Saturday, March 19, 2011

Teaching limits exploration

Alison Gopnik, a professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley, has written an article on Slate, titled "Why Preschool shouldn't be like School", about two recent research studies that show how teaching inhibits creativity in children.

The research studies she points to are to be published soon in the journal Cognition. One, co-authored by Gopnik, is titled "Children's imitation of causal action sequences is influenced by statistical and pedagogical evidence," which shows that children are particularly inclined to repeat what they see a teacher do.  The other is titled "The double-edged sword of pedagogy: Instruction limits spontaneous exploration and discovery", and shows that when instructed by a teacher, children are likely to learn more efficiently, but are also less likely to discover new facts.

She writes:
As so often happens in science, two studies from different labs, using different techniques, have simultaneously produced strikingly similar results. They provide scientific support for the intuitions many teachers have had all along: Direct instruction really can limit young children's learning. Teaching is a very effective way to get children to learn something specific—this tube squeaks, say, or a squish then a press then a pull causes the music to play. But it also makes children less likely to discover unexpected information and to draw unexpected conclusions.
Knowing what to expect from a teacher is a really good thing, of course: It lets you get the right answers more quickly than you would otherwise. Indeed, these studies show that 4-year-olds understand how teaching works and can learn from teachers. But there is an intrinsic trade-off between that kind of learning and the more wide-ranging learning that is so natural for young children. Knowing this, it's more important than ever to give children's remarkable, spontaneous learning abilities free rein. That means a rich, stable, and safe world, with affectionate and supportive grown-ups, and lots of opportunities for exploration and play. Not school for babies.
This is very much along the lines of what I've been thinking and writing about. I would argue that we need to apply these ideas well beyond preschool. The title of Gopnik's article could be generalized. School (and college!) should be less like school as well...

1 comment: promo codes said...

The twofold edged sword of instructional method: Instruction limits unconstrained investigation and disclosure. Here the demonstrates that when trained by an educator, youngsters are probably going to take in more effectively, but on the other hand are more averse to find new actualities. That implies a rich, stable, and safe world, with friendly and strong adults, and bunches of chances for investigation and play.