PsycholARTSical: Psyched about the arts/Cognitive Views of Learning
Cognitive Views of Learning
Dear classmates: The editors this week would like to supply the class with summaries from each section of the chapter, as was done in the first week. We decided this in hopes of encouraging content discussion between members of the class, while keeping our (the editors') weekly contribution to the presentation of theoretical materials and subsequent discussion moderation. We have divided the chapter into sections and assigned each editor a part of the reading.
- Note: Since there are various editions of textbooks circulating throughout the class, page numbers may vary. Refer to subject headings when page number don't match.
- Note: The above paragraph is provisionary and shall be removed at the end of the week. Thanks! ~ The editors.
Teachers' Casebook: What Would You Do? (pp.233)
In this week's case, a group of students in a senior history class has become reliant on memorization as the sole method of learning in a class. Their information farming leaves them with isolated strands of knowledge, unable to synthesize their learnings into a broader context of understanding. The questions the text poses in regard to this scenario are:
- What do these students "know" about history? What are their beliefs and expectations, and how do these affect their learning?
- Why do you think they insist on using the rote memory approach?
- How would you teach your students to learn in this new way?
- How will these issues affect the grade levels you teach?
The cognitive approach to learning offers many tried and true tactics to processing, storing, and retrieving knowledge. In a lot of ways reading this chapter has been like a review of how I have been taught to approach teaching here at OISE. P. 255(Woolfolk): “Using Information Processing Ideas in the Classroom”, and p.263- Fig. 7.3 (Woolfolk): “Gagne’s Phases of Learning and the Instructional Events That Support Learning at Each Phase”, are excellent summaries of how to approach a lesson. What seems to be emphasized here is making connections meaningful. So what would I do if my history students where hooked on the textbook? First I would reevaluate the way they were being evaluated. Students are generally motivated to do well on the test, even if it means memorizing the glossary to be prepared for the multiple choice questions. The sad but true part is that students have been trained to be rote learners. In University I had an Italian Renaissance Art History professor whom had lived in Italy for 15 years. He knew so much about the architecture and art that every week, through the modern phenomena of armchair travel; he took us to Italy with his beautiful slides and colourful commentary, lights out, our pens and paper away. This approach was such a welcome break from the mad hurried synthesis of lecture after lecture…we were on tour and although he did not encourage note taking I retained more in that class than some others. Why? Follow the check list: 1. He had my attention; it was beautiful, like being in a theatre, large screen, great slides, comfortable seats…2.I didn’t take notes; this action did not signal to me that nothing was important, it told me that it was all important and that I would learn it better if I just focused on the slide show and his commentary. 3. He used those seductive details, interesting stories, to make connections to what I already knew and to help me remember what would be relevant to a test or assignment. 4. What a great way to review a chapter, go on vacation! 5. The slide shows were presented in a clear and organized way, it was an open form, we could comment, ask questions, be human, it was authentic and relevant to what we were learning, the goals were clear. 6. In this teaching example it is apparent that the focus is on meaning, not memorization, a lesson that would make some students twitch, but when it comes around to the test and the questions are more open ended, not the kind you feed into a machine to mark, I’m sure the experience would have a happy ending.*--Lisa chupa (talk) 03:13, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
Many teachers often use the rote approach because it was the way they were taught or because it many ways, it seems the easiest option. Lecturing names and dates and then forcing students to memorize them for tests will only give students short term knowledge of the content. Like most students, they will immediately forget the memorized information as soon as the test is finished maybe remembering only some of the seductive details. Fortunately, like mentioned above, schools like OISE are trying to educate future teachers on how to use the cognitive approach. The cognitive approach includes meaningful activities that create skills while students are learning about a topic. This approach requires much more student engagement and until the teacher is confident, much more effort from the teacher in terms of planning, preparation and marking. It is sometimes also difficult for an educator to think of activities that can engage students and teach the content. Students might also have trouble with this approach in the beginning stages, especially if they have never done anything like this before and have been trained, and are good at, rote memorization.--Ali.dormady (talk) 12:40, 15 April 2008 (UTC)
Elements of the Cognitive Perspective (pp.234-237)
Discussions of the nature of knowledge, reason and the mind have dated back to the earliest Greek philosophers. Cognitive studies fell out of vogue from the late 1800s until the late 20th century, when “behaviourism” became a more popular concept of learning. Since then, evidence has accumulated indicating that people do more than simply respond to reinforcement and punishment, and that learning also involves active mental processes (p 234).
The cognitive view of learning assumes that mental processes exist, that they can be measured and studied, and that people are active participants in learning.(p 234) “The cognitive view sees people as active learners who initiate experiences, seek out information to solve problems, and reorganize what they already know to achieve new insights”(p 235).
Comparing Cognitive and Behavioural Views
Behavioural View: a behaviour is adopted unconsciously. Reinforcement strengthens responses.
Cognitive View: Knowledge is learned, and advances in understanding encourage us to modify our behaviour. Learning is an active process, which requires participants to reinterpret their experiences and gathered knowledge to achieve new insight. In contrast to the behavioural view, reinforcement is recognized as a source of feedback which lends credence to an initial theory.
Whereas behavioural researchers try to identify general laws of learning which apply to all intelligent organisms, cognitive psychologists study human learning, with all its variables.
The Importance of Knowledge in Learning
Cognitive psychology places primary importance on the acquisition of knowledge, which forms a “scaffold that supports the construction of all future learning” and determines what learners will perceive, remember and forget in future experiences (p 235).
