Friday, 3 February 2012

New research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever-younger ages, may backfire.

New research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever younger ages, may backfire. - Slate Magazine

Further to the previous posts on divergent and convergent thinking and how unstructured imaginative/creative indoor/outdoor play is being covertly traded for 'the “cult of rigour” demanded by standardised testing (aka we have to statistically justify our funding). This is an old article but the conclusions are fairly detailed and self explanatory i.e without the innate desire to explore and think creatively children would not be able to interact to accept structured teacher direction. This demand to think in a singularly structured manner in turn quashes free unstructured creative thought. Thus it is patently obvious what Henry David Thoreau mean't when he said, 'Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.' How about we give this next generation a chance to sing their own unique songs? 

Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above.

'Ours is an age of pedagogy. Anxious parents instruct their children more and more, at younger and younger ages, until they're reading books to babies in the womb. They pressure teachers to make kindergartens and nurseries more like schools. 

There are skeptics, of course, including some parents, many preschool teachers, and even a few policy-makers. Shouldn't very young children be allowed to explore, inquire, play, and discover, they ask? Perhaps direct instruction can help children learn specific facts and skills, but what about curiosity and creativity—abilities that are even more important for learning in the long run? Two forthcoming studies in the journal Cognition—one from a lab at MIT and one from my lab at UC-Berkeley—suggest that the doubters are on to something. While learning from a teacher may help children get to a specific answer more quickly, it also makes them less likely to discover new information about a problem and to create a new and unexpected solution....
...Almost by definition, directed teaching will make children do better on standardized tests, which the government uses to evaluate school performance. Curiosity and creativity are harder to measure.....

....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....

......Adults often assume that most learning is the result of teaching and that exploratory, spontaneous learning is unusual. But actually, spontaneous learning is more fundamental. It's this kind of learning, in fact, that allows kids to learn from teachers in the first place......... 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.
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