kitchen table math, the sequel: instruction versus exploration in science learning

Thursday, February 1, 2007

instruction versus exploration in science learning

Instruction versus exploration in science learning

I came across this article on the APA website.

This question may be answered by David Klahr, PhD, a psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and Milena Nigam, a research associate at the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Biomedical Informatics. They have new evidence that "direct instruction"--explicit teaching about how to design unconfounded experiments--most effectively helps elementary school students transfer their mastery of this important aspect of the scientific method from one experiment to another.

...

Klahr saw three main reasons to challenge discovery learning. First, most of what students, teachers and scientists know about science was taught, not discovered, he says. Second, teacher-centered methods (in which teachers actively teach, as opposed to observe or facilitate) for direct instruction have been very effective for procedures that are typically harder for students to discover on their own, such as algebra and computer programming. Third, he adds, only vague theory backed the predicted superiority of discovery methods--and what there is clashes with data on learning and memory. For example, discovery learning can include mixed or missing feedback, encoding errors, causal misattributions and more, which could actually cause frustration and set a learner back, says Klahr.

Yet discovery learning has persisted, he says, partly because of a lingering notion that direct instruction would not only be ineffective in the short run, but also damaging in the long run. Piaget thought interfering with discovery blocked complete understanding. More recent cognitive research, says Klahr, shows that "this is just plain wrong."


Study after study disproves the current "inquiry" approach to education, yet if you mention direct instruction among a significant portion of educators you might as well just call yourself a martian.

31 comments:

SteveH said...

"this is just plain wrong."

From martian to another, great find.

I want to know when the discussions begin. I want to discuss wasting time in schools with inadequate content and ineffective teaching methods. Who do I call to set up a meeting?

Parentalcation said...

I thought it was significant because the APA is a notoriously liberal organization.

Catherine Johnson said...

wow!

fantastic find!

Catherine Johnson said...

Forward to the Irvington Parents Forum!

Catherine Johnson said...

ahem

Rory

We do not say "notoriously liberal organization"

Especially not when we are married to notorious liberals employed by notoriously liberal organizations

Catherine Johnson said...

as we are

Catherine Johnson said...

Actually, that's an important point.

Ed school liberalism has virtually nothing to do with everyday liberalism.

(I'm sure that's wrong in terms of intellectual history, but pragmatically speaking it's true.)

If you look at the list of ktm contributors we've got people from pretty much the entire spectrum except far right.

Ed is very liberal - began life as a socialist - and he deplores this stuff. He published an article in Pi Delta Kappan against constructivism years ago.

Engelmann is....a Nader guy. I think that's right.

I'm thinking our own Vlorbik is...hmm. I'm thinking Trotsky, but that could be David Klein. I believe V. does union organizing (he'll correct me if I'm wrong).

Hirsch began life as a socialist, too; he's probably left-of-center now.

etc.

As usual I'm grossly undereducated here....but as I follow the intellectual history (barely) ed school "liberalism" really isn't liberalism; it's Romanticism. Nature, wholeness, anti-intellectualism, etc.

I should stop talking, but I'll plunge ahead... real liberalism is Enlightenment liberalism (I think), which might be a decent description of most folks here come to think of it.

I'll have to post some passages from Hirsch on this.

I only know enough about the subject to know I'm an Enlightenment Baby.

I also know Enlightenment Babies are well represented on the left and the right.

Catherine Johnson said...

The other thing is that academics (i.e. professors) universally view ed schools with scorn.

I haven't looked at your link yet, but I'm guessing this guy is a research psychologist.

Catherine Johnson said...

wow

I just went to the link

excellent

GOOD FIND

I knew the study, but I'd never seen that write-up

These guys are research psychologists, as I thought

In fact, it's probably correct to call them cognitive scientists

cognitive scientists are the sworn enemies of constructivism

Catherine Johnson said...

good grief

I have that exact writeup of that exact study on my hard drive

I'd forgotten

Parentalcation said...

Catherine,

I knew you would like it.

You might want to check out http://www.psy.cmu.edu/faculty/klahr/personal/pubs.htm as well.

Instructivist said...
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Instructivist said...
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Instructivist said...

"Ed school liberalism has virtually nothing to do with everyday liberalism."

Right you are.

There is a considerable disconnect between ed school mumbo-jumbo and leftism ("liberalism" in the elite media and in common parlance), I have found. Educationism is its own world. One hand doesn't know what the other is doing. When I talk to non-education liberals/leftists, they are often aghast at educationist beliefs and doings.

Many think educationism is a right-wing plot to dumb down, in order to create cannon fodder and compliant drones for corporations and industry. It's a pretty deluded view, but there it is. I find I have allies in the left camp by not politizing the educationist issue. Even though I, myself, am right of center, I don't seem to be alienating the other side.

Catherine Johnson said...

When I talk to non-education liberals/leftists, they are often aghast at educationist beliefs and doings.

Liberals - and I was a self-defined liberals for years (now I seem to move back and forth across center) - are in my experience always stunned when they find out what ed school liberalism is about.

What no one grasps - I'm coming late to this myself - is the fact that "progressivism," in education, was about depriving the lower orders of a classical liberal arts education and providing them with "real-world" education they could use to perform the menial jobs for which they were suited.

John Gatto Taylor is right when he says public education is a "sorting machine."

You're not going to find a real-life liberal walking the planet who thinks schools should be sorting machines first and foremost.

