[Paleopsych] not smart enough (active learning)

Todd I. Stark thrst4knw at aol.com
Thu Nov 3 22:11:24 UTC 2005

The loaded notion of "smart" or "not smart" aside for just a moment, I 
wanted to address this notion of teaching people according to 
information processing mode.

I've seen it discussed in NLP and other  related sources, and always 
been just a bit skeptical of it.  Not that I know for a fact that it is 
completely wrong, though it seems rather weak to me at this point.  More 
importantly, it does seem somewhat misguded to me in its intentions.  It 
is based on a mechanistic notion of the brain and its learning 
abilities, as if the human biocomputer were a simplistic multi-channel 
transducer of some sort, with isolated channels. More current models of 
brain function seem to acknowledge more active and wholistic human 
talents and motivations.

So personally, I like to envison adult competence as largely a matter of
learning your own strengths and weaknesesses and finding strategies for
making the best of your own talents.

If people prefer information in a particular form, it is far more useful
educationally in my opinion to teach them ways to translate between
different kinds of information in their own manner, so they do not
depend on the rest of the world to be presented in a particular format
to them.  We know enough about the human brain to know that the  brain 
doesn't store information for recall coded into different sensory 
channels, it builds knowledge maps that make sense of situations in 
context.  It does not make sense to solely try to present everything 
someone is learning into some form that they may prefer.  That's like 
encouraging a deaf person to only read signs and not lips.  It is hard 
to find a humane justification for deliberately handicapping a person in 
that manner in my opinion, unless there is no choice.

The old chestnut about teaching a person to fish rather than throwing
them a fish (or something like that :-)) comes to mind.   I think the
model I am fishing for here is called "mastery learning" or sometimes 
"active learning."

I think if someone hasn't the neccessary talent for that form of active 
learning, and can't aquire the skills, then it makes perfect sense to 
conclude they have to learn in a less efficient manner such as spoon 
feeding them in particular ways.  I think we should realistically 
distinguish talent (and lack thereof) where it is truly meaningful to 
outcomes, such as the capacity for self-directed learning and specific 
teaching strategies.

kind regards,


Michael Christopher wrote on 11/2/2005, 8:12 PM:

  > --I'm suspicious of claims people "aren't smart
  > enough". More likely they are attempting to work
  > within a system that doesn't match their mode of
  > information processing. Kinesthetic modelers trying to
  > adapt to a lecture format, for example. They may well
  > want to serve, but have a problem adapting to the way
  > information is presented.

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