activity involves

Parts must by assembled in a certain way- combination of criterial attributes

Category assigns weight to various properties- some properties more criterial than others

Allows them to treat different events or objects as though they were equivalent

Incoming info put into pre existing categories or causes creation of new ones

End product- decision about ID of stimulus input and implicit inferences

All interactions with works

IDing object- making decision about whether it belongs in a given category

Top most category- most general (generic)/ free of specifics

To remember a specific, usually sufficient to recall coding system to which it is a member

Involves almost all models of categorizing

People develop generalized notion of most typical or representative features of a concept- buts and pieces from examples put together to form one

New input compared to this prototype

Prototype- won't look like specific example, but like key characteristics of all

We construct our own notions of reality and make our own meaning

Student centered educational approach emphasizing learners role in discovering relationships and building meaning

Profoundly influenced by culture, language, and other symbol systems

Results from attempts to weave different events of our lives into a meaningful coherent story

Feeling of continuity, orderliness, and predictability

Advocates use of active rather than passive learning and teaching processes

Emphasis- encouraging learner's involvement in the educational process

Stresses mental reorganization rather than simply increasing the number of facts and procedures learned

Developmental- looks at processes by which children achieve a progressively more advanced understanding of their environment and their selves

Semistructured interview technique in which subjects answers to questions often determine what next question will be

Interviewer listens while child talks

Interviewer goes where the child's explanations and questions lead

Due to Piaget's early training in biology

How can species be classified

For kids- what characteristics allow them to adapt to their environment

Make info fit into existing schemas

Add new info to relevant schema- ignore info that doesn't fit

Of stimulation can be responded to using previous knowledge

Any distinct activity can be labeled a schema

Make existing schema fit the new knowledge

A change in understanding

Too much assimilation=no new learning

Process by which activities and events in real world become represented mentally

Basis of cognitive learning

Internalized representation of what is being repeated

Preoperational (preconceptual: 2-4 intuitive: 4-7)

Concrete operational (7-11 or 12)

Absence of language and internal representation

World only exists when child senses or does things with it

Understand world through senses and motions

Development of ability to symbolize and communicate

Language accelerated thinking

Can represent objects internally

Reacts to all similar objects as though they were the same/identical

Can identify class, but cannot distinguish between members of classes

Cannot understand that mall Santa is not the Santa

Thinking transduction, rather than inductive or deductive

Deductive- general to specific

Transductive- faulty logic based on making inferences from one specific to another

Thinking governed more by perception than logic

Lack of conservation, are egocentric, have issues with classification

Conservation- mislead by appearances and lack of specific logic abilities

Egocentrism- only see one aspect of a situation

Ie- the doll and mountain task

Conservation of objects- 7 or 8 (substance)

Conservation of area- 9 or 10

Conservation of volume- 11 or 12

Use of reversibility, identity, and compensation

While constructing knowledge (interacting) child discovers that logic governs actions and relationships

Identity- for every operation there is another operation that leaves it unchanged

Compensation- combinativity- logical consequences of combining more than one dimension

Learn class- interacting and manipulating objects

Seriating- order objects in a series and set up correspondences between more than a series


Photographic memory?

Photographic memory in terms of remembering text on a page of a book, how many of you would consider your selves to have an Eidetic memory?

When it comes to revision I have an extremely good memory, to the point that I am able to remember every single world from the textbook page by page, and I am able to recall it word for word if I want to.

Now this obviously does make it very easy for me to revise as I don't really have to do much I have never referred back to my notes as I can read a textbook and understand everything and recall it under pressure like in an exam for instance.

So I have just read the Biology textbook for unit 1 and know all of the spec points by heart now - completing a past paper and getting 54/60.

Is it a photographic memory if you have to think about it?

How many of you have a photographic or very good memory?

Not what you're looking for? Try&hellip

(Original post by Loiks94)
Photographic memory in terms of remembering text on a page of a book, how many of you would consider your selves to have an Eidetic memory?

When it comes to revision I have an extremely good memory, to the point that I am able to remember every single world from the textbook page by page, and I am able to recall it word for word if I want to.

Now this obviously does make it very easy for me to revise as I don't really have to do much I have never referred back to my notes as I can read a textbook and understand everything and recall it under pressure like in an exam for instance.

So I have just read the Biology textbook for unit 1 and know all of the spec points by heart now - completing a past paper and getting 54/60.

Is it a photographic memory if you have to think about it?

