When parents set up study situations for their kids, idealized opportunities to cram stuff in their heads, how closely does that approximate real life learning conditions? You may not regard that as a valid question. You may not regard it as relevant. But kids and adults are natural learners. We just don't learn so well when we know the lessons to be contrived, artificial, with little direct impact and essentially irrelevant to our own lives.
Cognitive scientists do not deny that honest-to-goodness cramming can lead to a better grade on a given exam. But hurriedly jam-packing a brain is akin to speed-packing a cheap suitcase, as most students quickly learn — it holds its new load for a while, then most everything falls out.Far better than study habits for kids would be the habit of doing real things that create a sense of relevance and relationship as a scaffold for what they learn.
“With many students, it’s not like they can’t remember the material” when they move to a more advanced class, said Henry L. Roediger III, a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s like they’ve never seen it before.”
When the neural suitcase is packed carefully and gradually, it holds its contents for far, far longer. An hour of study tonight, an hour on the weekend, another session a week from now: such so-called spacing improves later recall, without requiring students to put in more overall study effort or pay more attention, dozens of studies have found.
Also on the subject of schools, Time Magazine's Cover Story for the week is about "What Makes a School Great." Part of the article is stimulated by a new movie, "Waiting for Superman," a documentary by the producer of An Inconvenient Truth. I have not had time to study the article, but it is very nice to see education taking an important place in the American discourse. Now, the challenge is simply to get people to better understand our hands. If we want education to move from the artificial and abstract to the concrete, reality based, experiential learning we all know most deeply engages us all, then the strategic implementation of the hands is the key to revolution.
Greg Thomas' bowl turning class for ESSA in the Clear Spring School wood shop is going well as you can see in the photos above and below.