Learning to Learn training day – Jan 27th – early bird tickets available ’til Nov 30th

Hello!

In January, we are hosting our first ever training day, to share our adventures in Learning to Learn with other schools. Primary and secondary colleagues are welcome, although our experience was mainly with Year 7. If you would like to find out more about our approach to Learning to Learn, please see this article, which was published in the Curriculum Journal earlier this year. This includes evidence of significantly improved academic attainment, driven primarily by a closing of the Pupil Premium gap from the bottom up. You can also see a video of our talk at researchED in September, below.

Details of the training day are as follows:

Title: Rethinking Learning to Learn as a Complex Intervention: Raising the Bar, Closing the Gap.
Venue: Streatham & Clapham High School, 42 Abbotswood Rd, London SW16 1AW (nearest tube Balham, nearest train Streatham/Streatham Hill)
Time: 10.30-3.30pm
Price: £95 (£75 early bird, available until Nov 30th)
How to buy tickets: Visit the Eventbrite page.
Refreshments: Tea, coffee and lunch will be provided.

Our presentation at Research ED (September 2016):

We hope to see you in the new year!

Best wishes,

James & Kate

Making sense of the learning glossary: should this be “the knowledge” for educators?

by James Mannion |

This follows on from my last 2 blogs:

 

In this post, I would like to explain (to myself, as much as anything) why I have spent much of the last week pulling together a glossary of 225 learning terms, weighing in at a whopping 22.5K words.

My central argument is simply that learning is complex, multidimensional and dynamic. And so for an educator to speak only of ‘learning’ is like a weather presenter doing a bulletin using only the word ‘weather’, or a London tour guide referring to every passing attraction as ‘London’.

Recently, lots of teachers have become very excited about Cognitive Science. This is a welcome development, and it is notable that cognitive science features centrally in the learning glossary. But Cog Sci is not the only game in town, and it should not replace everything that has gone before.

To illustrate this point, consider two typical teaching scenarios: balancing equations in Chemistry, and drugs education in PSHE. The former requires modelling, explaining, rehearsal, repetition, deliberate practice, assessment, feedback. The latter requires a safe environment, the establishment of ground rules, clarity of expectations around confidentiality vs child protection; student research into different kinds of drugs, or local news stories perhaps; discussions around various scenarios; role play exercises; opportunities for quiet reflection. It might also involve a dramatic technique such as forum theatre, so that students can visualise the different ways in which someone might respond if they were offered drugs, rewinding and running the action to consider how different choices might play out. Such lessons are less concerned with the acquisition and retention of declarative knowledge (although it might involve this), and more concerned with notions of choices, consequences and responsibilities; developing and internalising viewpoints, attitudes and dispositions… in short, learning that is concerned with behaviour change. In this sense, a PSHE teacher might draw upon notions of experiential learning, exploratory talk, significant learning and the core conditions that enable personal growth and self-actualisation to unfold.

Here are a few more example of ways in which glossary entries might be of relevance to schoolteachers:

Accidental learning: Lessons often centre around students learning a small number of predetermined ‘learning objectives’. For students and teachers, it is important to recognise that other kinds of learning exist, which can be of equal value to that which is prescribed. Is it possible to find ways to recognise and celebrate such accidental learning, rather than seeing it as existing in opposition to the “order of business”?

Accredited learning: Schools do not typically support non-accredited learning, except through optional after-school clubs and enrichment programmes. Even prior to GCSE, learning is organised and frequently justified with a view to gaining accreditation down the line. For students and teachers, it is worth remembering that non-accredited learning also exists (e.g. interests, hobbies) which are healthy and valuable, and worthy of recognition and celebration. Some truly exceptional piano players choose never to sit graded exams. Can schools do more to recognise and build upon the non-accredited learning that many students do outside of school? Could schools justify running non-accredited courses, should students wish to pursue them?

Action research: In relation to professional development, simply practising “what has worked elsewhere” is no guarantee that that thing will “work” in any given context. In fact, well-intentioned, evidence-informed interventions are frequently found to be less effective than doing “business as usual”. The only way around this problem is for practitioners to systematically evaluate the impact of what they do, with a view to continually improving their practice through what Dylan Wiliam refers to as ‘disciplined inquiry’.

Attentional capture: This may be useful to consider in relation to aspects of classroom layout, behaviour management or helping students develop strategies for “managing distractions”.

I think I’ll leave it there, before I get into the B’s…

Should this glossary, or something like it, be seen as “the knowledge” for educators?

Recently, there was some debate about whether schools should require all young people to learn the name of every capital city in the world. Regardless of whether you think we should do this or not, we should recognise the idea for what it is: a proposal to institutionally enforce the acquisition and retention, presumably through repeated exposure, rehearsal, retrieval and assessment until each student has achieved mastery of a fairly large, arbitrarily selected body of explicit, declarative knowledge.

