Learning to think, to learn

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  • 1.Learning to Think, Learning to Learn: What The Science Of Thinking And Learning Has To Offer Adult EducationProduced under a National Institute for Literacy Literacy Leader Fellowship Jennifer Cromley Literacy Leader Fellow, 1998-99

2. 2000 Jennifer Cromley Produced with funds from a 1998-99 National Institute for Literacy (NIFL) Literacy Leader Fellowship, Award No. X257I980003. This material is copyrighted and may not be reproduced by any means mechanical or electronic without express written permission of the copyright holder. Non-profit adult education programs have advance permission to reproduce this material for internal use only. Materials must be reproduced as is, including the copyright notice and NIFL information. No editing, adaptation, or modification of any kind is permitted without express written permission of the copyright holder. To order: Single copies of this publication will be available free of charge from the National Literacy Hotline at 1-877-433-7827, or you can order on the World Wide Web from the U.S. Department of Education at http://www.ed.gov/pubs/edpubs.html by searching for Cromley. On the World Wide Web: This entire publication will also be available free on the World Wide Web by clicking on Jennifer Cromley at http://www.nifl.gov/activities/ fllwname.htm. Lesson Plans for Teacher Training: Lesson plans for teacher training workshops will also be available free on the World Wide Web by clicking on Jennifer Cromley at http://www.nifl.gov/activities/fllwname.htm. Contacting Jennifer Cromley: You can contact Jennifer Cromley at jcromley@aol.com. 3. National Institute for Literacy 1775 I St., N.W., Suite 730 Washington, D.C. 20006To order more copies of this publication, call: 1-800-228-8813 4. The NIFL Literacy Leader Fellowship Program The Literacy Leader Fellowship program provides an opportunity for those dedicated to literacy in a professional, volunteer, or learning capacity to conduct projects of their own design that will benefit the literacy field. The Fellowship program helps bring innovative ideas to the field quickly and directly. Previous Literacy Leader Fellows have studied welfare-to-work, the role of technology in adult education, state policies on workplace education, the nature of adult learning, and the use of health topics in adult literacy classes. Reports generated by these and other studies may be ordered by contacting the Institute or may be accessed on the NIFLs website, http://www.nifl.gov/activities/fllwname.htm.i Produced with funds from the National 2000 by Jennifer Cromley Institute for Literacy under a 1998-99 Literacy Leader Fellow Project #X257I980003 5. Table of Contents Introduction...................................................................................................... iv The Cognitive Revolution in the classroom Teaching means teaching students to think What is research? What does it have to offer teachers? Is this book for me? How to use this bookFact Sheet 1:Literature is not Science ................................................................ 1Fact Sheet 2:Making Connections.................................................................... 11Fact Sheet 3:Mental Models ............................................................................. 25Fact Sheet 4:Thinking About Thinking ............................................................ 37Fact Sheet 5:Getting Information into Memory ............................................... 47Fact Sheet 6:Memory and Learning ................................................................. 59Fact Sheet 7:Working Memory and Learning .................................................. 63Fact Sheet 8:Long-Term Memory and Learning.............................................. 73Fact Sheet 9:How Thinking Develops, Part 1: General and School-Based Development .................................... 85Fact Sheet 10: How Thinking Develops, Part 2: Changes in Strategies................................................................... 97 Fact Sheet 11: How Thinking Develops, Part 3: Experience Makes Some Difference for Adults ........................ 107 Fact Sheet 12: The Importance of Teaching ContentA Summary................. 117 Fact Sheet 13: What Does Good Thinking Look LikeA Summary............... 125 Fact Sheet 14: Critical Thinking........................................................................ 137 Fact Sheet 15: Active LearningA Summary.................................................. 147 Fact Sheet 16: Problem-Based Learning ........................................................... 157 Fact Sheet 17: Supporting Good Thinking ........................................................ 171 Fact Sheet 18: Adult LearningA Summary ................................................... 183ii Produced with funds from the National 2000 by Jennifer Cromley Institute for Literacy under a 1998-99 Literacy Leader Fellow Project #X257I980003 6. Introduction Appendices Appendix A:Annotated Bibliography............................................................. 195Appendix B:Are There Learning Styles? ....................................................... 197Appendix C:What About the Brain? .............................................................. 203Appendix D:Newsletter Articles .................................................................... 209Glossary.............................................................................................................. 221 Index ................................................................................................................... 223iii Produced with funds from the National 2000 by Jennifer Cromley Institute for Literacy under a 1998-99 Literacy Leader Fellow Project #X257I980003 7. IntroductionIntroduction Whats new in learningthe cognitive revolution in the classroom Thirty years ago, most theories about teaching and learning (for children and adults) were based on drill. The idea was that if facts were repeated enough, then students would memorize them, and this was learning. According to a 1954 teacher training textbook, Learning is shown by a change in behavior as a result of experience.1 Notice that nothing is mentioned about what students believe, what process they use to solve problems, or their own awareness of their thinking. Although adult educators like Paolo Freire and Malcolm Knowles encouraged teachers to use real-life examples that students were interested in, most adult reading workbooks looked about the same as childrens drill-based workbooks. This approach can be described as a behaviorist approach to learning. Since the 1970s, the field of cognitive psychology has taken a different approachlooking at what people believe about what they are studying, how they go about solving problems, and how aware they are of whether they understand what they are reading. This research has produced a lot of useful knowledge about thinking and learning and has had a big impact on our understanding of what can be most effective in the classroom. Most of this research has not filtered down to teachers (except those trained as K-12 teachers in about the last five years). In its simplest version, a cognitive approach to learning says that teaching is most effective when it is based on certain research-based2 facts about how the mind works: Skills need to be taught in the context in which they will be used. For example, if students are learning to add fractions for a word problem test, they need to practice fraction word problems, not just adding fractions. Reading skills are subject-specificunderstanding what you read in literature does not guarantee that you will read well in social studies. Problem-solving skills in one subject (like reading) are different from those in other subjects (like math). Problem-solving skills need to be taught separately for each subject. Since problem-solving skills do not automatically transfer from one subject to another, teachers need to show students how to transfer these skills and give them lots of practice. Students need more and better mental models of the world in order to learn and master new information and skills. Thinking skills such as inferring unstated facts need to be taught explicitly in the classroom, they do not develop on their own (except in a very few students). These strategies need to be practiced over and over again. Most adult learners have a very limited number of strategies for understanding new material or solving problems. Teaching them more strategies can help them learn much better. Learning lasts when the student understands the material, not just memorizes it. Information needs to be presented in small chunks so that working memory can process it. Students need immediate practice to move information from working memory to long-term memory. It is impossible to remember without associating new information with what you already know.iv Produced with funds from the National 2000 by Jennifer Cromley Institute for Literacy under a 1998-99 Literacy Leader Fellow Project #X257I980003 8. Introduction Thinking changes from being good at familiar subjects to being able to work in unfamiliar subjects. Background knowledge is vitalit affects memory, reading, thinking, and problem solving. People have informal beliefs about how the world works (e.g., about gravity), which interfere with learning. Good teachers need to know what topics tend to be hard for students in the specific subject they teach, and effective ways to help students get past those roadblocks. They need subjectspecific teaching knowledge in addition to general teaching knowledge and subject knowledge. This approach can be described as a cognitive or constructivist approach to learning, which is the focus of this book.Teaching means teaching students to think This book is based on the idea that teaching means teaching students to think. It assumes that teaching