1. I accept that I am under the control of a higher power (Muppet).

Learning by inference better than being told

http://www.physorg.com/news92672882.html - Kids Learn Words Best by Working out Meaning

"While we know that active engagement is the key to rapid learning," he said, "Meredith's result suggesting that knowledge gained via a child's own inferences is sometimes more powerful and longer lasting than knowledge gained through instruction may have powerful repercussions for how we teach new material. These implications have yet to be explored, but this first result is tantalizing."


Interesting to know, but how do you design a curriculum using this info? We still learn everything through ppt.
Permalink son of parnas 
March 15th, 2007 11:13pm
-- "original research" ???

-- "...potential to change the way we think about education and learning," said Justin Halberda, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences ???

How is it that young people can "discover" common knowledge that has been known for centuries, and be told it is original? How can someone titled "assistant professor" be so ignorant of such basic things?

The whole article is totally ridiculous. No wonder kids suffer today if these kind of hopeless buffoons are in charge of educational theory.
Permalink Send private email bon vivant 
March 15th, 2007 11:32pm
Could be the asst. prof is an idiot, the journalist could also be shit.
Permalink zed 
March 15th, 2007 11:45pm
Class, settle down. Close your mouths and open your ears. Learning is now coming from me to you. Sit down, shut up, be still and you will learn some important things.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 15th, 2007 11:52pm
the problem comes with the whole control-based mentality that says you have to "design a curriculum" in the first place. It implies "you will learn these things, because they are facts".

What the study is saying is that people in their natural unspoilt state (kids) like to decide for themselves what is true. Then they tend to actually believe and remember it.

So you have to replace "design a curriculum" with something like "expose to a set of possible experiences, and let them work it out (with guidance)".

Of course, there is a whole balance to be struck between trying to start the whole tree of human knowledge from scratch, and standing on the shoulders of those who already did it. Maybe they have to decide for themselves where the right balance point is.
Permalink $-- 
March 16th, 2007 6:59am
>> Interesting to know, but how do you design a curriculum using this info? <<

You need a teacher that is willing to teach a teensy leetle bit faster than the students can absorb, and is willing to bounce from subject to subject, all the while ensuring that all the required topics are covered by the end of the day.

Not a lot of people are able to do this -- it's hard.  Unfortunately, the people who can are not paid commensurately.

{insert rant about teacher's unions ensuring mediocrity}
Permalink Send private email xampl 
March 16th, 2007 8:46am
Mass production of anything ensures uniformity.  In the case of education, uniformity pretty much has to equal mediocrity.
Permalink the great purple 
March 16th, 2007 9:02am
purple+++++++++++
Permalink $-- 
March 16th, 2007 9:37am
No, mass production lowers variability in outcomes while raising average and the total yield (as a result of efficiency).

Take anything that was mass-produced ... Eli Whitney's guns. If mass production had made them mediocre, why did people buy them? Why was this? Answer is it didn't make them mediocre. It made them better, more reliable, and cheaper so more could be bought for the same value. Cheaper doesn't mean worse, don't let price signals fool you.

Before kids were mass educated a few kids got great educations, while the vast, vast majority got none. IE, high variability, lower average. Would you want your kid to switch places with an average kid of the 15th century? Of the 19th (lower chance of learning to read)? Of the 1950's (including lower chance of going to college)?

It may appear more mediocre because the percentage of educated kids individually tutored by Aristotles (really rich folks like kings) is lower. But individual tutoring by great scholars can't be a core part of the curriculum. Not enough of them. Some mass-produced standard like wikipedia takes their place.
Permalink Send private email sour grape snowflake 
March 16th, 2007 9:42am
Good point.  It's true that a lot of people are educated today who wouldn't have been in years past.
Permalink the great purple 
March 16th, 2007 10:00am
uniformity with guns can equate to quality.

the issue is whether the same applies to people. I think it doesn't, because the definitions of excellence just don't apply.
Permalink $-- 
March 16th, 2007 10:01am
Ah. But this is fundamentally a spiritual belief. That there's a wholeness to the human soul that is not measurable, not analysable. Because once it's measurable, dare we say it, we may find that this 'quality' cannot be infinite, can yield to economic factors, etc.

Luckily scientists are breaking these kind of beliefs down every day. See OP.

