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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School IV FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR THE SCIENCE OF LEARNING
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School 10 Conclusions The pace at which science proceeds sometimes seems alarmingly slow, and impatience and hopes both run high when discussions turn to issues of learning and education. In the field of learning, the past quarter century has been a period of major research advances. Because of the many new developments, the studies that resulted in this volume were conducted to appraise the scientific knowledge base on human learning and its application to education. We evaluated the best and most current scientific data on learning, teaching, and learning environments. The objective of the analysis was to ascertain what is required for learners to reach deep understanding, to determine what leads to effective teaching, and to evaluate the conditions that lead to supportive environments for teaching and learning. A scientific understanding of learning includes understanding about learning processes, learning environments, teaching, sociocultural processes, and the many other factors that contribute to learning. Research on all of these topics, both in the field and in laboratories, provides the fundamental knowledge base for understanding and implementing changes in education. This volume discusses research in six areas that are relevant to a deeper understanding of students’ learning processes: the role of prior knowledge in learning, plasticity and related issues of early experience upon brain development, learning as an active process, learning for understanding, adaptive expertise, and learning as a time-consuming endeavor. It reviews research in five additional areas that are relevant to teaching and environments that support effective learning: the importance of social and cultural contexts, transfer and the conditions for wide application of learning, subject matter uniqueness, assessment to support learning, and the new educational technologies.
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School LEARNERS AND LEARNING Development and Learning Competencies Children are born with certain biological capacities for learning. They can recognize human sounds; can distinguish animate from inanimate objects; and have an inherent sense of space, motion, number, and causality. These raw capacities of the human infant are actualized by the environment surrounding a newborn. The environment supplies information, and equally important, provides structure to the information, as when parents draw an infant’s attention to the sounds of her or his native language. Thus, developmental processes involve interactions between children’s early competencies and their environmental and interpersonal supports. These supports serve to strengthen the capacities that are relevant to a child’s surroundings and to prune those that are not. Learning is promoted and regulated by the children’s biology and their environments. The brain of a developing child is a product, at the molecular level, of interactions between biological and ecological factors. Mind is created in this process. The term “development” is critical to understanding the changes in children’s conceptual growth. Cognitive changes do not result from mere accretion of information, but are due to processes involved in conceptual reorganization. Research from many fields has supplied the key findings about how early cognitive abilities relate to learning. These include the following: “Privileged domains:” Young children actively engage in making sense of their worlds. In some domains, most obviously language, but also for biological and physical causality and number, they seem predisposed to learn. Children are ignorant but not stupid: Young children lack knowledge, but they do have abilities to reason with the knowledge they understand. Children are problem solvers and, through curiosity, generate questions and problems: Children attempt to solve problems presented to them, and they also seek novel challenges. They persist because success and understanding are motivating in their own right. Children develop knowledge of their own learning capacities— metacognition—very early. This metacognitive capacity gives them the ability to plan and monitor their success and to correct errors when necessary. Children’ natural capabilities require assistance for learning: Children’s early capacities are dependent on catalysts and mediation. Adults play a critical role in promoting children’s curiosity and persistence by directing children’s attention, structuring their experiences, supporting their
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School learning attempts, and regulating the complexity and difficulty of levels of information for them. Neurocognitive research has contributed evidence that both the developing and the mature brain are structurally altered during learning. For example, the weight and thickness of the cerebral cortex of rats is altered when they have direct contact with a stimulating physical environment and an interactive social group. The structure of the nerve cells themselves is correspondingly altered: under some conditions, both the cells that provide support to the neurons and the capillaries that supply blood to the nerve cells may be altered as well. Learning specific tasks appears to alter the specific regions of the brain appropriate to the task. In humans, for example, brain reorganization has been demonstrated in the language functions of deaf individuals, in rehabilitated stroke patients, and in the visual cortex of people who are blind from birth. These findings suggest that the brain is a dynamic organ, shaped to a great extent by experience and by what a living being does. Transfer of Learning A major goal of schooling is to prepare students for flexible adaptation to new problems and settings. Students’ abilities to transfer what they have learned to new situations provides an important index of adaptive, flexible learning; seeing how well they do this can help educators evaluate and improve their instruction. Many approaches to instruction look equivalent when the only measure of learning is memory for facts that were specifically presented. Instructional differences become more apparent when evaluated from the perspective of how well the learning transfers to new problems and settings. Transfer can be explored at a variety of levels, including transfer from one set of concepts to another, one school subject to another, one year of school to another, and across school and everyday, nonschool activities. People’s abilitiy to transfer what they have learned depends upon a number of factors: People must achieve a threshold of initial learning that is sufficient to support transfer. This obvious point is often overlooked and can lead to erroneous conclusions about the effectiveness of various instructional approaches. It takes time to learn complex subject matter, and assessments of transfer must take into account the degree to which original learning with understanding was accomplished. Spending a lot of time (“time on task”) in and of itself is not sufficient to ensure effective learning. Practice and getting familiar with subject matter take time, but most important is how people use their time while