A strong basis in a field of knowledge may prove more important to cognition than sound learning strategies. For example, when presented with an article on baseball, unskilled readers with a background in the sport may have an advantage over skilled readers who know little about it.
Types of Knowledge:
- General: This type of knowledge is generic in nature, such as reading or writing--skills and information that apply in many different situations.
- Specific: This kind refers to isolated facts such as knowing that shortstop plays between second and third base.
- Declarative: Declarative knowledge means information that can be communicated verbally, such as concrete facts.
- Procedural: This means having the ability to act in a certain, knowledgeable way, such as translating knowledge, or posting to this wikibook.
- Conditional: This type of knowledge refers to the ability to know when to use other types of knowledge, such as a doctor who diagnoses a specific treatment for a patient.
- It seems that in education, there had previously been a focus on only certain types of knowledge. Educators would focus on teaching "Specific" or "Declarative" knowledge that would only give their students the necessary information to perform well on an exam or test. Some teachers would argue that this is necessary to prepare the students for university and the real world of academia. However, while most universities still focus on those types of knowledge and many university students are forced to memorize the exact teachings of the professor and regurgitate it back to them via an exam or paper, only 25% of students actually attend university after graduating high school. The rest will chose apprenticeship, college or the work force. Should teachers be teaching to prepare %25 of students while leaving the other 75% with specific details that are both uninteresting and useless to them? It is only in the past few years, especially in elementary and secondary schools, that there has been a real push toward more "Conditional" knowledge and the ability to apply knowledge and skills learned in the classroom. There is now a desire to reach all students, no matter what their post-secondary destination, and give them knowledge that that they can take and apply to their own lives.
The Information Processing Model of Memory (pp.237-245)
The most common theory of memory is information processing defined as "the human mind's activity of taking in, storing, and using information" (p. 237).
An Overview of the Information Processing Model
This process involves: (computer model)
- Encoding: Gathering and Representing information.
- Storage: Holding information.
- Retrieval: Accessing information.
- Control Processes: How and When information flows through each part of the system.
Sensory memory is the system that processes and transforms incoming stimuli (sights, sounds, smells) received by our receptors ("mechanisms for seeing, hearing. tasting, smelling and feeling" p. 238). Sensory memory is very large in capacity and very brief in duration. "The content of sensory memory resembles the sensations from the original stimulus" (p. 238). Various sensations are coded so the information remains intact and can be processed using perception and attention.
- It is said that smell is the sense most strongly tied to memory, and yet in schools we rely much more heavily on sight (textbooks, chalkboard) and sound (teacher’s voice). Is there a way we can use smell to help our students learn and remember important details? In my experience a smell can immediately bring to mind a location or person, and I wonder if smell can be used as a study aid. To answer this question, I had to go beyond our textbook.
- It seems that not a lot of research has been done in this area, but there is some material to be found. Trygg Engen has written a book called ‘Odor Sensation and Memory’, which purports that our scent memories are largely psychological – i.e. we will associate a smell with either negative or positive emotions, depending on the situation in which we first encountered the smell. I can see how this could be troublesome if smells were to be used as study aids. For example, if a student were to be surrounded by the smell of cinnamon while studying for a math exam, she might forever after associate cinnamon with test anxiety, as opposed to something more pleasant, like home cooking.
- Another interesting source of information is the article: ‘Study Uncovers Memory Aid: A Scent During Sleep’ by Benedict Carey in the March 9, 2007 edition of The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/09/science/09sleep.html This article talks about a study in which students were exposed to the scent of roses while playing a concentration game. They were then exposed to the same scent during sleep. The next day the students scored an average of 97% on the game (compared to 86% without the scent).
- All of this raises many questions:
- - Is this just a bunch of ridiculous speculation?
- - If not, is using scent as a memory aid a form of cheating?
- - What are the potential benefits and side-effects?
- - How can we, as teachers, practically apply the use of scent as a memory aid in the classroom?
The use of multiple sensory stimulation is an intriguing possibility to use in a classroom, however it is hard to figure out how to use it effectively. There is a lot of research that supports the link between memory and smell, especially when it produces an emotional response. The smell of oranges, for example, according to some reminds one of childhood memories. Using smell in this respect could be useful in the following situations: the teacher wants to make the experience of the class memorable so that the theme, information, and the experience stick in their consciousness; or, the smell of a certain object/experience becomes connected with a particular lesson or subject. For example, the smell of some poisonous gases have a nice aroma to it, and the scents could be incorporated into a lesson on WWII or the Vietnam War (this article from Slate magazine describes some of the scents  ). One can also bring in some type of food to associate with an experience in history, like super-saccharine sweet cake during a lesson on Absolutism. For a Visual Art class, one could put a fragrance of something next to a piece of art and students can interpret; say, a Toulouse-Lautrec painting and the smell of Wormwood or Absinthe, or the smell of Bulgarian Roses next to a Renaissance sculpture, or the smell of ketchup or cotton candy next to an Oldenburg or Koons piece. For a Drama class, maybe have students practice reactions according to taste that is the opposite of what they're actually tasting. For an English class, maybe link a scent to a particular chapter/section of a novel, essay, or poem; near the end of Hamlet, for example, infuse the class with a subtle scent of Rosemary ("for remembrance", scene 5). There are tons of options, but at the same time, whether it will work is really unknown. Also, some students may be sensitive to food/scent in class, and you may have to watch out for any allergies. Overall, though, there is no harm in trying. --Irenedongas (talk) 05:07, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
Perception is defined as the "interpretation of sensory information". Theories of perception processing include:
- Gestalt: A pattern or whole; people organize perceptions into coherent wholes.