When it comes to professional knowledge, the case for establishing a common understanding between members of a profession becomes somewhat stronger. As such I think there is a compelling case for suggesting that all teachers, as society’s entrusted architects and engineers of learning, should seek to familiarise themselves with the concepts and definitions featured in the glossary. Different types of learning relate to different types of activities, and the more we know and understand about the minutiae of learning, the better at learning we all will be – teachers and students alike. What do you think?

A glossary of learning terms

by James Mannion |

In my last post I argued that, for educators at least, the word ‘learning’ is so vague as to be meaningless except as an umbrella term for “what we hope students will do”. My central argument is that learning is complex, dynamic and multidimensional. As such, when discussing learning students and teachers should seek to identify, as clearly as possible, the specific processes and features of learning that they are interested in developing.

In this post, I offer a glossary of learning terms, with the aim of helping myself and others develop more nuance in our discussions about learning. I hope this will prove useful, not least because it has taken me ages. I have certainly learned a lot in the process of pulling it together.

There are 225 terms in this first draft. An index can be found at the bottom of the page. For each definition, I have included a link to the source; however, any mistakes in the sourcing or rephrasing of definitions are all mine. If there are any additional terms you would like to see in the list – or if you find any mistakes or scope for improvement in the definitions included here – please add a comment at the bottom of the page. 

 

Accidental learning

Accidental (aka incidental) learning is unintentional or unplanned learning that results from other activities. It occurs often in the workplace and when using computers, in the process of completing tasks. It happens in many ways: through observation, repetition, social interaction, and problem solving; from implicit meanings in classroom or workplace policies or expectations; by watching or talking to colleagues or experts about tasks; from mistakes, assumptions, beliefs, and attributions; or from being forced to accept or adapt to situations. This “natural” way of learning has characteristics of what is considered most effective in formal learning situations: it is situated, contextual, and social. (source)

 

Accredited learning

Learning that is accredited or certificated by an educational institution or other external body such as an exam board. (source)

 

Action research 

Action research is a systematic approach to professional development which is widely used in the field of education. It is a reflective process of progressive problem-solving, carried out in either individually or collaboratively, to improve personal and/or organisational practices. Action research involves actively participating in a change situation, often via an existing organization, whilst simultaneously conducting research. As designers and stakeholders, researchers work with others to propose a new course of action to help their community improve its work practices (source). An example for how teachers can get started with small-scale action research can be found here.

 

Active learning

Active learning is generally defined as any instructional method that engages students in the learning process. In short, active learning requires students to do meaningful learning activities and think about what they are doing. While this definition could include traditional activities such as homework, in practice, active learning refers to activities that are introduced into the classroom. The core elements of active learning are student activity and engagement in the learning process. Active learning is often contrasted to the traditional lecture where students receive instruction in the absence of agency. (source)

 

Accelerated learning

  1. An intensive method of study which enables material to be learnt in a relatively short time.
  2. A programme of learning which allows academically able children to progress through school more rapidly than others. (source)

 

Accommodation

This term stemmed from the work of Jean Piaget and his work on cognitive development of children. Accommodation is the cognitive process of revising existing cognitive schemas, perceptions, and understanding so that new information can be incorporated. In order to make sense of some new information, you actual adjust information you already have (schemas you already have, etc.) to make room for this new information. This is related to assimilation. (source)

 

Acculturation

Cultural modification of an individual, group, or people by adapting to or borrowing traits from another culture;  a merging of cultures as a result of prolonged contact. (source)

 

Adaptive learning

Adaptive learning is an educational method which uses computers as interactive teaching devices, and to orchestrate the allocation of human and mediated resources according to the unique needs of each learner. Computers adapt the presentation of educational material according to students’ learning needs, as indicated by their responses to questions, tasks and experiences. The technology encompasses aspects derived from various fields of study including computer science, education, psychology, and brain science. (source)

 

Advance organisers

A cognitive instructional strategy used to promote the learning and retention of new information. (source)

 

Argumentation theory 

Argumentation theory, or argumentation, is the interdisciplinary study of how conclusions can be reached through logical reasoning; that is, claims based, soundly or not, on premises. It includes the arts and sciences of civil debate, dialogue, conversation, and persuasion. It studies rules of inference, logic, and procedural rules in both artificial and real world settings. (source)

 

Artificial intelligence

Intelligence exhibited by machines. In computer science, an ideal “intelligent” machine is a flexible rational agent that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximise its chance of success at some goal. Colloquially, the term “artificial intelligence” is applied when a machine mimics “cognitive” functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as “learning” and “problem solving” (source)

 

Assessment for learning

Assessment for Learning is the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there. Assessment for Learning is also known as formative assessment, or responsive (or agile) teaching. (source)

 