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School learning. Concepts such as “deliberate practice” emphasize the importance of helping students monitor their learning so that they seek feedback and actively evaluate their strategies and current levels of understanding. Such activities are very different from simply reading and rereading a text. Learning with understanding is more likely to promote transfer than simply memorizing information from a text or a lecture. Many classroom activities stress the importance of memorization over learning with understanding. Many, as well, focus on facts and details rather than larger themes of causes and consequences of events. The shortfalls of these approaches are not apparent if the only test of learning involves tests of memory, but when the transfer of learning is measured, the advantages of learning with understanding are likely to be revealed. Knowledge that is taught in a variety of contexts is more likely to support flexible transfer than knowledge that is taught in a single context. Information can become “context-bound” when taught with context-specific examples. When material is taught in multiple contexts, people are more likely to extract the relevant features of the concepts and develop a more flexible representation of knowledge that can be used more generally. Students develop flexible understanding of when, where, why, and how to use their knowledge to solve new problems if they learn how to extract underlying themes and principles from their learning exercises. Understanding how and when to put knowledge to use—known as conditions of applicability—is an important characteristic of expertise. Learning in multiple contexts most likely affects this aspect of transfer. Transfer of learning is an active process. Learning and transfer should not be evaluated by “one-shot” tests of transfer. An alternative assessment approach is to consider how learning affects subsequent learning, such as increased speed of learning in a new domain. Often, evidence for positive transfer does not appear until people have had a chance to learn about the new domain—and then transfer occurs and is evident in the learner’s ability to grasp the new information more quickly. All learning involves transfer from previous experiences. Even initial learning involves transfer that is based on previous experiences and prior knowledge. Transfer is not simply something that may or may not appear after initial learning has occurred. For example, knowledge relevant to a particular task may not automatically be activated by learners and may not serve as a source of positive transfer for learning new information. Effective teachers attempt to support positive transfer by actively identifying the strengths that students bring to a learning situation and building on them, thereby building bridges between students’ knowledge and the learning objectives set out by the teacher. Sometimes the knowledge that people bring to a new situation impedes subsequent learning because it guides thinking in wrong directions.
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School For example, young children’s knowledge of everyday counting-based arithmetic can make it difficult for them to deal with rational numbers (a larger number in the numerator of a fraction does not mean the same thing as a larger number in the denominator); assumptions based on everyday physical experiences can make it difficult for students to understand physics concepts (they think a rock falls faster than a leaf because everyday experiences include other variables, such as resistance, that are not present in the vacuum conditions that physicists study), and so forth. In these kinds of situations, teachers must help students change their original conceptions rather than simply use the misconceptions as a basis for further understanding or leaving new material unconnected to current understanding. Competent and Expert Performance Cognitive science research has helped us understand how learners develop a knowledge base as they learn. An individual moves from being a novice in a subject area toward developing competency in that area through a series of learning processes. An understanding of the structure of knowledge provides guidelines for ways to assist learners acquire a knowledge base effectively and efficiently. Eight factors affect the development of expertise and competent performance: Relevant knowledge helps people organize information in ways that support their abilities to remember. Learners do not always relate the knowledge they possess to new tasks, despite its potential relevance. This “disconnect” has important implications for understanding differences between usable knowledge (which is the kind of knowledge that experts have developed) and less-organized knowledge, which tends to remain “inert.” Relevant knowledge helps people to go beyond the information given and to think in problem representations, to engage in the mental work of making inferences, and to relate various kinds of information for the purpose of drawing conclusions. An important way that knowledge affects performances is through its influences on people’s representations of problems and situations. Different representations of the same problem can make it easy, difficult, or impossible to solve. The sophisticated problem representations of experts are the result of well-organized knowledge structures. Experts know the conditions of applicability of their knowledge, and they are able to access the relevant knowledge with considerable ease. Different domains of knowledge, such as science, mathematics, and history, have different organizing properties. It follows, therefore, that to