- Bottom-up processing: (feature analysis) Perception based on noticing separate defining features and assembling them into a recognizable pattern.
- Top-down processing: Perceiving based on the context and the patterns you expect to occur in that situation.
Knowledge in perception is therefore processed from sensory memory, to working memory, to long-term memory, to be later retrieved and directed attentively.
Which above theory of perception or combination therein, is most effective for a student to perceive information? What would be an example illustrating application of the three various theories?
- Gestalt psychology is the study of our “tendency to organise sensory information on patterns or relationships” (Woolfolk, p. 239). This branch of psychology has obvious relationships to the visual arts, it has also been used extensively in the field of psychoacoustics (an area of scholarship concerned with the physiological and physiological manners in which we perceive and organise sounds).
- Gestalt organising principles such as those illustrated in Figure 7.2 (Woolfolk, p. 239) may be applied to the auditory realm:
- Figure-Ground = Melody-Accompaniment
- Proximity = Phrasing
- Similarity = Theme & Variation
- Closure = Perception of Pitch and Harmony
- Interesting things can happen when one chooses to base creative exercises in music (through composition and improvisation) that manipulate and play with these principles. How much does a theme have to be manipulated before it is no longer recognised as a variation? How can we blur the dividing perceptual line between melody and accompaniment? How close do sound events need to occur in time for them to be grouped into a gestalt?
- Composers such as James Tenney have spent much of their careers exploring these areas with fascinating outcomes. Similar explorations were often the foundation of many improvisational exercises in my undergrad improvisation courses. One of the benefits of such endeavours is that they focus a student’s active listening skills, providing an engaging alternative to traditional ear training exercises.
- --Maurosavo (talk) 23:03, 6 February 2008 (UTC)
Attention is defined as the "focus on stimuli". To process effectively, certain stimuli are focused upon while others are ignored guided by previous knowledge and knowledge needed to be acquired. Processes "that initially require attention and concentration become automatic with practice" (p. 240). Research describes four aspects of attention in developing children:
- Controlled: Young children develop longer attention spans and ability to focus on important details.
- Tailored to task: Older children focus attention on most difficult material being learned.
- Directive: Children develop a feel for cues telling them when/how to direct their attention.
- Self-monitoring: Children learn to decide if they are using the right strategy and to change it if it's not working.
Attention plays a powerful role in teaching in terms of a student's attentiveness to the learning at hand. A student is incapable of processing if they do not first "recognize or perceive" (p. 240). Appealing to a student's senses is a practical means of gaining initial attention in the classroom. - Christopher Wilson
How can a teacher best gain and maintain student attention during instruction?
When designing lesson plans and offering differentiated instruction, teachers must be mindful of the sensory memory system that each student possesses, specifically, the role of attention in a high school arts classroom. When presented with a classroom with a wide variety of talents, maintaining attention can prove troublesome and hinder engagement.
Woolfolk states that "what we pay attention to is guided to a certain extent by what we already know and what we need to know". Attention can be tied into on-task behaviour, as Woolfolk explains that "knowledge is learned, and changes in knowledge make changes in behaviour possible". However, when prior knowledge does not change, how does that affect student behaviour? Woolfolk states that long-term memory affects sensory memory through previous knowledge. In theory, the ability to remember past concepts influences your attentiveness when those concepts are presented once again.
The surrounding issue addresses the need for the teacher to constantly introduce new knowledge into a classroom. Kern & Clemens' article "Antecedent Strategies to Promote Appropriate Classroom Behaviour" addresses the need for antecedent strategies to keep the attention of the class. Antecedent strategies are preventative teacher strategies to avoid disengagement, disinterest and lost attention. One of the strategies proposed is appropriate work difficulty for students. Kern and colleagues (2006) conducted studies revealing that students posses greater attention spans and accomplish more work when the academic demand is appropriate.
The difficulty for a teacher is meeting the appropriate demand of each student.
How can a teacher teach engaging material and keep the attention of all our students if they function at various skill levels?
How can a teacher teach a boring concept and attract student attention by creating a 'what we need to know' atmosphere?
Once a teacher has the student's attention, the door for learning is opened. But, then how is what is learned kept in the student's memory (or working memory as referred to by Woolfolk et al.)? Woolfolk et al. (2006) highlight three ways in which information can be maintained indefinitely in working memory (note: working memory is "the 'workbench' of the memory system...where new information is held temporarily and combined with knowledge from long-term memory"; Woolfolk et al., 240-241).
The first noted by Woolfolk et al., (2006) is, maintenance rehearsal in which information is maintained by repeating it over to yourself. The second is termed, elaborative rehearsal which involves making a connection with the new information and information that is already stored in your long-term memory. The final form of memory retention is called, chunking which occurs when information is grouped into small pieces (ie. like a phone number is divided by dashes, 905-555-2569) (Woolfolk et al., 243-244).