How many of you have a photographic or very good memory?

everything in the boday requires trainning to keep it in shape, the brain is no different, i like to think i still have a remants of a photographic memory just not a full one

and i don't think you can 'learn' to have a photographic memory, i think it might be genetic but ofc it can loose it's 'potancey' (if you wanna call it that) without 'trainning'

(Original post by Loiks94)
Photographic memory in terms of remembering text on a page of a book, how many of you would consider your selves to have an Eidetic memory?

When it comes to revision I have an extremely good memory, to the point that I am able to remember every single world from the textbook page by page, and I am able to recall it word for word if I want to.

Now this obviously does make it very easy for me to revise as I don't really have to do much I have never referred back to my notes as I can read a textbook and understand everything and recall it under pressure like in an exam for instance.

So I have just read the Biology textbook for unit 1 and know all of the spec points by heart now - completing a past paper and getting 54/60.

Is it a photographic memory if you have to think about it?

How many of you have a photographic or very good memory?

If what you say is true, I suggest you head down to the World Memory Championships in London later this month to unofficially participate. Only since the deadline for registration has already passed.
Not once has anyone who makes a claim that they can memorise pages and pages of text just by reading over them have come down and proven it. Never has anyone like that even competed.

In the history of science, no claim of photographic memory has ever been verified and every such claim has failed the tests assigned. Only one questionable exception exists, and that is within an extremely biased and plot-twisty paper where the psychologist ended up marrying his test subject and they both refused to have her take part in any further testing.
http://www.slate.com/articles/health. yndrome.2.html (Note that the author is the 2006 US Memory Champion).

Photographic memory, eidetic memory and eidetic imagery are often conflated in discussion. It's an important distinction to make. Good memories do exist. Eidetic memories exist. Phenomenal memories exist. Chess players can hold many positions in their head. Being able to play multiple games at once while blindfolded. Is this because they have a naturally good memory? Nope. They've learned to do that. K. Anders Ericsson has done extensive research on the area of expertise.

Simon Reinhard holds the record for memorising a deck of cards. Dr Yip Swee Choi learned a 1774 page Chinese-English dictionary. I mean, just check out these records. Even the guy who memorised 84,000 digits of pi doesn't have a naturally good memory. They taught themselves to memorise like that.

People's memories can do a lot more than they think. "I have a poor memory" should be replaced by "I haven't learned how to best use my memory". For example, if OP does have any sort of phenomenal memory, it is a result of him either learning to, or naturally, exploiting his memory. Perhaps this is an unconscious exploitation? Who knows.

Studies have shown that there is no structural brain difference between people with phenomenal memories and those with poor memories. The only difference was the parts of the brain that those with phenomenal memories used. The only case of a structural difference has been in the case of London taxi cab drivers.


Heavily Decorated Classrooms Disrupt Attention and Learning In Young Children

Maps, number lines, shapes, artwork and other materials tend to cover elementary classroom walls. However, too much of a good thing may end up disrupting attention and learning in young children, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Psychology researchers Anna V. Fisher, Karrie E. Godwin and Howard Seltman of Carnegie Mellon University looked at whether classroom displays affected children’s ability to maintain focus during instruction and to learn the lesson content. They found that children in highly decorated classrooms were more distracted, spent more time off-task and demonstrated smaller learning gains than when the decorations were removed.

“Young children spend a lot of time — usually the whole day — in the same classroom, and we have shown that a classroom’s visual environment can affect how much children learn,” said Fisher, lead author and associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Should teachers take down their visual displays based on the findings of this study?

CMU researchers found that children in highly decorated classrooms (bottom image) were more distracted, spent more time off-task and demonstrated smaller learning gains than when the decorations were removed (top image).

“We do not suggest by any means that this is the answer to all educational problems. Furthermore, additional research is needed to know what effect the classroom visual environment has on children’s attention and learning in real classrooms,” Fisher said.

“Therefore, I would suggest that instead of removing all decorations, teachers should consider whether some of their visual displays may be distracting to young children.”

For the study, 24 kindergarten students were placed in laboratory classrooms for six introductory science lessons on topics they were unfamiliar with.

Three lessons were taught in a heavily decorated classroom, and three lessons were given in a sparse classroom.

The results showed that while children learned in both classroom types, they learned more when the room was not heavily decorated.

Specifically, children’s accuracy on the test questions was higher in the sparse classroom (55% correct) than in the decorated classroom (42% correct).

