A Genuine Science Of Learning

Keith Devlin, Edge, Dec 29, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

There are four really good points in this quick overview of the future of learning. Keith Devlin is optimistic overall, saying we may be at the beginning of a genuine science of learning, much as medicine was at the beginning of the 20th century. This is not based on so-called neuroscience based on MRI - "A good analogy would be trying to diagnose an engine fault in a car by moving a thermometer over the hood." No, what new technology offers the hope of improved educational research - "Classroom studies invariably end up as studies of the teacher as much as of the students, and often measure the effect of the students’ home environment rather than what goes on in the classroom." It will allow us to dig deeper into real learning - "What is missing is any insight into what is actually going on in the student’s mind—something that can be very different from what the evidence shows." We need to know why a student comes up with right or wrong answers - "part of what is going on is that many earlier studies measured knowledge rather than thinking ability. The learning gains found in the studies I am referring to are not knowledge acquired or algorithmic procedures mastered, rather high-level problem solving ability."

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