Assimilation 

This term stemmed from the work of Jean Piaget and his work on cognitive development of children. Assimilation is the cognitive process of fitting new information into existing cognitive schemas, perceptions, and understanding. This means that when you are faced with new information, you make sense of this information by referring to information you already have (information processed and learned previously) and try to fit the new information into the information you already have. A similar process is accommodation (another one of Piaget’s processes), but with accommodation the information you already have has to be adjusted to incorporate the new information. (source)

 

Associative learning

Associative learning is the process by which someone learns an association between two stimuli, or a behaviour and a stimulus. The two forms of associative learning are classical and operant conditioning. (source)

 

Associative memory

The ability to learn and remember the relationship between unrelated items such as the name of someone we have just met or the aroma of a particular perfume. (source)

 

Asynchronous learning

A student-centered teaching method that uses online learning resources to facilitate information sharing outside the constraints of time and place among a network of people. (source)

 

Attention

Research suggests a close link between working memory and what is known as attentional capture, the process in which a person pays attention to specific information. (Source)

 

Attentional capture

The unintentional focusing of attention, for example by a change in a stimulus, which interrupts other processing. For example, a person paying attention to a dog suddenly shifts their attention to a motor vehicle accident nearby. (source) Attentional capture can happen either explicitly or implicitly. Explicit attentional capture is when a stimulus that a person has not been attending to becomes obvious enough that the person begins to attend to it and becomes aware of its existence. Implicit attentional capture is when a stimulus that a person has not been attending to has an impact on the person’s behaviour, whether or not they’re aware of that impact or the stimulus. (source)

 

Autobiographical memory

Autobiographical memory is a memory system consisting of episodes recollected from an individual’s life, based on a combination of episodic (personal experiences and specific objects, people and events experienced at particular time and place) and semantic (general knowledge and facts about the world) memory. It is thus a type of explicit memory. (source)

 

Behaviour for learning

Behaviour4learning (B4L) emphasises the crucial link between the way in which  children and young people learn and their social knowledge and behaviour. In doing this the focus is upon establishing positive relationships across three elements of self, others and curriculum. (source)

 

Behaviourism

The theory that human and animal behaviour can be explained in terms of conditioning, without appeal to thoughts or feelings, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behaviour patterns. (source) Behaviourism is a worldview that assumes a learner is essentially passive, responding to environmental stimuli. The learner starts off as a clean slate (i.e. tabula rasa) and behaviour is shaped through positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement. Learning is defined as a change in behaviour in the learner. (source)

 

Blended learning

A formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through delivery of content and instruction via digital and online media with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace. (source)

 

Blocking

A dominant mode of curriculum design in schools, whereby material is taught in blocks (e.g. AAABBB, rather than for example ABABAB). (source) See also: interleaving.

 

Central executive

The central executive is a component of the model of working memory proposed by Alan Baddeley. It is a flexible system responsible for the control and regulation of cognitive processes. It has the following functions: binding information from a number of sources into coherent episodes; coordination of the slave systems; shifting between tasks or retrieval strategies; selective attention and inhibition. It can be thought of as a supervisory system that controls cognitive processes and intervenes when they go astray. (source)

 

Chunking

A strategy that can be used to improve a person’s short-term memory. It involves reducing long strings of information that can be difficult to remember down into shorter, more manageable chunks. (source)

 

Cognition

The mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses. It encompasses processes such as knowledge, attention, memory and working memory, judgment and evaluation, reasoning and “computation”, problem solving and decision making, comprehension and production of language, etc. (source)

 

Cognitive acceleration

An approach to teaching designed to develop students’ thinking ability, developed by Michael Shayer and Philip Adey at King’s College London. The approach builds on work by Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky and takes a constructivist approach. Examples of associated programmes include Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education (CASE) and Cognitive Acceleration through Maths Education (CAME). (source)

 

Cognitive bias

A cognitive bias refers to a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion. Individuals create their own “subjective social reality” from their perception of the input. An individual’s construction of social reality, not the objective input, may dictate their behaviour in the social world. Thus, cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality. Many different types of cognitive bias have been identified – e.g. see here). (source)

 

Cognitive conflict

A term educationalists use for the idea of cognitive dissonance. It can be broadly defined as the mental discomfort produced when someone is confronted with new information that contradicts their prior beliefs and ideas (source). Cognitive conflict is a central feature in the Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education (CASE) and Cognitive Acceleration through Maths Education (CAME) programmes.