“We were also interested in finding out if the visual displays were removed, whether the children’s attention would shift to another distraction, such as talking to their peers, and if the total amount of time they were distracted would remain the same,” said Godwin, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology and fellow of the Program in Interdisciplinary Education Research (PIER).

However, when the researchers tallied all of the time children spent off-task in both types of classrooms, the rate of off-task behavior was higher in the decorated classroom (38.6% time spent off-task) than in the sparse classroom (28.4% time spent off-task).

The researchers hope these findings lead to further studies into developing guidelines to help teachers optimally design classrooms.

This work was supported by Grant R305A110444 from the Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, and by Graduate Training Grant R305B090023, awarded to Carnegie Mellon University by the Department of Education.

To learn more, watch this interview with researchers Anna V. Fisher and Karrie E. Godwin from Carnegie Mellon University:


PASSING EXAMS WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING

How often has a colleague, from an upper-division course, inquired if you covered a specific topic in your class? Your colleague was concerned because the students in his/her class (a class after yours) acted as if they never heard of the topic? Or, how often have you just completed a series of lectures on a subject only to encounter students who were unable to discuss even the simplest concepts you covered? From these experiences, we were convinced that our students were memorizing the content and passing exams without understanding the material. Memorization occurs when the learner makes little or no effort to relate new information to existing knowledge or novel situations. Or, memorization is what we resort to when what we are learning makes no sense. For example, please read and study the following paragraph for 3 min (30). After reading and studying the paragraph for 3 min, without referring to the paragraph, please answer the following questions:

Last Fernday, George and Tony were in Donlon peppering gloopy saples and cleaming, burly greps. Suddenly, a ditty strezzle boofed into George's grep. Tony blaired, “Oh George, that ditty strezzle is boofing your grep!”

When were George and Tony in Donlon?

What did the ditty strezzle do to George's grep?

What kind of saples did George and Tony pepper?

What do you imagine happened next?

Based on the incidents in this story, do you think George and Tony will want to return to Donlon? Why or why not?

Please check your responses with the correct answers below.

Tony blaired, “Oh George, that ditty strezzle is boofing your grep!”

Almost any answer will receive partial or complete credit.

Almost any answer will receive partial or complete credit.

Assign 17 points for each correct response and assign partial credit (1–16 points) for each partially correct response. Using this format, did you receive a passing grade (e.g., did you “pass” this exam)?

Most students receive enough points to “pass” this exam. However, because the paragraph was nonsense, there was no meaningful learning or learning with understanding. Thus our students may be passing exams without understanding the material.


Too Much Screen Time Can Have Lasting Consequences for Young Children’s Brains

G rowing data suggests that exposing young children to too much time in front of a TV or computer can have negative effects on their development, including issues with memory, attention and language skills.

In the latest look at the topic, researchers report in JAMA Pediatrics that more screen time is linked to poorer progress on key developmental measures such as communication skills, problem solving and social interactions among young kids over time.

Sheri Madigan, an assistant professor of psychology at University of Calgary in Canada, and her colleagues studied 2,441 mothers and children enrolled in the All Our Families study, which followed young children from ages two to five. Mothers reported on how much time their children spent in front of a television or computer screen on a typical day, and also reported on developmental measures by answering questions about their children&rsquos communication skills, behavior and social interactions. The data were collected at the start of the study, when the children were two years old, then again when they were three and five.

Many studies have looked at the connection between screen time and developmental issues at one point in time, but by following the children over many years, Madigan and her team could learn more about how screen time and development interact. For example, while some studies suggested that increased screen time might contribute to slower development, it was also possible that parents with children with behavioral issues and developmental delays might be more likely to use movies, TV or video games to calm or quiet their child.

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The Stressed Brain

Even when homework is well-designed and does foster learning, too much of it can be damaging. Children who have more than one hour of homework each night overwhelmingly report that they feel stressed about their ability to complete their work. Over time, this stress can create real problems for a developing brain. When we are under stress, the brain produces cortisol, which lowers immune function and processing speed. On a short-term basis, cortisol can help us deal with stress. But when the brain is constantly releasing cortisol, development and learning can slow. This is especially damaging for children, whose brains are rapidly laying down neural connections. Even more troubling, excessive doses of cortisol can damage the hippocampus, which plays an important role in memory, inhibition, and spatial reasoning.


Watch the video: madness combat tiktoks because i am brainrotting. BLDVLENCE WARNING (August 2022).