[NLII 2005] John Bransford on the learning sciences and technology

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John Bransford began by calling attention to the National Academy studies on How People Learn and two new publications, How Students Learn and Preparing Teachers for a Changing World (which will be out in February).

John is a terrifically engaging speaker with great examples.

How have the learning sciences helped us understand teaching and learning?

The Expertise literature is helpful here – an intricate connection between what you know about a subject matter and how that affects your ability to make inferences and synthesize knowledge. Schools are particularly well set-up to produce intert knowledge.

Expertise has an effect on what we notice in the first place – as described by N.R. Hanson in his work on Pattern of Discovery

Beyond “mile wide, inch deep” – good book is Understanding by Design

Start with what the enduring understandings in a field are, and build out from there.

One of the dilemmas is that the more expertise we have in a domain the more it becomes tacit, so that we think what we’re trying to explain is perfectly clear. So what is needed is pedagogical knowledge in addition to domain knowledge – the ability to understand what it’s really like to be a novice.

Adaptive vs. Routine expertise – in order to innovate, people need to think differently and let go of routine knowledge and be willing to let go of the efficiency of routine expertise.

What do we know about the development of expertise?

The constructive nature of knowing – the only way we learn something new is to build it on what we already know. In teaching we need to address existing preconceptions of concepts.

There are also preconceptions about what’s needed for success in the 21st century and what it means to be “lifelong learners”.

Addressing preconceptions.

Learning with understanding is very important.

Metacognition – learn to self-assess and actively question things.

They’ve built courses around this:

– the challenge

– your initial thoughts

– prespectives and resources from experts

– assessment & revision – see how your thoughts have changed

– later thoughts – the next time, here’s how I’ll apply what I’ve learned

This has lots of implications for how we do curriculum.

They’ve developed an architecture for building courses this way. See

Adding adaptive expertise to the picture. Two dimensions – efficiency and innovation. It’s not like you want one versus the other – you want the two to complement each other.

The process underlying innovation – what Edwin Land described as “the sudden cessation of stupidity”. It’s very tough emotionally. We need to help people learn how to innovate in an imperfect world, so innovations don’t do more harm than good.

The importance of quasi-repetitive tasks in spurring innovation in efficiency – students see the importance of building tools to help accomplish tasks multiple times. And, with encouragement, they realize that they can build better tools by working together bringing different expertises to the task. One of the problems we have in education is that we have people working in groups, but they all pretty much know the same things – need to build in ways fto bring distributed expertise to bear.

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