Thursday, November 25, 2021

Building knowledge from the ground up


I read the post found here by a psychology teacher, Paul Cline, who writes on ‘thoughts on teaching and learning, and teaching psychology.


What is in the article is what I have been harping on for a decade. I have said that I learned from the experts - my 'dyslexic' students -that they had disengaged from learning to read due to confusion. They could not scaffold new learning to what they had already learned earlier. They could not blend because sounds of consonants were taught with extraneous sounds.


Approximately 20% of kids disengage from learning to read and misbehave in class to avoid shame. Most of them end up in juvenile detention.


Fortunately, a majority of the remaining 80% figure out how to blend by using patterns and analogies. Some of them learn to read, around grade 5, when they suddenly figure out how to read despite being taught the wrong sounds of consonants. 


Now, this article confirms what I have learned from the ‘experts’. 


Here are excerpts from the article and my comments.


This may mean that the content looks easier in some ways because it is more foundational but that fails to take into account that it is not easier to learn because there is no accessible store of already learned material in long-term memory on which to build. 


New learning depends on prior knowledge and so much of the early stages of a Psychology A level course are teaching those fundamental building blocks of the subject (and, of course, the same is true of other subjects like Economics or Sociology).


They need to get a handle on some of the foundational concepts and be able to apply them to lots of novel contexts.


My comment: The author is writing about Psychology but I believe this applies to all subjects and especially so with kids learning to decode. The ‘already learned material in long term memory’ is faulty and what is newly learned cannot be scaffolded to what was initially learned. Here is a post I wrote in 2018 on initial reading.


Everything slots into place, forming rich, interconnected webs of knowledge in long-term memory. Therefore, setting each new set of content in its place is key.


Every lesson starts with some form of retrieval practice, although it can obviously occur at other times…


Activating and connecting to prior learning, using examples to build deeper understanding and loads of retrieval practice and consolidation are all helpful ways to do this. 


My comment:

The holy grail, sought after by researchers/ scientists to reduce if not eradicate illiteracy, is the teaching of foundational skills correctly.

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