- The above methods for memory retention seem so obvious and redundant to me as I practiced these forms religiously throughout my educational career. What I realized while I was in my practicum however, is that these tools for memory retention are not that obvious for high school students. In the early phases of my practicum, I was quite insensitive to how students learned/retained their information. I just assumed (which as teacher's is very bad form) that they automatically would know how to remember the things that I was telling them. However, after frequent episodes of student's forgetting to follow my requests surrounding school assignments, I knew that I must be doing something wrong - and I was. I was not practicing information retention techniques with the students, and this was the main reason why most of them were forgetful. So to remedy the situation, I became Ms. "Broken Record", as I would be repeating myself constantly to the class. Even, after repeating the important information to the class, I would ensure that what I said sunk into their busy brains by asking them to repeat the information back to me in unison. I also incorporated the idea of chunking as the class would not hesitate to let me know if I was giving them too much information at once. Ironically, I was using these techniques without even realizing it. Through my experience with my students, I was able to help them remember information in ways that worked for them. Unfortunately, this technique did not cross all barriers, as I was not able to fully help those students who had identified learning disabilities or those students who were diagnosed with a developmental delay.
Practical Tips: How to Capture and Maintain Students' Attention
Develop signals to get their focus:
- Standing in a specific spot
- Flicking the lights
- A Tibetan singing bowl, chimes, novelty horns and bells
- Begin each class with a piece of music that will tie into the lesson
- Keep directions recognizably short and clear
Make sure that the purpose of the lesson or assignment is clear:
- Write goals or objectives on the board
- Have the students write goals and objectives on the board
- Ask students to summarize goals or objectives
- Tie new material to previous lesson with an outline or map
- Play “Runner Review” (fig. 1)
- Play “Topic Investigation Bingo” (fig. 2)
- Explain reasons for learning or even ask students to explain what they think the reasons are.
Emphasize variety, curiosity, and surprise:
- Arouse curiosity with a big title on the board when they walk in, or an interesting set up of furniture
- Create shock by staging an event related to your lesson
- Use movements, gestures and voice inflection to keep them guessing
- Shift Sensory Channels by giving a lesson that requires students to taste, touch and smell
Ask Questions and provide frames for answering:
- Ask students why the material is important, how they intend to study, and what strategies they will use
- Give students self checking or self editing guides that focus on common mistakes or have them work in pairs to improve each other’s work--- sometimes it is difficult to pay attention to your own errors.
Figure 1. Runner Review 1. Create a list of questions to review previously covered material. 2. Come up with a specific name for the runner review based on the material. 3. Arrange tables and chairs to the sides of the room. 4. Divide the class into four teams place each team in a corner of the room. 5. Place chair in front of each team and tell them they can not pass that chair. 6. Have each team choose a runner. 7. Stand in the centre of the room, being sure you are an equal distance from each team. 8. Ask a question and once the team decides on an answer, the runner runs to you. 9. First runner to give you a high five and the right answer gets the point. 10. (You could also use noise makers or tasks to complete first.)
Figure 2. “Topic” Investigation Bingo 1. Create a list of questions related to the learning of your specific unit and organize your questions onto a BINGO card. 2. Create answer cards (one for each student, there might be some repeats). 3. Give each student a bingo card, one fact card and a pencil. 4. Explain that they are going to investigate ”topic” as if they were in the time/place of these facts. 5. (IE: a time in history, a community dealing with an issue, mathematicians in Greece, etc.) 6. Students ask each other, “Do you know… (one questions from the chart)?” 7. If the question aligns with the other's fact card, the question is answered and the investigator records the fact. 8. If it does not align, they simply answer “no” and move on. 9. Aim to get a line of five for a “Topic” Investigation BINGO!
How do you get students with learning disabilities or developmental delays, to retain information in their working memory/ short-term memory?
Long-Term Memory: The Goal of Teaching (pp 245-250)
Working Memory (Active knowledge) VS. Long-Term Memory (Permanent storage of knowledge)
Capacity, Duration, and Content of Long-Term Memory
What are the five main differences between working & long-term memory?
Once information is securely stored in long-term memory, it can remain there permanently. Access to information in Working Memory is immediate because we are thinking about that information at that moment, whereas, access to information in Long-Term Memory takes time & effort because we are searching to retrieve that information. Psychologists suggest that working memory is part of long-term memory- working memory is about PROCESS rather than storage. Alan Paivio suggests that visual images and/ verbal units are stored in long-term memory. Information that is coded both visually & verbally is the easiest to learn. Critics state that the brain is not large enough to store all images that we encounter. They suggest that images are stored as verbal codes & then translated into visual information when it’s needed.
Reaching Every Student: A Picture and a Few Hundred Words
Is a picture worth 1,000 words in teaching? Can the combination of pictures & words impact a students’ learning?
How do we build complex understandings that integrate information from visual & verbal sources, given the limitations of working memory?
Mayer’s Cognitive Theory of Learning:
- Dual Coding
- Limited Capacity
- Generative Learning
Dual Coding: humans posses separate information processing channels for visually represented material and auditorily represented material.
Limited Capacity: humans are limited in the amount of information that can be processed in each channel at one time.
Generative Learning: humans actively engage in cognitive processing to construct coherent mental representations of their experiences; therefore, generative learning strategies are aimed at helping the learner to integrate presented information with existing knowledge and experience.
Mayer suggests that learning is better if visual & verbal information is paired at the same time, because it can be held in working memory; otherwise it puts too much strain on working memory.
SIDEBAR: Give students multiple ways to understand pictures & explanations. But don’t overload their working memory- “package” the visual & verbal information TOGETHER in bite-size piece.