Anyway I'd rather be an average kid today than in the 70's or the 50' or whenever was this Golden Age of Education folks refer to. I mean, Wikipedia is mediocre in comparison to the Encylopedia Brittanica, but at least it's available and cheap. I didn't have the EB when I was growing up at all. (higher average, lower variation.)
Permalink Send private email sour grape snowflake 
March 16th, 2007 10:16am
I think this is a very good thing because I know without a doubt it is how I learn things best.

I suspect the primary problem they will have with it is not a difference in how people learn. It will be that some people simply don't make inferences based on the knowledge they have at hand. Everything must be illustrated and pointed out before anything clicks.
Permalink JoC 
March 16th, 2007 10:55am
the whole average kid idea is a bit meaningless. there is no such creature.
Permalink $-- 
March 16th, 2007 11:06am
One reason schools are crap is the myth that egalitarianism means all students need exactly the same, uniform curriculum. This combined with 'no child left behind' is a design for failure. You make sure the least common denominator succeeds. And you make sure all have the same curriculum. So you have an unchallenging curriculum designed for mental retards as the given standard. This is required. Average kids can deal with this through boredom tempered with Ritalin. Smart kids just check out of the system. Everyone loses, but at least all are now equal! The dream of equality has been accomplished, and remember, that is the only important goal.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 16th, 2007 2:04pm
> average kid-ness....

Here's the thought experiment: given one of the following two lotteries, which one would you choose?

(a) A random pick from the set of all kids who are 17 years old in 1957.

or

(b) A random pick from the set of all kids who are 17 years old in 2007.

Which of these 'average' kids would you rather be? Which education system is better?

Ok, that's an irregular use of 'average'. Maybe 'random' is better but then people jump all over that word, too. Better suggestions are certainly welcome.
Permalink Send private email sour grape snowflake 
March 16th, 2007 2:05pm
> common knowledge that has been known

Ask a 100 people about what is common and you'll get a 100 different answers. And if it's so common how come no form of teaching works that way?

And it's common knowledge that kids learn by a process of exclusion? Not common knowledge at all.
Permalink son of parnas 
March 16th, 2007 2:44pm
I'm not sure where you're going with that, but it would be hands down 1957.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 16th, 2007 2:55pm
> I'm not sure where you're going with that, but it would be hands down 1957.

Of course. Because school in 1950s was so just like that.
Permalink son of parnas 
March 16th, 2007 2:56pm
Wow.  1957 huh?  Pre-sputnik?  Pre-Civil Rights?  Pre-Computer?

Well, if it wasn't a school in the south, and you weren't black, then maybe.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
March 16th, 2007 3:24pm
Eh, that's why they call it Nostalgia, I suppose.  Because you remember it as better than it ever was.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
March 16th, 2007 3:27pm
>Meredith's result suggesting that knowledge gained via a child's own inferences is sometimes more powerful and longer lasting than knowledge gained through instruction may have powerful repercussions for how we teach new material.

Translation: actions speak louder than words.
Permalink Peter 
March 16th, 2007 4:10pm
I guess since there was less to know in '57 ("when was JFK shot?" was not a question on the final) the kids then were smarter. They had a better chance of getting all the right answers.

Yeah, STH hits on the Rawlsian twist ... it may have been great to have been a white boy in '57. But it wasn't great being the (my poor terminology notwithstanding) 'average,' or randomly picked kid.

The only great thing about being 17 in 57 is that you got to experience the 60's before your 30th birthday. That's all. Sex, drugs and rock and roll. Most time periods don't even got that.
Permalink Send private email sour grape snowflake 
March 16th, 2007 4:15pm
The article doesn't say that kids learn by a process of exclusion. It says kids remember things better if they work things out for themselves rather than just being told. The article uses the word inference a lot, but inference is just a posh word for working things out by deduction.

It's foolish to say that no form of teaching works that way. Teaching is absolutely full of hands-on learning, experimentation, finding things out by doing, and so on. It's why every class you ever take when you are older has tutorial exercises and homework. You do the exercises, you discover the theory for yourself, you understand, and you remember.
Permalink Send private email bon vivant 
March 16th, 2007 5:21pm
Maybe you are right, bon, but I don't remember ever told why something one learns is useful.
Permalink Send private email Rick Zeng/Tseng 
March 16th, 2007 5:25pm
It is kind of interesting because it's confirmed in an experimental settings.

While I agree it's not earth shattering, it's still nice to be able to confirm common knowledge.

You know, many beliefs once considered common turned out wrong.
Permalink Send private email Rick Zeng/Tseng 
March 16th, 2007 5:56pm

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