 

Cognitive dissonance 

The state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change. (source)

 

Cognitive enhancers (aka nootropics)

Drugs, supplements, or other substances that improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals. The use of cognition-enhancing drugs by healthy individuals in the absence of a medical indication is one of the most debated topics among neuroscientists, psychiatrists, and physicians which spans a number of issues, including the ethics and fairness of their use, concerns over adverse effects, and the diversion of prescription drugs for nonmedical uses, among others. Nonetheless, the international sales of cognition-enhancing supplements exceeded US$1 billion in 2015 and the global demand for these compounds is still growing rapidly. (source)

 

Cognitive load

In cognitive science, cognitive load refers to the total amount of mental effort being used in the working memory. Cognitive load theory was developed out of the study of problem solving by John Sweller in the late 1980s. Sweller argued that instructional design can be used to reduce cognitive load in learners. Cognitive load theory differentiates cognitive load into three types: intrinsic, extraneous, and germane. Intrinsic cognitive load is the effort associated with a specific topic. Extraneous cognitive load refers to the way information or tasks are presented to a learner. And, germane cognitive load refers to the work put into creating a permanent store of knowledge, or a schema. (source)

 

Cognitive motivation  

Cognitive theories of motivation assume that behaviour is directed as a result of the active processing and interpretation of information. Motivation is not seen as a mechanical or innate set of processes but as a purposive and persistent set of behaviours based on the information available. (source)

 

Cognitive science 

The study of thought, learning, and mental organization, which draws on aspects of psychology, linguistics, philosophy, and computer modelling. (source)

 

Common coding theory

Common coding theory is a cognitive psychology theory describing how perceptual representations (e.g. of things we can see and hear) and motor representations (e.g. of hand actions) are linked. The theory claims that there is a shared representation (a common code) for both perception and action. More important, seeing an event activates the action associated with that event, and performing an action activates the associated perceptual event. Recently, the common coding theory received increased interest from researchers in developmental psychology, cognitive neuroscience, robotics, and social psychology. (source)

 

Communicative action

In sociology, communicative action is cooperative action undertaken by individuals based upon mutual deliberation and argumentation. The term was developed by German philosopher-sociologist Jürgen Habermas in his work The Theory of Communicative Action. (source)

 

Community of inquiry

Broadly defined as any group of individuals involved in a process of empirical or conceptual inquiry into problematic situations. Emphasizes that knowledge is necessarily embedded within a social context and, thus, requires inter-subjective agreement among those involved in the process of inquiry for legitimacy. (source)

 

Competency-based learning

Competency-based learning or competency-based education and training is an approach to teaching and learning more often used in learning concrete skills than abstract learning. It differs from other non-related approaches in that the unit of learning is extremely fine grained. Rather than a course or a module every individual skill/learning outcome, known as a competency, is one single unit. Learners work on one competency at a time, which is likely a small component of a larger learning goal. The student is evaluated on the individual competency, and only once they have mastered it do they move on to others. After that, higher or more complex competencies are learned to a degree of mastery and isolated from other topics. Another common component of Competency-based learning is the ability to skip learning modules entirely if the learner can demonstrate they already have mastery. That can be done either through prior learning assessment or formative testing. (source)

 

Compulsory learning

Compulsory education refers to a period of education that is required of all persons and is imposed by law. Depending on the country, this education may take place at a registered school (schooling) or at home (homeschooling). (source)

 

Concrete examples

A technique for learning / memorising abstract ideas using real-world objects or familiar experiences.

 

Conditioning, classical 

A learning process that occurs when two stimuli are repeatedly paired: a response which is at first elicited by the second stimulus is eventually elicited by the first stimulus alone. (source)

 

Conditioning, operant

A type of learning in which the strength of a behaviour is modified by the behaviour’s consequences, such as reward or punishment. (source)

 

Confirmation bias

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning. (source)

 

Constructivism

Constructivism is a philosophy of learning founded on the premise that, by reflecting on our experiences, we construct our own understanding of the world we live in. Each of us generates our own “rules” and “mental models,” which we use to make sense of our experiences. Learning, therefore, is simply the process of adjusting our mental models to accommodate new experiences. (source)

 

Contextual interference

The contextual interference effect is a learning phenomenon where interference during practice is beneficial to skill learning. That is, higher levels of contextual interference lead to poorer practice performance than lower levels while yielding superior retention and transfer performance. (source)

 

Convergent thinking

Convergent thinking is a term coined by Joy Paul Guilford as the opposite of divergent thinking. It generally means the ability to give the “correct” answer to standard questions that do not require significant creativity, for instance in most tasks in school and on standardized multiple-choice tests for intelligence. (source)

 

Cooperative learning

Cooperative learning is an educational approach which aims to organize classroom activities into academic and social learning experiences. There is much more to cooperative learning than merely arranging students into groups, and it has been described as “structuring positive interdependence.” (source)

 

Core conditions

Carl Rogers asserted that the most important factor in successful therapy (i.e. one in which the client is able to self-actualise) is the relational climate created by the therapist’s attitude to their client. He specified three interrelated core conditions: (1) Congruence – the willingness to transparently relate to clients without hiding behind a professional or personal façade; (2) Unconditional positive regard – the therapist offers an acceptance and prizing for their client for who he or she is without conveying disapproving feelings, actions or characteristics and demonstrating a willingness to attentively listen without interruption, judgement or giving advice; and 3) Empathy – the therapist communicates their desire to understand and appreciate their client’s perspective. Rogers believed that a therapist who embodies these three critical and reflexive attitudes will help liberate their client to more confidently express their true feelings without fear of judgement, thus enabling significant learning (defined as that which affects the behaviour of the individual) to take place. (source)