Two Categories of Long-Term Memory:
- Explicit Memory (Semantic & Episodic)- conscious knowledge
- Implicit Memory- unconscious knowledge
- Semantic (facts & general knowledge)
- Episodic (keeps track of your own life & experiences)
- Classical Conditioning Effects (conditioned emotional reactions)
- Procedural Memory (motor skills, habits, tacit rules)
- Priming Effect (implicit activation of concepts in long-term memory)
SIDEBAR: Researchers do not agree on exactly how many images are stored in memory, some believe they are stored as pictures while others insist that we store propositions in long-term memory and later convert them to pictures in working memory when needed.
- Images: Representations based on the structure or physical appearance of information. Faraday & Einstein reported creating images to reason about complex problems
- Schema: A basic structure for organizing information; concept. It’s a personal pattern or guide for understanding an event, concept or skill.
- Story Grammar: (schema for text or story structure), helps students understand & remember stories (For e.g., murder mystery schema- searching for clues). Without implementing the appropriate schema in the classroom it becomes difficult for students to understand a story, textbook, or lesson plan.
How can schemas we have about individuals’ roles (teachers, groups, social context) affect how we interpret new information about people and situations?
Storing and Retrieving Information in Long-Term Memory (pp 251-254)
How can we make the most effective use of our unlimited capacity to learn and remember?
The ways in which we learn and process information seem to affect its recall later. It is essential that we integrate new information with information that is already stored in our long-term memory to construct an understanding.
Processes that Improve Learning:
Elaboration- Adding meaning to new information by connecting it with already existing knowledge (by applying our own schemas), this will make it easier for students to recall information later.
Help students elaborate by...
- Asking them to translate information into their own words.
- Creating examples
- Having them explain to peers
- Drawing relationships
- Applying the information to solve new problems
Organization- Material that is well organized is easier for the student to learn and to remember- STRUCTURE serves as a guide back to the information when needed.
Context- Aspects of physical and emotional context (places, rooms, our feelings on a particular day) are learned along with the information. There is a CORRELATION between physical/emotion environment and performance on tests. Students who learned the material in one particular room did better on the test that was taken in a similar room than they did when the test was taken in a different-looking room.
What happens if students elaborate new information to make incorrect connections or misguided explanations? Did anyone have any experiences with the student making the wrong connections?
- Utilizing learning processes such as elaboration, organization,and context has a great impact on students’ success. I have noticed a large increase in the amount of templates out there for students to use for written assignments. These make it much easier for students to grasp the requirements and to organize the work into a comprehensible parts of a whole. Even advanced students will find it gives them a clear place to start and makes it easier for them to formulate their ideas. Because they are still free to write their own individual thoughts within the template, I don’t think that they limit students’ creativity. An ESL student I tutor recently brought in an assignment that I thought did a great job of providing structure and context to help students learn. For this assignment, students were required to learn the meaning of poetic terms and devices and use them when they wrote their own poems. While the structure of the poem was left entirely up to the student, they had specific guidelines (a template TP-CAST--tone, personification, connotations etc) to analyze their own poem according to, which were then marked. This gave them clear requirements to include in their poem and the structure they needed to learn to analyze poetry. In terms of context, the class took a trip to a local lake for a day of creative writing where students were encouraged to let the scenes of nature inspire their poetry. This environment was conductive to learning. A visual component was also included in the assignment as students then wrote their poems onto T-shirts along with an image to represent it. I thought that this was a great alternative for teaching poetic terms. Students who have had the opportunity to analyze their own poems as part of a creative assignment will have a much better understanding of what the terms and devises really mean and also a better chance of remembering them. The experience of going to the lake would help students who find it hard to come up with ideas for creative poems as well as helping them see the pleasure of writing. The task of turning this all into a T-shirt not only gives them a lasting memory of the assignment (and the incentive to do a good job since everyone will read their poems), it gives them the chance to create a visual image to represent the abstract ideas they have tried to communicate in their poetry. Students who are more visually oriented might first create the image and then the poem. This assignment gives validity to both the image and the poem. The assignment used a cognitive approach to learning because it emphasized the steps involved in the process of writing a poem and provided structure and context to help students work through the learning process.
Forgetting and Long-Term Memory: Some researchers believe that information stored in our long-term memory may be available when given the right cues. Recent research casts doubt on this theory.
- Decay: decline neural connections (like muscles they grown weak if not used)
- Interference: older memories may interfere w/ memory for new material
What's Associated With Longer Retention?
- Frequent reviews & tests
- Elaborative feedback
- High standards
- Mastery learning
- Active involvement in learning projects
Apply to Practice:
Does anyone have any experiences/ideas with helping students process information?
- One thing that makes processing information more difficult is the presence of extra information or conflicting information from different sources. I attended a volunteer training session this year in a museum. One training exercise we used to learn the collection was to divide into pairs, with each pair coming up with a real and fictitious story about an artifact. Then each pair presented both stories and the rest of the volunteers choose the real story. Though entertaining, this method was not very effective in learning the information. Instead it is a classic example of "interference" (page 253), where remembering certain information is hampered by the presence of other information. In this case, the presence of the fictitious story prevented me from remembering the real details about the artifact. We need to be conscious of interference when presenting information to our students as this could hamper their ability to process important information. Keep it simple.
- The text talks about memories as being stored either verbally or visually (p. 245); my question is how would musical memory fit into that model? Memory is a big issue for musicians (and any other performance artists), but "verbal" or "visual" is not how I would describe the memory storage or retrieval processes for music. Is it possible that musical memory functions sonically? I personally think of the melody (or other dominant musical element depending on the piece) while I'm performing, as well as other things (see below). I'm not really picturing anything or thinking of anything linguistically speaking--I'm watching my fingers as they play the notes and thinking about what sounds should come next.
