[Paleopsych] processing modes

Michael Christopher anonymous_animus at yahoo.com
Fri Nov 4 23:33:36 UTC 2005

Todd says:
>>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<<

--The educational model of using lectures and
textbooks is also based on a mechanistic view of
learning. Learning is a process, it involves two-way
interaction, and whether information is delivered in
words, images, or through three-dimensional
environments does make a difference. There is nothing
wrong with people who can't learn from a textbook or
lecture. They learn better in other ways. 

>>as if the human biocomputer were a simplistic
multi-channel transducer of some sort, with isolated

--I'm not aware that people were teaching processing
modes as isolated channels. Of course channels
interact. If someone says they don't, they're taking
the model way too far.

>>More current models of brain function seem to
acknowledge more active and wholistic human talents
and motivations.<<

--Agreed. That doesn't negate the model, if it's used

>>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.<<

--That's the whole reason for recognizing processing
modes. If someone is absolutely terrible at learning
through a lecture format but excellent at learning
through music or some visual medium, we can either
declare them "stupid" because the lecture format is
preferred in education, or we can say they work better
in one mode than another. I think the latter is more
productive, and much kinder.

>>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.<<

--Agreed. That can't be done unless we acknowledge
that there are different modes and that translation is

>>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

--Information is coded in different channels, those
channels can conflict, there can be crosstalk, and you
are right that context matters. 

>>It does not make sense to solely try to present
everything someone is learning into some form that
they may prefer.<<

--It might make sense, depending on the context. As we
know, people learn in different ways (we may have
different ideas of why), and the key is for the
teacher to be able to notice which teaching methods
are working or not working.

>>That's like encouraging a deaf person to only read
signs and not lips.<<

--Or maybe more like encouraging a deaf person to read
lips rather than straining to hear what they can't

>>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 education system handicaps people already, and
always has. But I agree with you. If I saw the idea of
processing modes as something that would handicap
people, I'd feel the same way. But I think the model
would only do that if one took it to a ridiculous
extreme. Of course, educators will take EVERY model to
a ridiculous extreme at some point. All human beings
make ridiculous mistakes when they try to turn human
systems into a formula, and the educational system
tends to do that as much as any other.

>>The old chestnut about teaching a person to fish 
rather than throwing them a fish (or something like
that :-)) comes to mind.<<

--But if you teach them to fish, you're handicapping
their ability to claw fish from the water, like bears.
Has factory schooling *ever* prepared people for the
real world? With one teacher for every thirty or so
kids, a lot of kids are going to get short-changed,
regardless of the teaching formula used. But at least
the model of processing modes gives a little extra
feedback about why some kids might do better than
others in the same format.

>>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

--Obviously if someone can't learn in one way, trying
another way is a good idea. If the processing modes
model offers anything, it's the ability to recognize
*why* one isn't learning well in one format, which
offers both the possibility of using another learning
approach, and the possibility of translating
consciously and adapting. For a very visual person,
saying, "Listen harder in class" won't work very well.
But being able to say, "I get a lot of auditory
crosstalk and internal dialogue" might make it easier
to listen for key points and repeat them internally. 

Obviously the success of any model depends on how it's

>>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.<<

--"Talent" is a buzzword. It says nothing about the
specific skills, how information is encoded and
remembered, how one practices a skill, and so on.
Processing modes are much more specific than "talent",
but the idea is the same: recognize what you're good
at, and use that to approach what you're not as good
at. Just labeling some kids "good at math" or "bad at
sports" isn't as helpful as recognizing that one kid
has trouble forming the kind of visual-kinesthetic
models that mathematicians specialize in, and another
has internal dialogue that interferes with timing and
spacial awareness. Everyone knows what they're bad at,
but how many people know precisely *why* they're bad
at something, and how much improvement might be
possible if more people knew?


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