Wednesday, August 13, 2003

How People Learn National Research Council
I've been refreshing my awareness of cognitive science: How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School was early on the list. Naturally, I turned quickly to the sections dealing with history education.

Page 16 gets things off to a rough start. "In humanities, [students'] preconceptions often include stereotypes or simplifications, as when history is understood as a struggle between good guys and bad guys." But that's exactly what history is. At least the really interesting parts.

The book goes on: Effective teaching, they say, teaches students to think like professional historians (ch. 7 "Effective Teaching: Examples in History"). "Expert people to understand the problematic nature of historical interpretation and analysis..."

Yeah. What we need is more people thinking like our history professorate.

Their basic point is right. Teachers should teach, and students learn, more in the fashion that "expert learners learn". But for Pete's sake, don't model the learning after history professors!

The judge who learns history to better his verdicts should be your example. The legislator who considers his vote; the mayor pushing for development. If you're looking for models of succesful learners, don't choose some professional investigator of sex habits in Byzantium. Make your model the entrepreneur who tempers his expectation about gold-rush markets, the voter who seeks 200 more years of the world's oldest constitution.

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