- A big danger when memorizing pieces for performance is having it stored as "auto-pilot," which sounds similar to what the text describes as "procedural memory" (p. 250). It's almost as if your fingers have memorized the piece instead of your brain--as if you could be thinking about what's for dinner tonight while playing the piece. This danger becomes real especially for those with performance anxiety, because when the anxiety kicks in, procedural memory, in my experience, breaks down.
- One way to combat this is to build a deeper understanding of the piece (as per the "Levels of Processing Theory", p. 252) by, for example, doing a harmonic analysis of the piece and thinking of it in those terms when you're playing ("ok, so this part is a I chord... here are some inversions...now it's moved to a V," etc.). Perhaps this helps not only because of a deeper level of processing, but also because you can think of it not only in sonic terms, but you can also now "talk" yourself through the piece, that is, store and retrieve it verbally.
- I suspect that the issues surrounding memory (how we store and retrieve them) are more complex that simplifying them solely to verbal or visual memories. Rather, I think memory is tied much more closely to our five senses. We can readily remember things like sounds, tactile sensations, tastes, smells, and visual images/sensations without having to consider them in terms of visual or verbal signifiers. I suspect that Woolfolk’s et. al’s privileging of verbal and visual communication within memory is a reflection of the tendency in Western scholarship to prioritise visual and linguistic signs/communication.
- To complicate matter further, some memories might be a composite of these different sensory categories. One might remember an event like a concert in terms of the sounds that were heard, the visuals that were seen, and perhaps even the smell of the venue. Also interesting is how a memory form one sensory category and trigger another memory from a different sense. Smell seems to be particularity effective with this, often triggering a visual memory of a place or person.
- Reading Gavin's comments about memorization for music got me thinking about memorizing for acting and why some students seem to have a great natural capacity to learn lines and others struggle mightily. Almost without fail, those with the "natural" skill aren't able to verbalize their method or why it works for them. "I just do it, sir." was something I heard from two of my students during my Drama practicum. Are they transferring their lines directly into long-term memory and then pulling it back? Are those struggling keeping that neural pathway blocked so that the information (the lines of dialogue) doesn't move past their working memory? "I knew this a minute ago." and its variations are often heard in acting classes.
- Similar to Gavin's example of examining the harmonic structure of a piece of music to generate deeper understanding and prevent "auto-pilot", I have always encouraged actors I coach to figure out what the character is actually talking about, the ideas, in addition to the words. The "chunking" concept (p. 244) has proven very effective. Having an actor memorize the five thoughts their character has to verbalize during Monologue X means they will never draw a blank. The absolute worst thing that can happen is they improvise the lines conveying that thought, but they know where the piece is going next and therefore have that much greater chance of getting themselves back on track.
- Another interesting observation about memory within the Drama classroom comes from the student who, always unconsciously, has glued their verbal memory of the scene to the physical choices they have made. This is the student who will sit down in the chair by the door at exactly the same word in their speech five times in a row. This would seem to be the mark of a good actor. However, when asked to change the physical blocking so that their character never sits down, they find themselves forgetting their lines. They have not learned what the piece is about, only the order of the words as they relate to one interpretation. It makes me wonder if there is something in the transition from working memory to long-term memory that needs to opened manually, so to speak, for some students.
Metacognition, Regulation, and Individual Differences (pp.254-259)
This section examines metacognative skills (elsewhere labeled "executive control processes") as a partial explanation of "why some people learn and remember more than others."
- Simply put, metacognition is an individual's awareness of their own thinking and learning processes. This is an important pedagogical concept, as it is a person's metacognative skills that enable them to monitor and regulate their learning through the "strategic application" of knowledge (declarative, procedural, and conditional.) In undertaking a task, a person's metacognative skills are employed through what is essentially a self-checking process: 1. planning (how will the task be accomplished? what do I need?), 2.monitoring (how am I doing?) and evaluation (is it done? does it need more work?) As discussed in the previous chapter, one could help students improve their metacognative ability through assisting them in the development of charts, diaries, and checklists. As well, the setting of clear and achievable goals is important as "metacognition is most useful when tasks are challenging, but not too difficult."(252) Eventually, the ability to utilize these skills will become more ingrained, to the point where they are more like second nature.
- Metacognative skills are partially but not always related to development, so older and more developmentally advanced students may have greater capacity in this area. Biological, cultural and environmental factors also play a part in metacognition differences. However, what I find really interesting here is that "superior metacognitive skills can compensate for lower levels of ability."(253) In other words, working on this particular skill set with academically challenged students might really help them improve their performance and self-esteem. Moreover, it is not subject specific, but acts as a form of transferable knowledge that students can apply to other contexts.
Individual Differences and Memory
- Various factors impact an individual's ability to remember and learn. Age is a factor (more due to advanced strategic and organizational thinking skills than capacity), and some people are just born with more efficient processing skills in particular subjects (like math and language.) However, (according to the text, anyways) the most important element in the ability to learn and remember is a student's pre-existing knowledge in a particular area.
- destigmatizing metacognition for students from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds
- This entry concerns a few queries and a case study from a classroom of ESL Transitional students from a grade 12 university prep English course.