 

Core knowledge

Core Knowledge is a curriculum used in the United States. It is a systematic syllabus of topics to be studied by students in prekindergarten through 8th grades. It includes topics and subtopics in language arts, world history, American history, geography, visual arts, music, mathematics, and science. (source)

 

Creativity

Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible (such as an idea, a scientific theory, a musical composition, or a joke) or a physical object (such as an invention, a literary work, or a painting). Scholarly interest in creativity involves many definitions and concepts pertaining to a number of disciplines: psychology, cognitive science, education, philosophy (particularly philosophy of science), technology, theology, sociology, linguistics, business studies, song-writing, and economics, covering the relations between creativity and general intelligence, mental and neurological processes, personality type and creative ability, creativity and mental health; the potential for fostering creativity through education and training, especially as augmented by technology; the maximisation of creativity for national economic benefit, and the application of creative resources to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning. (source)

 

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skilfully conceptualizing, applying, analysing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness. (source)

 

Cues

Cues, or retrieval cues, are stimuli that help you retrieve a certain memory. When we make a new memory, we include certain information about the situation that act as triggers to access the memory. There are several types of cue. A sensory cue is a property of the world that the perceiver is interested in perceiving. Sensory cues include visual cues, auditory cues, haptic cues, olfactory cues, environmental cues, and so on. Sensory cues are a fundamental part of theories of perception. Examples of other cue types include semantic, state-dependent, context-dependent, environmental, interpersonal, emotional, body-state etc. (source)

 

Cue-dependent forgetting 

Cue-dependent forgetting, or retrieval failure, is the failure to recall information without memory cues. The term either pertains to semantic cues, state-dependent cues or context-dependent cues. For example, if someone tries and fails to recollect the memories he had about a vacation he went on, and someone mentions the fact that he hired a classic car during this vacation, this may make him remember all sorts of things from that trip, such as what he ate there, where he went and what books he read. (source)

 

Cultural literacy

A term coined by E. D. Hirsch, referring to the ability to understand and participate fluently in a given culture. Cultural literacy is an analogy to literacy proper (the ability to read and write letters). A literate reader knows the object-language’s alphabet, grammar, and a sufficient set of vocabulary; a culturally literate person knows a given culture’s signs and symbols, including its language, particular dialectic, stories, entertainment, idioms, idiosyncrasies, and so on. The culturally literate person is able to talk to and understand others of that culture with fluency, while the culturally illiterate person fails to understand culturally-conditioned allusions, references to past events, idiomatic expressions, jokes, names, places, etc. (source)

 

Cumulative talk

One of three modes of classroom interaction discussed by Neil Mercer and colleagues (see also exploratory talk, disputational talk, Interthinking). In cumulative talk, speakers build positively but uncritically on what the other has said. Partners use talk to construct a ‘common knowledge’ by accumulation. Cumulative discourse is characterised by repetitions, confirmations and elaborations. “Everyone simply accepts and agrees with what other people say. Children do use talk to share knowledge, but they do so in an uncritical way. Children repeat and elaborate each other’s ideas, but they don’t evaluate them carefully” (source). Cumulative talk may have educational value, for example when sharing or pooling ideas.

 

Decay theory 

Decay theory proposes that memory fades due to the mere passage of time. Information is therefore less available for later retrieval as time passes and memory, as well as memory strength, wears away. When we learn something new, a neurochemical “memory trace” is created. However, over time this trace slowly disintegrates. Actively rehearsing information is believed to be a major factor counteracting this temporal decline. (source)

 

Declarative memory 

Declarative memory (“knowing what”) is memory of facts and events, and refers to those memories that can be consciously recalled (or “declared”). It is sometimes called explicit memory, since it consists of information that is explicitly stored and retrieved, although it is more properly a subset of explicit memory. (source)

 

Deductive learning

A deductive approach to teaching starts by giving learners rules, then examples, then practice (working from the general to the specific). It is often viewed as a teacher-centred approach. This is compared with an inductive approach, which starts with examples and asks learners to find rules (working from the specific to the general). Inductive learning is often viewed as a more learner-centred approach. (source)

 

Deschooling

Deschooling is a term used by both education philosophers and proponents of alternative education and/or homeschooling, though it refers to different things in each context. It was popularized by Ivan Illich in his 1971 book Deschooling Society. Philosophically, it refers to the belief that schools and other learning institutions are incapable of providing the best possible education for some or most individuals. Some extend this concept beyond the individual and call for an end to schools in general. This is based on the belief that most people learn better independently, outside of an institutional environment, at a self-determined pace, using appropriate technical infrastructure. This is the meaning of the term as used by Illich. Another common criticism is that institutionalized schooling is used as a tool for the engineering of an ignorant, conformist working class through constant schedules and prearranged time blocks and one-size-fits-all teaching methods. Practical alternatives arising in place of institutionalized learning have been free schools, unschooling at home and forming networks with other deschooling families and individuals. (source)

