The science of learning (part 2)

Following on from “Learning that works (part 1)” which was about what happens in our brains regarding paying attention, this post looks at how we assimilate and associate ideas and form memories. It’s a bit oversimplified, but gives a sense of what’s going on, I hope.

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PS As the lovely @Nick_J_Rose has pointed out, I’ve simplified things and somewhat conflated the ideas of ‘chunking’ and ‘schema’ – the former being about working memory and the latter being about long term memory. I’m grateful as ever for his feedback and I’ll try and unpick this in the next blog. You can read more about chunking, schemas and prototypes here.

DISCLAIMER: I’m neitherĀ a qualified psychologist nor neuroscientist so please let me know if I’ve made any errors here. I’d be really interested in any feedback that you have – please comment below!

One Reply to “The science of learning (part 2)”

  1. Hi David what is fascinating is that all of these possible associations between different stimuli are probably neutral to begin with. That is each input is as likely to be associated with another input as any other input. Imagine the simple pairing of an aural stimulus “car” with a visual stimulus of a actual car. One could equally pair that same visual stimulus with the aural stimulus of “dog” for example although the ethics committee might take some convincing. Extrapolating to the classroom, learning could just as easily be associated with fun (and its associated emotions) as with misery. Teachers are not presented with a tabula Rosa but with a child whose matrices of associations are already largely hard wired. If these associations need to be modified to enhance learning then all is not lost: negative feedback loops mean that those associations that are strengthened, simultaneously weaken irrelevant associations thereby minimising the background noise and also with sufficient repetition weakening previously strong associations. So the incredible plastic brain can lay down schema that will serve its host for a lifetime given the right guidance, support and repetition repetition repetition. That sounds like a job description for a teacher!

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