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Old vs. New Learning October 29, 2014

Posted by anagasto in history, language, philosophy.
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Albert Anker:  A Schoolboy

There are two types of learning, and they do not have much in common:

1.

In some classes —

history

biology

geography

students receive theoretical knowledge that will later help them to understand the world: what is a chemical element….what is a plant… who was George Washington…. what is a constitution.

Students receive lots of information which they have to review, interiorize or learn more or less by heart.

The teacher speaks very much, and students listen to what he says. Sometimes they write it down.

This was the only way in the distant past at the universities, because all subjects were part of philosophy or theology, large pictures made of words only.

It is called conceptual learning, the development of ideas.

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2.

In other classes —

mathematics

spelling

foreign language study

the ideal teacher speaks very little as he tries to get the students to perform.

Very little information has to be imparted, small collections of data, but students spend years drilling and learning how to handle these data with ever increasing speed and accuracy, and so the ideal class is a kind of gym.

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Albert Anker:  The Village School

It may come as a surprise that foreign language learning is of the same type as maths.

It is a mental fitness workout mostly devoid of intellectual content, but going on for years.

This is so because a teacher cannot “impart” a language. He can only help you develop it.

The teachers are  coaches that supervise your performance and encourage you in your drills.

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In Spain and in other countries of Latin tradition, the first of these types is still by far the most widely known.

Even in physical education kids study textbooks at home!  And for their English classes they memorize sets of lexical items and grammar rules.
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Which is better?

The second type seems to be more successful and also more popular and is more helpful  — at least in the short run.

However,  some  seem to believe that kids can be taught like pets.

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Comments»

1. Carl D'Agostino - November 4, 2011

My students could never understand why I preached that their most important subject or skill was reading. Then you become able to self teach.

2. cantueso - November 4, 2011

“Then you become able to self teach.”……………if you want to be taught.

“On the uses of literacy”: wasn’t that once a bestseller?


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