Making the Learning Whole

In anticipation of my post 2 on education wars I needed to make a separate entry for David Perkins’s 7 principles of learning from his book Making the Learning Whole.

 

“Here are the two most popular answers to approaching complexity:

  1. ELEMENTS FIRST: Ramp into complexity gradually by learning elements now and putting them together later.
  2. LEARNING ABOUT: Learn about something to start with, rather than learning to do it.

Approaching complexity by elements has enormous appeal. The problem is that elements don’t make much sense in the absence of the whole game, and the whole game shows up much later if at all.

Very little that schools ask youngsters to do around arithmetic is a good example of how arithmetic gets used in everyday life, and there is hardly anything worth calling mathematical thinking. Or take writing: I remember discovering with alarm that my youngest son had learned all the elements of writing, but his teachers rarely asked him to do much extended writing.

I like to name this as a disease: elementitis.

It would be comforting to think of elementitis as a rare disease. Not so. Common experience testifies to its common character. In The Right to Learn, Stanford educator Lind Darling-Hammond logs how narrow curriculum standards, bloated textbooks and the pressure for coverage have led to a piecemeal curriculum. Every conceivable topic gets its 15 minutes of fame.

Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer would characterize such education as mindless. In The Power of Mindful Learning, she warns of the general trend in education toward mindless patterns of learning and shows how it need not be that way.

Now let’s consider the other almost universal strategy: learning about, or aboutitits.  A certain amount of learning about, just like a certain amount of elements first is fine. The problem is overdoing it.

Yes, it lets learners acquire some information about the French Revolution, mitosis and meiosis, the position of planets, continental drift, and the tensions of race in Othello. But this only provides a kind of an informational backdrop rather than an empowering and enlightening body of understanding.”

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The 7 Principles of Learning:

1. Play the whole game.

2. Make the game worth playing. 

3. Work on the hard parts. 

4. Play out of town. 

5. Uncover the hidden game. 

6. Learn from the team…and other teams. 

7. Learn the game of learning. 

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