Experiments Related to Philosophies of Ed

I found this one (“When Teaching Restrains Discovery”) accidentally when I was reading about the test anxiety study, and I liked the experiments, the results, and the description of both.

[T]his experience is relevant a longstanding debate about the best way to teach children, especially very young ones. One camp believes that children learn mostly through teaching and direct instruction. The other says that children learn mostly by exploring and figuring things out for themselves. To them, formal instruction is too passive, and makes for children that receive knowledge without engaging with it. On the other hand, people who favour more direct teaching argue that children need more guidance. Leaving them to explore on their own, through so-called “discovery learning”, is inefficient and ineffective. These are, of course, extreme positions and the debate is more subtle. Both approaches have their merits and good teachers face the challenge of finding a happy medium.

That’s never been clearer than in a new study by Elizabeth Bonawitz from University of California, Berkeley. Through two experiments with pre-schoolers, Bonawitz has found that teaching can be a “double-edge sword”. When teachers provided specific instructions about a new toy, children learned how to play with it more efficiently. But the lessons also curtailed their exploratory streak. They were less likely to play with the toy in new ways. Ultimately, they failed to find all of its secrets.

But it isn’t presented as a stark either/or. There are nuances considered, too, and suggested reasons for what is going on in the kids heads. Later, the author of the article writes:

Context clearly matters. When the apparently knowledgeable teachers in the experiments provide a seemingly complete lesson about the toy, the children deduce that there is a no more to learn. If the lesson is interrupted, or if the instructor seems like a novice, the child deduces that there is more to discover. Bonawitz thinks that these abilities start from a very early age, when children are still in pre-school or kindergarten.

As a bonus, it’s a short piece, too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s