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School have an in-depth grasp of an area requires knowledge about both the content of the subject and the broader structural organization of the subject. Competent learners and problem solvers monitor and regulate their own processing and change their strategies as necessary. They are able to make estimates and “educated guesses.” The study of ordinary people under everyday cognition provides valuable information about competent cognitive performances in routine settings. Like the work of experts, everyday competencies are supported by sets of tools and social norms that allow people to perform tasks in specific contexts that they often cannot perform elsewhere. Conclusions Everyone has understanding, resources, and interests on which to build. Learning a topic does not begin from knowing nothing to learning that is based on entirely new information. Many kinds of learning require transforming existing understanding, especially when one’s understanding needs to be applied in new situations. Teachers have a critical role in assisting learners to engage their understanding, building on learners’ understandings, correcting misconceptions, and observing and engaging with learners during the processes of learning. This view of the interactions of learners with one another and with teachers derives from generalizations about learning mechanisms and the conditions that promote understanding. It begins with the obvious: learning is embedded in many contexts. The most effective learning occurs when learners transport what they have learned to various and diverse new situations. This view of learning also includes the not so obvious: young learners arrive at school with prior knowledge that can facilitate or impede learning. The implications for schooling are many, not the least of which is that teachers must address the multiple levels of knowledge and perspectives of children’s prior knowledge, with all of its inaccuracies and misconceptions. Effective comprehension and thinking require a coherent understanding of the organizing principles in any subject matter; understanding the essential features of the problems of various school subjects will lead to better reasoning and problem solving; early competencies are foundational to later complex learning; self-regulatory processes enable self-monitoring and control of learning processes by learners themselves. Transfer and wide application of learning are most likely to occur when learners achieve an organized and coherent understanding of the material; when the situations for transfer share the structure of the original
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School learning; when the subject matter has been mastered and practiced; when subject domains overlap and share cognitive elements; when instruction includes specific attention to underlying principles; and when instruction explicitly and directly emphasizes transfer. Learning and understanding can be facilitated in learners by emphasizing organized, coherent bodies of knowledge (in which specific facts and details are embedded), by helping learners learn how to transfer their learning, and by helping them use what they learn. In-depth understanding requires detailed knowledge of the facts within a domain. The key attribute of expertise is a detailed and organized understanding of the important facts within a specific domain. Education needs to provide children with sufficient mastery of the details of particular subject matters so that they have a foundation for further exploration within those domains. Expertise can be promoted in learners. The predominant indicator of expert status is the amount of time spent learning and working in a subject area to gain mastery of the content. Secondarily, the more one knows about a subject, the easier it is to learn additional knowledge. TEACHERS AND TEACHING The portrait we have sketched of human learning and cognition emphasizes learning for in-depth comprehension. The major ideas that have transformed understanding of learning also have implications for teaching. Teaching for In-Depth Learning Traditional education has tended to emphasize memorization and mastery of text. Research on the development of expertise, however, indicates that more than a set of general problem-solving skills or memory for an array of facts is necessary to achieve deep understanding. Expertise requires well-organized knowledge of concepts, principles, and procedures of inquiry. Various subject disciplines are organized differently and require an array of approaches to inquiry. We presented a discussion of the three subject areas of history, mathematics, and science learning to illustrate how the structure of the knowledge domain guides both learning and teaching. Proponents of the new approaches to teaching engage students in a variety of different activities for constructing a knowledge base in the subject domain. Such approaches involve both a set of facts and clearly defined principles. The teacher’s goal is to develop students’ understanding of a given topic, as well as to help them develop into independent and thoughtful problem solvers. One way to do this is by showing students that they already have relevant knowledge. As students work through different prob-
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School lems that a teacher presents, they develop their understanding into principles that govern the topic. In mathematics for younger (first- and second-grade) students, for example, cognitively guided instruction uses a variety of classroom activities to bring number and counting principles into students’ awareness, including snack-time sharing for fractions, lunch count for number, and attendance for part-whole relationships. Through these activities, a teacher has many opportunities to observe what students know and how they approach solutions to problems, to introduce common misconceptions to challenge students’ thinking, and to present more advanced discussions when the students are ready. For older students, model-based reasoning in mathematics is an effective approach. Beginning with the building of physical models, this approach develops abstract symbol system-based models, such as algebraic equations or geometry-based solutions. Model-based approaches entail selecting and exploring the properties of a model and then applying the model to answer a question that interests the student. This important approach emphasizes understanding over routine memorization and provides students with a learning tool that enables them to figure out new solutions as old ones become obsolete. These new approaches to mathematics operate from knowledge that learning