Bookmarked The ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the classroom | The Psychologist (

There is evidence that instruction, practice and repetition works, if the aim is to retain large amounts of information, although it’s less clear whether you can successfully impose this on other people without a very strict regime of control. The quibble is more about philosophy of education and whether retaining large amounts of particular types of information is the goal we should have for our children’s education. And there are some difficult questions about exactly what the purpose is of requiring children to learn a lot of information before they are allowed to engage in critical thinking or question what they are learning.

Naomi Fisher pushes back on the ‘what works’ mantra and instead argues that how and why matter just as much. For example, she explains that if our focus is on developing critical thinkers, then drilling children with facts and figures will not necessarily get us there.

The cognitive model is only one of many. There is an extensive body of research which shows how, from a very early age, children are engaged as active agents in their learning and learn through play. They test hypotheses, problem solve and come up with creative solutions. Alison Gopnik, professor of developmental psychology at University of California, Berkeley, calls this the ‘child as scientist’ theory of learning, and anyone who has spent time with a young child will have seen it in action. They mix things together, they experiment with floating and sinking, they ask purposeful questions. My own daughter did a series of complex experiments aged about six when she would put various concoctions in the freezer, oven and in the bath under water, to see what would happen. The first I knew of it was when black smoke started emanating from the kitchen. Scientific enquiry was so alive in our home that every time I opened the fridge a new experiment fell out.

This reminds me of Gert Biesta’s three key arguments for a ‘good education‘: qualification, socialization and subjectification