- On page 256 of the Woolfolk text a number of reasons are given to explain the divergent abilities a student might have in developing metacognative skills: age—as most students do not develop this ability before the age of five; raw metacognative ability independent of intellectual ability (innate metacognition?) in students who have been mislabeled 'learning disabled'; biological differences (again innate); and, variations in learning experiences. The last category, "variations in learning experiences" is the tough one because it could encompass a wide variety of very real problems for teachers in urban areas such as Toronto.
- The study cited on page 256 (Perry et al.) in which a primary grade teacher named Nancy gets her grades 1 and 2 students to become more metacognative by asking them two questions—What did you learn about yourself as a reader/writer today?, and What did you learn that you can do again and again and again?—seems a little simplistic in my experience of having to deal with "at-risk" youth, and students from conformist and/or fundamentalist backgrounds. Many of these students I refer to come from households or societies which reward compliance, and punish independence. To these students—many of whom are over the age of 18—the very concept of "self-reflection", let alone full-blown metacognition, has to be taught and modeled. A simple question about their feelings or opinions would force half my class to 'hide' by dropping their gaze to their desk and diminishing their posture.
- If I discussed this vital thread of the curriculum at all with them it was to call it "critical thinking", and I would have to work my way towards it by a number of strategies:
- 1) Socratic teaching. Each lesson is delivered in a rigorous dialogue (like the kind Socrates and Plato engaged in) with students, and half the questions are put to specific students whom are queried by name, with their name coming at the beginning of the question. A good place to start is at the top of a lesson (particularly useful in mid unit of a lengthy study on a novel or play) in the 'where-are-we?' summary. Play dumb. Have the class bring you up to speed on where the last class left off, and what the next topic of discussion is. Effective use of this technique requires care on the part of the teacher to not intimidate students by 'putting them on the spot', and sensitivity to personal issues that students may have around performance. The most effective type of learning in this vein happens once the teacher has established a rapport with students, and, can even call to memory, previous discussions on related topic matter. Referencing past discussions is the best way to draw out most students who tend to hide when the light is cast on them. In all instances the teacher must be rigorous enough to guidepost the dialogue in order to keep the students on-task and moving forward.
- 2) Activities. Debates are particularly useful at getting students to develop their critical faculties, and engage in metacognative reflection, and they're pretty simple to execute. Pick a topic, break the class in half, moderate the conflict, then have the teams switch sides. Other activities which force the students to go deeper into their personal connection with the material are "role-playing" and "hot-seating" in which the student is forced to incarnate a character or personality and defend their actions. Again, sensitivity to potential personal issues is required of the teacher. If these activities are entirely new to a class the teacher may model participation by "taking the heat" for the first round or two.
- 3) Curriculum alternatives. Current affairs brought up for discussion in class can be powerful icebreakers in terms of getting students to form and take critical opinions. In many cases lifted from the news there is a very simple purpetrator/victim paradigm which makes polarization, then contextualization, easy to achieve. Three recent stories come immediately to mind: African-centred schooling; the tasering of Polish immigrant Robert Dzykanski; the trial of Omar Khadr. Another option—don't laugh, I had to resort to this a few times—is to stimulate critical reflection through anecdote. Some of my students were confounded by my requests for personal reflection until I reminded them that their own personal tastes in music, movies, clothes, and even dating, were expressions of critical thinking and the processes required in full-blown metacognition. Mind you, I never actually used the "M" word with them. In fact several of the full-time teachers at my first practicum school did not understand the word, or claimed not to at least.
- Metacognition as a learning tool
- Woolfolk et al. bring up the point that metacognition can be a powerful tool for improving children’s memories. This is a crucial point because, all too often, teachers and classrooms seem to emphasize students’ achievement of educational goals rather than their development as life-long learners.
- How can teachers incorporate metacognition into their classrooms in a way that will be both valuable and meaningful to their students?
- 1.Declarative knowledge – provides students with the opportunity to consider and articulate factors that influence their learning and memory, as well as the skills, strategies and resources required for success in a particular task.
- 2. Procedural knowledge – beyond recognizing those strategies which are most effective, students will learn how to apply these strategies to a variety of practical situations
- 3. Conditional knowledge – once the student is able to identify both the learning strategies and their means of application, he/she will explore when and why these strategies should be employed.
- Metacognition is an important part of students’ development as learners and individuals. Not only does it require problem solving and analytical skills that will be needed in all walks of life, it can also make the learning process itself more meaningful. Students will gain a deeper understanding of their own needs, strengths and weaknesses and be better able to adapt to a constantly changing environment and/or set of circumstances.
Becoming Knowledgeable: Some Basic Principles (pp.259-268)
Real learning is holistic and interrelated. Understanding a concept involves declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge (Woolfolk, p.259).
Development of Declarative Knowledge
To learn declarative knowledge is to synthesize new ideas with existing knowledge in order to construct an understanding. Some of the techniques used to develop this integrated understanding are rote memorization and mnemonics.
- Rote Memorization is remembering information by repetitions without necessarily understanding the meaning of the information. Effective methods which provide a greater amount of time for processing learned material and the chance to move information into the long-term memory include:
- Part Learning, breaking large volumes into smaller segments
- Distributed Practice, practicing more frequently but for shorter periods
- One negative aspect of rote memorization is referred to as the serial position effect, where the learner remembers beginning and ending information but forgets the middle content. This is often the result from a single, extended period of study referred to as Massed Practice.