involves extending understanding to new situations, a guiding principle of transfer (Chapter 3); that young children come to school with early mathematics concepts (Chapter 4); that learners cannot always identify and call up relevant knowledge (Chapters 2, 3, and 4); and that learning is promoted by encouraging children to try out the ideas and strategies they bring with them to school-based learning (Chapter 6). Students in classes that use the new approaches do not begin learning mathematics by sitting at desks and only doing computational problems. Rather, they are encouraged to explore their own knowledge and to invent strategies for solving problems and to discuss with others why their strategies work or do not work. A key aspect of the new ways of teaching science is to focus on helping students overcome deeply rooted misconceptions that interfere with learning. Especially in people’s knowledge of the physical, it is clear that prior knowledge, constructed out of personal experiences and observations— such as the conception that heavy objects fall faster than light objects—can conflict with new learning. Casual observations are useful for explaining why a rock falls faster than a leaf, but they can lead to misconceptions that are difficult to overcome. Misconceptions, however, are also the starting point for new approaches to teaching scientific thinking. By probing students’ beliefs and helping them develop ways to resolve conflicting views, teachers can guide students to construct coherent and broad understandings of scientific concepts. This and other new approaches are major break-
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School throughs in teaching science. Students can often answer fact-based questions on tests that imply understanding, but misconceptions will surface as the students are questioned about scientific concepts. Chèche Konnen (“search for knowledge” in Haitian Creole) was presented as an example of new approaches to science learning for grade school children. The approach focuses upon students’ personal knowledge as the foundations of sense-making. Further, the approach emphasizes the role of the specialized functions of language, including the students’ own language for communication when it is other than English; the role of language in developing skills of how to “argue” the scientific “evidence” they arrive at; the role of dialogue in sharing information and learning from others; and finally, how the specialized, scientific language of the subject matter, including technical terms and definitions, promote deep understanding of the concepts. Teaching history for depth of understanding has generated new approaches that recognize that students need to learn about the assumptions any historian makes for connecting events and schemes into a narrative. The process involves learning that any historical account is a history and not the history. A core concept guiding history learning is how to determine, from all of the events possible to enumerate, the ones to single out as significant. The “rules for determining historical significance” become a lightening rod for class discussions in one innovative approach to teaching history. Through this process, students learn to understand the interpretative nature of history and to understand history as an evidentiary form of knowledge. Such an approach runs counter to the image of history as clusters of fixed names and dates that students need to memorize. As with the Chèche Konnen example of science learning, mastering the concepts of historical analysis, developing an evidentiary base, and debating the evidence all become tools in the history toolbox that students carry with them to analyze and solve new problems. Expert Teachers Expert teachers know the structure of the knowledge in their disciplines. This knowledge provides them with cognitive roadmaps to guide the assignments they give students, the assessments they use to gauge student progress, and the questions they ask in the give-and-take of classroom life. Expert teachers are sensitive to the aspects of the subject matter that are especially difficult and easy for students to grasp: they know the conceptual barriers that are likely to hinder learning, so they watch for these tell-tale signs of students’ misconceptions. In this way, both students’ prior knowledge and teachers’ knowledge of subject content become critical components of learners’ growth.
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School Subject-matter expertise requires well-organized knowledge of concepts and inquiry procedures. Similarly, studies of teaching conclude that expertise consists of more than a set of general methods that can be applied across all subject matter. These two sets of research-based findings contradict the common misconception about what teachers need to know in order to design effective learning environments for students. Both subject-matter knowledge and pedagogical knowledge are important for expert teaching because knowledge domains have unique structures and methods of inquiry associated with them. Accomplished teachers also assess their own effectiveness with their students. They reflect on what goes on in the classroom and modify their teaching plans accordingly. Thinking about teaching is not an abstract or esoteric activity. It is a disciplined, systematic approach to professional development. By reflecting on and evaluating one’s own practices, either alone or in the company of a critical colleague, teachers develop ways to change and improve their practices, like any other opportunity for learning with feedback. Conclusions Teachers need expertise in both subject matter content and in teaching. Teachers need to develop understanding of the theories of knowledge (epistemologies) that guide the subject-matter disciplines in which they work. Teachers need to develop an understanding of pedagogy as an intellectual discipline that reflects theories of learning, including knowledge of how cultural beliefs and the personal characteristics of learners influence learning. Teachers are learners and the principles of learning and transfer for student learners apply to teachers. Teachers need opportunities to learn about children’s cognitive development and children’s development of thought (children’s epistemologies) in order to know how teaching practices build on learners’ prior knowledge. Teachers need to develop models of their own professional development that are based on lifelong learning, rather than on an “updating” model of learning, in order to have frameworks to guide their career planning.
