How People Learn‎ > ‎

01. Introduction

        There are many new methods to better understand how people learn.  These include research in cognitive and development psychology, learning and transfer, anthropology, neuroscience, studies of teachers, and emerging technologies.  This disipline called Learning Science has profound implications on education - in the design of curriculum, teaching, and assessment.  More than anything, a paradigm shift from knowing and memorizing to practical application has come to bear.  Understanding how people learn can enable schools to make students become self-sustaining, lifelong learners.
        The Science of Learning has developed over the past 100+ years, making a large leap with behaviorism and deepening in complexity with the emergence of Cognitive Science in the 1950s.  A hallmark of Learning Science that grew out of that is the emphasis on learning with understanding, in comparison to just knowing disconnected basic facts.  The processes of learning have become important too. Constructivist ideas that all understanding, no matter how material is presented, is built upon pre-existing knowledge shows that classrooms must pay attention to students' knowledge and beliefs.  Research showing that students must be active in their own learning has showed the importance of meta-cognitive tasks such as self-assessments and reflections on what worked and needs improving.  Altogether, the discipline continues to evolve.  
        Several key research findings on learning have been made.  First, students come to the classroom with pre-existing ideas.  If they are not actively engaged, they may learn them for their tests but revert back to older ideas afterwords.  Second, to be competent at something, you need a deep foundation of knowledge and understand big ideas in a conceptual framework.  Finally, a metacognitive approach helps learners define their own goals and monitor their progress.  
        These findings have profound implications for the classroom.  Teachers must inquire into students' thinking, drawing out misconceptions and correcting them.  Assessment must be expanded to go beyond traditional testing.  Superficial coverage of material must be replaced with in-depth coverage of fewer topics, going in depth to the big ideas. Teachers need both subject specific and pedagogical knowledge to be good teachers.  Metacognitive activities must be a part of instruction in all subjects.  Evidence from research shows that when these three principles are incorporated into teaching, student achievement improves.   A focus on teaching methodology - traditional, progressive, inquiry-based, etc - is the wrong question to ask regarding effective teaching.  There is no universal best practice.  Rather, key learning principles within any methodology are the paramount parameter.
        Classroom environments are also affected by the key research findings.  Schools and classes must be learner centered.  Attention must be paid to what is taught, why, and what mastery is.  Formative assessments are essential to help assess student understanding. Finally, schools need norms that create a learning environment or support core learning values.  Not only must these factors apply to students, but also to adults in contexts such as professional development.  

What's going on?

        This chapter is giving a broad overview of the book.  First it develops some of the key research-based findings on education- which are that learning must focus on understanding, it must consider students' background understanding, and it must allow them to be active learners.   Then, after restating these three key findings, it breaks down the educational implications of each.  This gives the reader a big idea of what will be found in the book before they begin reading more specifics in each chapter.  

What makes you say that?

        It seems prudent to introduce the topics in the book in an introductory chapter, which is why I think it is giving a broad overview of the book.  I believe that they develop key research-based findings first because, as they explain, getting a conceptual framework is critical for effective learning.  So first they explain the overview to give the conceptual framework, then they begin filling in the details with the implications so that readers can understand the importance of each.  In this way, they are practicing exactly what they are preaching.