- Mnemonics are systematic procedures or techniques used to enhance the memory. There are several types of mnemonic devices that have been used with varying degrees of success. Some of these devices are:
- Peg-type Mnemonics associate memories with a list of cue words or pegs.
- Loci Mnemonics are a specific type of peg mnemonic that associates items with specific places.
- An Acronym is a mnemonic device in the form of an abbreviation, where the first letter of each word in a phrase is used to form a new word.
- Chain Mnemonics link one item in a series to be remembered with the following item, and so on.
- Keyword Mnemonics is a system of associating new words or concepts with similar-sounding word cues.
- Peg-type Mnemonics associate memories with a list of cue words or pegs.
Development of Procedural and Conditional Knowledge
- Automated basic skills are skills that are applied to a certain task without conscious thought. There is generally thought to be three stages in the development of automated skills: cognitive, associative, and autonomous.
- The Cognitive stage is when we are first learning a particular skill and rely on general problem-solving approaches to make sense of the procedures involved.
- At the Associative stage, several individual steps are combined into one larger step.
- The Autonomous stage occurs when an entire procedure can be accomplished without much conscious thought to the individual steps.
- Domain-specific strategies are specific skills applied consciously in order to reach a goal in a particular situation.
What strategies can we use in the classroom to encourage students to push for a deeper level of understanding? Can we schedule and deliver our lessons so as to promote Distributed practice habits as opposed to massed practice and rote memorization? --Elewis (talk) 22:17, 1 February 2008 (UTC)
- A common fear among teachers is that their students will not truly understand the material being taught to them, and instead, will rely on memorization techniques in the hopes of retaining the information. Although “memorization strategies eventually build meaning by connecting what is to be learned with established words or images”, I strongly believe that the information being taught to students in the classroom should be delivered in a way that is meaningful to and can be understood by all students (Woolfolk et al. pg. 259). This, however, is a challenge for teachers to overcome because all students have different skills and learn in different ways, whether it be visually, aurally, kinesthetically, etc. For example, if an educator teaches a lesson aurally, the student who learns aurally will most likely understand the information being presented. However, a visual learner will not benefit by this type of instruction and may not understand the meaning behind the lesson. Thus, in order to retain the information, the visual learner may rely on some form of memorization such rote memorization (remembering information by repetition without necessarily understanding the meaning of the information) (Woolfolk et. al pg. 259). One solution to this challenge is for educators to implement differentiated instruction. This is where an educator accommodates/integrates the abilities, interests, and learning needs of all students in the classroom when developing/presenting concepts so that all students have a chance at understanding the material.
However, is this idea of universal design (designing a plan that is suitable for all students in the classroom) even achievable/attainable? Is it even possible for an educator to teach in a way that can accommodate all learners in the classroom so that all students can understand the material and not just rely on memorization?
- For many years students have been learning for the test and teachers have been teaching for the test. Now, although this is probably the quickest way to obtain immediate results, it is not the best way to develop knowledge. Students are unable to be supported by their previous knowledge when encountering new concepts in the future, if they only acquire information by means of memorization. Memorization only ensures that students are able to regurgitate information for questions requiring surface level understanding. Consequently, when asked to apply the knowledge or the idea of the concept in a capacity of higher-order thinking students will be unable to perform. As the student progresses he/she will not possess the knowledge necessary to comprehend the new material presented due to the lack of their conception of the foundation. Hence, it is crucial students develop strong insight into material presented before them. For the learning to be meaningful and engaging students must become active participants in the education process (p.261). Thus, it is crucial the opportunity for a meaningful experience within the classroom is presented to the students.
- I believe the process of discovery learning to be an empowering tool for students. It helps them draw on their own experiences and develop life-long skills. As students unveil properties for themselves they will be able to observe minuscule attributes and reconcile hypotheses as they make their conclusions. Thinking in this capacity will strengthen their knowledge/confidence on subjects and allow them to achieve a much better understanding in comparison to what they would have attained by just listening and accepting the teacher’s explanation.
- Students/teachers need to conceptualize the purpose of the curriculum—is to know a number of facts or is it to help develop lifelong skills? It is up to each individual to decide for themselves where the balance lies between the two.
- I totally agree that the idea of "memorization as learning" needs to be re-examined (if not chucked out completely like those disgusting black bananas that my mother keeps in the freezer that she says she's going to use for some sort of mysterious "baking project" - those things creep the bejeezus outta me), I think that we need to take into account the reasons why there is a demand for these quantifiable results. We live in a world that demands results - if test scores go up, then students are getting better, Q.E.D.
- While I think almost all of us can agree that the regurgitation method is not the one most conducive to future success (remember that article about C+ students running the world that was printed in a recent issue of Time (source?) magazine recently - testing doesn't always indicate real-world success), I think it's important to accommodate this sort of testing in our classrooms. While I personally believe that a classroom is a place that should place a premium on community building and inclusivity (it's true - just look in my portfolio!), at the same time, I understand that testing has been an important part of classrooms since time immemorial for good reason. People face tests every day, where information recall is key - at work or in their personal lives (woe be upon the person who forgets a family member's birthday).
- So while I'll admit I'm echoing a lot of points that were said in the post above, and I'm agreeing with the main argument - it's up to us to find that personal balance between the two sides of education, process and results - I think that we need to accept that it's only partially what we as individuals want, but also whatever the school board/PTA/etc. requires us to do. It's this "colouring within the lines," where teachers manage to import their personal beliefs into the pre-prescribed curricular goals of the board, that are truly successful.