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS Tools of Technology Technology has become an important instrument in education. Computer-based technologies hold great promise both for increasing access to knowledge and as a means of promoting learning. The public imagination has been captured by the capacity of information technologies to centralize and organize large bodies of knowledge; people are excited by the prospect of information networks, such as the Internet, for linking students around the globe into communities of learners. There are five ways that technology can be used to help meet the challenges of establishing effective learning environments: Bringing real-world problems into classrooms through the use of videos, demonstrations, simulations, and Internet connections to concrete data and working scientists. Providing “scaffolding” support to augment what learners can do and reason about on their path to understanding. Scaffolding allows learners to participate in complex cognitive performances, such as scientific visualization and model-based learning, that is more difficult or impossible without technical support. Increasing opportunities for learners to receive feedback from software tutors, teachers, and peers; to engage in reflection on their own learning processes; and to receive guidance toward progressive revisions that improve their learning and reasoning. Building local and global communities of teachers, administrators, students, parents, and other interested learners. Expanding opportunities for teachers’ learning. An important function of some of the new technologies is their use as tools of representation. Representational thinking is central to in-depth understanding and problem representation is one of the skills that distinguish subject experts from novices. Many of the tools also have the potential to provide multiple contexts and opportunities for learning and transfer, for both student-learners and teacher-learners. Technologies can be used as learning and problem-solving tools to promote both independent learning and collaborative networks of learners and practitioners. The use of new technologies in classrooms, or the use of any learning aid for that matter, is never solely a technical matter. The new electronic technologies, like any other educational resource, are used in a social environment and are, therefore, mediated by the dialogues that students have with each other and the teacher.
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School Educational software needs to be developed and implemented with a full understanding of the principles of learning and developmental psychology. Many new issues arise when one considers how to educate teachers to use new technologies effectively: What do they need to know about learning processes? What do they need to know about the technologies? What kinds of training are most effective for helping teachers use high-quality instructional programs? Understanding the issues that affect teachers who will be using new technologies is just as pressing as questions of the learning potential and developmental appropriateness of the technologies for children. Assessment to Support Learning Assessment and feedback are crucial for helping people learn. Assessment that is consistent with principles of learning and understanding should: Mirror good instruction. Happen continuously, but not intrusively, as a part of instruction. Provide information (to teachers, students, and parents) about the levels of understanding that students are reaching. Assessment should reflect the quality of students’ thinking, as well as what specific content they have learned. For this purpose, achievement measurement must consider cognitive theories of performance. Frameworks that integrate cognition and context in assessing achievement in science, for example, describe performance in terms of the content and process task demands of the subject matter and the nature and extent of cognitive activities likely to be observed in a particular assessment situation. The frameworks provide a basis for examining performance assessments that are designed to measure reasoning, understanding, and complex problem solving. The nature and purposes of an assessment also influence the specific cognitive activities that are expressed by the student. Some assessment tasks emphasize a particular performance, such as explanation, but deemphasize others, such as self-monitoring. The kind and quality of cognitive activities observed in an assessment situation are functions of the content and process demands of the tasks involved. Similarly, the task demands for process skills can be conceived along a continuum from constrained to open. In open situations, explicit directions are minimized in order to see how students generate and carry out appropriate process skills as they solve problems. Characterizing assessments in terms of components of competence and the content and process demands of the subject matter brings specificity to assessment objectives, such as “higher level thinking” and “deep understanding.” This approach links specific content with the
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School underlying cognitive processes and the performance objectives that the teacher has in mind. With articulated objectives and an understanding of the correspondence between task features and cognitive activities, the content and process demands of tasks are brought into alignment with the performance objectives. Effective teachers see assessment opportunities in ongoing classroom learning situations. They continually attempt to learn about students’ thinking and understanding and make it relevant to current learning tasks. They do a great deal of on-line monitoring of both group work and individual performances, and they attempt to link current activities to other parts of the curriculum and to students’ daily life experiences. Students at all levels, but increasingly so as they progress through the grades, focus their learning attention and energies on the parts of the curriculum that are assessed. In fact, the art of being a good student, at