 

Desirable difficulties

A desirable difficulty is a learning task that requires a considerable but desirable amount of effort, thereby improving long-term performance. The term was first coined by Robert A. Bjork in 1994. As the name suggests, desirable difficulties should be both desirable and difficult. Research suggests that while difficult tasks might slow down learning initially, the long term benefits are greater than with easy tasks. (source)

 

Dialogic learning

Dialogic learning is learning that takes place through dialogue. It is typically the result of egalitarian dialogue; in other words, the consequence of a dialogue in which different people provide arguments based on validity claims and not on power claims. (source)

 

Diffuse mode thinking 

Contrasts with ‘focused mode’. ‘Diffuse mode’ refers to a relaxed thinking state that the brain settles into when resting. Diffuse mode thinking is seen as important in creativity. (source)

 

Direct instruction

An instructional approach and curriculum materials developed by Siegfried Englemann and Carl Bereiter in the late 1960s, based on the classical behaviourist stimulus/response/conditioning models developed by B.F. Skinner. It is a scripted program where teachers are given cues to follow throughout a lesson. Student interaction is largely choral responses following a teacher signal. Associated with, but distinct from, explicit instruction. (source)

 

Disputational talk

One of three modes of classroom interaction discussed by Neil Mercer and colleagues (see also exploratory talk, cumulative talk, Interthinking (source)). In cumulative talk, speakers build positively but uncritically on what the other has said. Partners use talk to construct a ‘common knowledge’ by accumulation. Disputational discourse is characterised by disagreement and individualised decision making. Disputational talk also has some characteristic discourse features – short exchanges consisting of assertions and challenges or counter assertions. “There is a lot of disagreement and everyone just makes their own decisions. There are few attempts to pool resources, or to offer constructive criticism. There are often a lot of interactions of the ‘Yes it is! – No it’s not!’ kind. The atmosphere is competitive rather than co-operative” (source). While disputational talk characterises much public discourse (journalistic interviews, Prime Minister’s Questions), is difficult to conceive of an educationally useful role for such talk.

 

Distance learning

A method of studying in which lectures are broadcast or lessons are conducted by correspondence, without the student needing to attend a school or college. (source)

 

Divergent thinking

Divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. It is often used in conjunction with its cognitive colleague, convergent thinking, which follows a particular set of logical steps to arrive at one solution, which in some cases is a ‘correct’ solution. By contrast, divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing, ‘non-linear’ manner, such that many ideas are generated in an emergent cognitive fashion. Many possible solutions are explored in a short amount of time, and unexpected connections are drawn. After the process of divergent thinking has been completed, ideas and information may be organized and structured using convergent thinking. (source)

 

Domains

Benjamin Bloom has suggested three domains of learning: cognitive (to recall, calculate, discuss, analyze, problem solve, etc), psychomotor (to dance, swim, ski, dive, drive a car, ride a bike, etc); and affective (to like something or someone, love, appreciate, fear, hate, worship, etc). These domains are not mutually exclusive. For example, in learning to play chess, the person must learn the rules (cognitive domain)—but must also learn how to set up the chess pieces and how to properly hold and move a chess piece (psychomotor). Furthermore, later in the game the person may even learn to love the game itself, value its applications in life, and appreciate its history (affective domain). (source)

 

Drama-based instruction

Drama-based instruction is an umbrella term for a collection of teaching tools (including interactive games, improvisation, and role-playing) designed to be used in conjunction with classroom curriculum. The American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE) defines drama-based learning strategies as “an improvisational, non-exhibitional, process-centered form of drama in which participants are guided by a leader to imagine, enact, and reflect upon human experiences.” Other terms for drama-based instruction include: creative drama, informal drama, creative play acting, improvisational drama, educational drama, role drama, and process drama. (source)

 

Dreyfuss model of skill acquisition

In the fields of education and operations research, the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition is a model of how students acquire skills through formal instruction and practicing. The original model proposes that a student passes through five distinct stages: novice, competence, proficiency, expertise, and mastery. (source)

 

Drill

Disciplined, repetitious exercise as a means of teaching and perfecting a skill or procedure. b. A task or exercise for teaching a skill or procedure by repetition: conducting a fire drill; drills for entering a classroom; drills for learning the multiplication tables. (source)

 

Dual coding 

Dual-coding theory (DCT) is a theory of cognition, hypothesized by Allan Paivio of the University of Western Ontario in 1971. In developing this theory, Paivio used the idea that the formation of mental images aids in learning (Reed, 2010). According to Paivio, there are two ways a person could expand on learned material: verbal associations and visual imagery. DCT postulates that both visual and verbal information is used to represent information. There are limitations to the DCT. For example, DCT does not take into account the possibility of cognition being mediated by something other than words and images. Another limitation of DCT is that it is only valid for tests on which people are asked to focus on identifying how concepts are related (Reed, 2010). If associations between a word and an image cannot be formed, it is much harder to remember and recall the word at a later point in time. While this limits the effectiveness of the dual-coding theory, it is still valid over a wide range of circumstances and can be used to improve memory (Reed, 2010). (source)