Catherine Johnson said...

Many think educationism is a right-wing plot to dumb down, in order to create cannon fodder and compliant drones for corporations and industry.

The irony is that they're correct!

Except these things didn't come to us from the right!

Catherine Johnson said...

Labaree's paper is very worth reading.

And I have GOT to finally get through Ravitch.

Parentalcation said...

Thank you. I consider myself educated on the difference between education liberalism and political liberalism.

I suspect their is a congruence between them to some degree, but now feel a lot better about it.

I wonder about the congruence between "blank slaters" as far as IQ and educationalists goes.

It seems to me that IQ and cognitive psychology should be heavily involved in education theory, but my impression is that education schools are surprisily naive when it comes to these subjects.

You would think that teachers would at least be familiar with cognitive psychology, but it my discussions with my childrens teachers, I find that they are often ignorant of even basic education buzz words let alone terms like "working memory".

SteveH said...

There is a big difference between having a philosophy about the world and being on one political team or the other. Politics is a team sport and many people love to play. It's unfortunate that a lot of power goes to the winning team. As seen in the last election, many vote for a team rather than an individual. Our (ex)senator was the poster boy for this in the last election. The problem is that you may win big in one area, but really lose big in another.

As Ken Kesey would say, you're either on the bus or your off the bus. The problem is that when you get on the bus, you're not the driver. Other people define who you are. Some people like it because they don't have to think as much and they really hate saying "I don't know." at cocktail parties.

I'm "unaffiliated" and not conservative, liberal, libertarian, or centrist. I would say I'm pragmatic, issue oriented, and care about individuals. As I found with my study of education, I now don't say much about a topic unless I do a lot more study than I used to do. Many use philosophy as an excuse for doing less study on a subject. I try not to have my philosophy filter my learning.

LynnG said...

Catherine, I like your description of the difference between education liberals and political liberals. I wish someone would inform the New York Times.

In September 2006, after NCTM came out with their curriculum focal points, the Times ran an article with this statement,

"It [the focal points] could also help end the math curriculum struggles that for the last two decades have set progressive educators and their liberal supporters against conservatives and many mathematicians." (emphasis mine)

It made me quite angry at the time. I never saw this as a political, left v. right, issue. This has always been parents v. educational fadism.

Catherine Johnson said...

It seems to me that IQ and cognitive psychology should be heavily involved in education theory, but my impression is that education schools are surprisily naive when it comes to these subjects.

Ed schools teach what they call "cognitive psychology," which is basically Piaget & Vygotsky.

They absolutely do not teach cognitive science at all.

If anything they oppose cognitive science.

BeckyC said...

Rational constructivism underlies economic socialism insofar as socialism is the belief that a finite number of individual minds, e.g. experts on a committee, can plan the means and ends of production to achieve distributive social justice.

The connection with educational constructivism is the belief in the individual child's ability to reconstruct mathematics for himself or herself.

I think, though, that we all agree that no child will construct 7 + 8 = 15. That simple math fact is a cultural inheritance of names and numerals used to teach rational counting, as well as the use of agreed-upon symbols for addition and equality, and buy-in to the base-ten representation of numbers of any size.

LynnG said...

An anthropologist might point out that human societies spent thousands of years not needing to construct anything beyond "one", "two", and "many."

Catherine Johnson said...

Becky - I don't quite follow the second part of your comment - how does constructivism connect?

Catherine Johnson said...

As Ken Kesey would say, you're either on the bus or your off the bus. The problem is that when you get on the bus, you're not the driver. Other people define who you are.

I love that.

I'm going to be unaffiliated just as soon as I re-register as an independent.

These days I'm calling myself a "small-l libertarian."

Don't know how long that will last!

It's funny; I'm exactly where Steve is.

I assume I need to do a lot of studying to have an informed opinion (though I can and do adopt the opinion of people I respect who know what they're talking about).

In terms of political parties I actually am an "Independent."

This has come as a surprise.

I doubt I'll ever belong to a political party again.

I want to add that though I don't know much about political science & philosophy I do think that a two-party system is good....I don't think it would be a good thing for everyone to be an Independent.

I can't really defend that position, but I suspect it's true.

Anonymous said...

trotsky? nah.
commanded the red army.
ugh. way too authoritarian
for my anarchist tastes.

i was an organizer for a while there.
wasn't very good at it.
now i just sling the math.

yrs in the struggle. vlorbik.com

Catherine Johnson said...

hi V!

Have I mentioned recently that I am SERIOUSLY undereducated?

Catherine Johnson said...

sigh

Catherine Johnson said...

But don't I know someone who's a Trot???

I probably do.

This may be the first sign of Impending Dementia.

For other people it's when you can't tell a shrink the name of the president or what day of the week it is.

For me it's Can't remember who her Trotsky-admiring friends are.

BeckyC said...

I see a connection between the belief that one or a few individual minds can reason so well as to plan something enormous like an economic system, and the belief that one child's mind can reason out something enormous like a working system of quantitative measure.

It's about the limits to reason.

BeckyC said...

It's about the limits to reason and whether you perceive any benefits to tradition.

The cruelty in the practice of educational constructivism is that the curricula developed on the basis of this philosophy (yes, Philosophy) will not give children the conceptual or procedural benefit of learning mathematical "traditions" like standard computational strategies.

And then your school district buys an expensive constructivist curriculum and you are stuck with it for years, wondering why-who-plans-what-for-whom.