least in the sense of getting good grades, is tied to being able to anticipate what will be tested. This means that the information to be tested has the greatest influence on guiding students’ learning. If teachers stress the importance of understanding but then test for memory of facts and procedures, it is the latter that students will focus on. Many assessments developed by teachers overemphasize memory for procedures and facts; expert teachers, by contrast, align their assessment practices with their instructional goals of depth-of-understanding. Learning and Connections to Community Outside of formal school settings, children participate in many institutions that foster their learning. For some of these institutions, promoting learning is part of their goals, including after-school programs, as in such organizations as Boy and Girl Scout Associations and 4–H Clubs, museums, and religious education. In other institutions or activities, learning is more incidental, but learning takes place nevertheless. These learning experiences are fundamental to children’s—and adults’ —lives since they are embedded in the culture and the social structures that organize their daily activities. None of the following points about the importance of out-of-school learning institutions, however, should be taken to deemphasize the central role of schools and the kinds of information that can be most efficiently and effectively taught there. A key environment for learning is the family. In the United States, many families hold a learning agenda for their children and seek opportunities for their children to engage with the skills, ideas, and information in their communities. Even when family members do not focus consciously on instructional roles, they provide resources for children’s learning that are relevant to school and out-of-school ideas through family activities, the funds of
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School knowledge available within extended families and their communities, and the attitudes that family members display toward the skills and values of schooling. The success of the family as a learning environment, especially in the early years, has provided inspiration and guidance for some of the changes recommended in schools. The rapid development of children from birth to ages 4 or 5 is generally supported by family interactions in which children learn by observing and interacting with others in shared endeavors. Conversations and other interactions that occur around events of interest with trusted and skilled adults and child companions are especially powerful environments for learning. Many of the recommendations for changes in schools can be seen as extensions of the learning activities that occur within families. In addition, recommendations to include families in classroom activities and educational planning hold promise of bringing together two powerful systems for supporting children’s learning. Classroom environments are positively influenced by opportunities to interact with parents and community members who take interest in what they are doing. Teachers and students more easily develop a sense of community as they prepare to discuss their projects with people who come from outside the school and its routines. Outsiders can help students appreciate similarities and differences between classroom environments and everyday environments; such experiences promote transfer of learning by illustrating the many contexts for applying what they know. Parents and business leaders represent examples of outside people who can have a major impact on student learning. Broad-scale participation in school-based learning rarely happens by accident. It requires clear goals and schedules and relevant curricula that permit and guide adults in ways to help children learn. Conclusions Designing effective learning environments includes considering the goals for learning and goals for students. This comparison highlights the fact that there are various means for approaching goals of learning, and furthermore, that goals for students change over time. As goals and objectives have changed, so has the research base on effective learning and the tools that students use. Student populations have also shifted over the years. Given these many changes in student populations, tools of technology, and society’s requirements, different curricula have emerged along with needs for new pedagogical approaches that are more child-centered and more culturally sensitive, all with the objectives of promoting effective learning and adaptation (transfer). The requirement for teachers to meet such a diversity of challenges also illustrates why assessment needs to be a tool to help teach-
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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School ers determine if they have achieved their objectives. Assessment can guide teachers in tailoring their instruction to individual students’ learning needs and, collaterally, inform parents of their children’s progress. Supportive learning environments, which are the social and organizational structures in which students and teachers operate, need to focus on the characteristics of classroom environments that affect learning; the environments as created by teachers for learning and feedback; and the range of learning environments in which students participate, both in and out of school. Classroom environments can be positively influenced by opportunities to interact with others who affect learners, particularly families and community members, around school-based learning goals. New tools of technology have the potential of enhancing learning in many ways. The tools of technology are creating new learning environments, which need to be assessed carefully, including how their use can facilitate learning, the types of assistance that teachers need in order to incorporate the tools into their classroom practices, the changes in classroom organization that are necessary for using technologies, and the cognitive, social, and learning consequences of using these new tools.
Representative terms from entire chapter: