Saturday, September 28, 2013

Dispelling our misconceptions about learning, in order to teach and learn better

We know less about learning than we think, and there is something we can do about it, but first we have to see it for ourselves, in order to believe it. On the daily bulletin of a MOOC I am taking about Mathematical Thinking, was this article on "Improving Classroom Performance by Challenging Student Misconceptions About Learning" by Stephen L. Chow, which calls for applying known insights from the field of psychology, to the problems of metacognition and learning efficiency. We all know less than we think we do, and our misconceptions about the learning process can harm our learning efficiency.

That "Many students arrive at college with highly overlearned study skills developed in high school that are now ineffective" implies that what it takes to be successful in the K-12 educational institutions, is at cross-purposes with deep learning. However, so long as schools increasingly require teaching to the test, the skills for success at public school, will not be sufficient for college-level work. Debate and discussion of this problem is so commonplace that it has practically become a trope, with attackers and defenders on all sides, so I will not belabor it further here, as my purpose is simply to present and partially describe an article on how to use what is known to the field of psychology, to improve learning (and potentially, teaching), by addressing common misconceptions about learning.

Notably, according to the author of the article, active learning is ineffective if it does not lead to deep processing. Teachers can benefit from this if they apply active learning to deep processing, but active learning that does not lead to deep processing will not be effective, according to the author, who recommends using formative assessment to improve metacognition and to give students practice in recalling and using information.

Anyone seeking to improve their own learning, or to support the learning of others (whether through being a tutor or mentor, educating their own children privately (with or without the use of school systems), or performing the job of teacher-for-pay within a school system, can benefit from this information.