 

Echoic memory

Echoic memory is one of the sensory memory registers; a component of sensory memory (SM) that is specific to retaining auditory information. The sensory memory for sounds that people have just perceived is the form of echoic memory. Unlike visual memory, in which our eyes can scan the stimuli over and over, the auditory stimuli cannot be scanned over and over. Overall, echoic memories are stored for slightly longer periods of time than iconic memories (visual memories). Auditory stimuli are received by the ear one at a time before they can be processed and understood. For instance, hearing the radio is very different from reading a magazine. A person can only hear the radio once at a given time, while the magazine can be read over and over again. It can be said that the echoic memory is like a “holding tank” concept, because a sound is unprocessed (or held back) until the following sound is heard, and only then can it be made meaningful. This particular sensory store is capable of storing large amounts of auditory information that is only retained for a short period of time (3–4 seconds). This echoic sound resonates in the mind and is replayed for this brief amount of time shortly after the presentation of auditory stimuli. (source)

 

Ed tech

Educational technology is defined by the Association for Educational Communications and Technology as “the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources. (source)

 

Elaborative interrogation 

Elaborative interrogation is a strategy to help you remember meaningful information. The idea behind the strategy is that relevant prior knowledge is not always readily activated when you are trying to learn new information, and sometimes help is needed to make the right connections. Asking yourself questions about a topic, and answering them, can help add elaborative detail to your knowledge schema for that topic. (source)

 

E-learning

Learning conducted via electronic media, typically on the Internet. (source)

 

Elicitation

Elicitation refers to a range of techniques which enable a teacher to get learners to provide information, rather than giving it to them. Elicitation can also be used as a research method. For example, photo-elicitation is a method of interview in sociology that uses visual images to elicit comments from an interviewee. (source)

 

Embodied cognition 

Embodied cognition is the theory that many features of human, or other types of, cognition are shaped by aspects of the body beyond the brain. The features of cognition include high level mental constructs (such as concepts and categories) and human performance on various cognitive tasks (such as reasoning or judgment). The aspects of the body include the motor system, the perceptual system, the body’s interactions with the environment (situatedness) and the assumptions about the world that are built into the body and the brain. (source)

 

Emotional intelligence  

Emotional intelligence (EI) or emotional quotient (EQ) is the capability of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, to use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour, and to manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt environments or achieve one’s goal(s). Although the term first appeared in a 1964 paper by Michael Beldoch, it gained popularity in the 1995 book by that title, written by the author, psychologist, and science journalist Daniel Goleman. Since this time Goleman’s 1995 theory has been criticized within the scientific community. (source)

 

Empathy

Often featuring centrally in accounts of ‘Social and Emotional Learning’. empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feelings with the heart of another. There are many definitions for empathy which encompass a broad range of emotional states. Types of empathy include cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, and somatic empathy. In the development of human empathy, individual differences appear, ranging from no apparent empathic ability, or empathy which is harmful to self or others, to well-balanced empathy, including the ability to distinguish between self and other. Various theories and aspects of empathy have been researched, including empathy within nonhuman animals. (source)

 

Encoding

Memory involves the encode, storage and recall or retrieval of information. Encoding allows the perceived item of use or interest to be converted into a construct that can be stored within the brain and recalled later from short-term or long-term memory. Working memory stores information for immediate use or manipulation. This can be aided by ‘hooking onto’, or drawing upon previously archived items stored in long-term memory. (source)
Enculturation

Enculturation is the process by which people learn the requirements of their surrounding culture and acquire values and behaviours appropriate or necessary in that culture. As part of this process, the influences that limit, direct, or shape the individual (whether deliberately or not) include parents, other adults, and peers. If successful, enculturation results in competence in the language, values, and rituals of the culture. Enculturation is related to socialization. In some academic fields, socialization refers to the deliberate shaping of the individual. In others, the word may cover both deliberate and informal enculturation. See also: acculturation. (source)

 

Engagement

In education, student engagement refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education. Generally speaking, the concept of “student engagement” is predicated on the belief that learning improves when students are inquisitive, interested, or inspired, and that learning tends to suffer when students are bored, dispassionate, disaffected, or otherwise “disengaged.” Stronger student engagement or improved student engagement are common instructional objectives expressed by educators. (source) However, recently engagement has been viewed by some as a “poor proxy for learning” (e.g. see here).

