I've mentioned (a gazillion times -- sorry!) that I'm writing a book to do with the basal ganglia.
The basal ganglia handle nonconscious learning and intuition. (Turns out intuition is a real thing - ! Basically, intuition is nonconscious category learning.)
Meanwhile, the entire education world is obsessively focused on conscious processes.
GROUP problem solving.
Cognitive science (and common sense) tell us that all of these activities depend upon nonconscious processes, but never mind.
Here's a typical passage describing current thinking (thinking!) in cognitive science:
A great deal of complex cognitive processing occurs at the unconscious level.Expertise is heavily nonconscious. Most of the time experts don't know how they do what they do, they just do it.
It is largely accepted that lower levels of processing (e.g., motor reflexes, sensory analysis) can operate outside of perceptual awareness (implicitly) (e.g., Castiello, Paulignan, & Jeannerod, 1991). And although the existence of nonconscious computations at higher levels (e.g., semantic or inferential processing) has been controversial (Dixon, 1971; Eriksen, 1960; Greenwald, 1992; Holender, 1986), a range of empirical findings on the unconscious over the last several decades has led most cognitive neuroscientists today to believe that mental activity can occur outside of conscious awareness (Hassin, Uleman, & Bargh, 2005). Some have argued that all information processing can, at least in principle, operate without conscious experience, and that consciousness (C) may thus be of a different nature (Chalmers, 1996). This view goes along with the hypothesis that nonconscious processes can achieve the highest levels of representation (Marcel, 1983). A large amount of complex cognitive processing appears to occur at the unconscious level in both healthy and psychiatric and neurological populations. For example, evidence from patients with blindsight (Goebel, Muckli, Zanella, Singer, & Stoerig, 2001; Weiskrantz, 1986), prosopagnosia (Renault, Signoret, Debruille, Breton, & Bolgert, 1989), implicit awareness in hemineglect (Cappelletti & Cipolotti, 2006; Marshall & Halligan, 1988; Vuilleumier et al., 2002), nondeclarative learning even in amnesia (Knowlton, Mangels, & Squire, 1996; Knowlton, Squire & Gluck, 1994; Turnbull & Evans, 2006), and the “split-brain” syndrome (Gazzaniga, 1995) supports the idea that unconsciously processed stimuli can activate high-level cortical regions.
- The Neural Basis of the Dynamic Unconscious
Yet all of K-12 these days seems to be premised on the belief that being able to "explain your answer" equals "understanding."
That belief is nonsense on stilts.
Yes, experts think when they solve problems. But eureka moments come out of the depths.
We have no access to our nonconscious minds, and we can't explain what our nonconscious minds do.
What's more, if we didn't have nonconscious minds, we wouldn't solve problems.
So what happens to problem solving when you stop teaching the nonconscious mind?
What happens to problem solving when you believe that conscious "thinking" is all that matters?
Here's Barry on Explaining Your Answer.