 

Engram

Engrams (aka memory traces) are theorised to be means by which memories are stored as biophysical or biochemical changes in the brain (and other neural tissue) in response to external stimuli. The existence of engrams is posited by some scientific theories to explain the persistence of memory and how memories are stored in the brain. The existence of neurologically defined engrams is not significantly disputed, though their exact mechanism and location has been a focus of persistent research for many decades. (source)

 

Episodic buffer

The original 3-component model of working memory was updated by Baddeley in 2000 after the model failed to explain the results of various experiments. An additional component was added called the episodic buffer. The episodic buffer acts as a ‘backup’ store which communicates with long term memory, components of working memory, and perceptions, and which is centrally involved in conscious awareness. (source)

 

Episodic memory

Episodic memory is the memory of autobiographical events (times, places, associated emotions, and other contextual who, what, when, where, why knowledge) that can be explicitly stated. It is the collection of past personal experiences that occurred at a particular time and place. (source)

 

Epistemology

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge. Epistemology studies the nature of knowledge, the rationality of belief, and justification. Much of the debate in epistemology centers on four areas: (1) the philosophical analysis of the nature of knowledge and how it relates to such concepts as truth, belief, and justification, (2) various problems of skepticism, (3) the sources and scope of knowledge and justified belief, and (4) the criteria for knowledge and justification. (source)

 

Evaluation

Educational evaluation is the evaluation process of characterizing and appraising some aspect/s of an educational process. There are two common purposes in educational evaluation which are, at times, in conflict with one another. Educational institutions usually require evaluation data to demonstrate effectiveness to funders and other stakeholders, and to provide a measure of performance for marketing purposes. Educational evaluation is also a professional activity that individual educators need to undertake if they intend to continuously review and enhance the learning they seek to facilitate. (source)

 

Expeditionary learning

Expeditionary Learning Schools are models of comprehensive school reform based on the educational ideas of German educator Kurt Hahn, the founder of Outward Bound. There are more than 150 Expeditionary Learning Schools in 30 US states and the District of Columbia. They are exemplified by project-based learning expeditions, where students engage in interdisciplinary, in-depth study of compelling topics, in groups and in their community, with assessment coming through cumulative products, public presentations, and portfolios. According to the ELS Web site students undertake tasks requiring perseverance, fitness, craftsmanship, imagination, self-discipline, and significant achievement.

 

Experiential learning

Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience, and is more specifically defined as “learning through reflection on doing”. Hands-on learning is a form of experiential learning but does not necessarily involve students reflecting on their product. Experiential learning is distinct from rote or didactic learning, in which the learner plays a comparatively passive role. (source) A widely used approach is David Kolb’s 4-stage cycle of experiential learning

 

Expert

Cognitive psychologists define an expert as somebody who has a great deal of highly organized domain-specific knowledge, where a domain is a network of knowledge, such as chess, mathematics, or music. For experts, knowledge has morphed from many pieces into a unified whole. An expert can start with any piece of knowledge and explain how it fits with every other piece. (source)

 

Explicit instruction

Explicit instruction refers to teacher-centred instruction that is focused on clearly defined behavioural and cognitive goals and outcomes. These in turn are made ‘explicit’ or transparent to learners. Sociologist Basil Bernstein defined explicit instruction as featuring “strong classification” and “strong framing”: clearly defined and boundaried knowledge and skills, and teacher-directed interaction. Explicit instruction is affiliated with but not limited to highly structured, instruction in basic skills in early literacy and numeracy education. (source) Related to, but distinct from, direct instruction.

 

Explicit memory

Explicit memory (also called “declarative memory”) is one of the two major subdivisions of long-term memory. (The other is implicit memory.) Explicit memory requires conscious thought—such as recalling who came to dinner last night or naming animals that live in the rainforest. (source)

 

Exploratory talk 

One of three modes of classroom interaction discussed by Neil Mercer and colleagues (see also exploratory talk, disputational talk, Interthinking). In exploratory talk, speakers engage critically but constructively with each other’s ideas. Statements and suggestions are offered for joint consideration. These may be challenged and counter-challenged, but challenges are justified and alternative hypotheses are offered. Partners all actively participate, and opinions are sought and considered before decisions are jointly made. Compared with the other two types, in Exploratory Talk knowledge is made more publicly accountable and reasoning is more visible in the talk. (source)

 

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation refers to behaviour that is driven by external rewards such as money, fame, grades, and praise. This type of motivation arises from outside the individual, as opposed to intrinsic motivation, which originates inside of the individual. (source)

 

Facilitation

A facilitator of learning is a teacher who does not operate under the traditional concept of teaching, but rather is meant to guide and assist students in learning for themselves – picking apart ideas, forming their own thoughts about them, and owning material through self-exploration and dialogue. Facilitation is sometimes characterised through the slogan ‘the guide on the side, not the sage on the stage’. (source)

 

Fatigue                      

Fatigue (also called exhaustion, tiredness, languidness, languor, lassitude, and listlessness) is a subjective feeling of tiredness which is distinct from weakness, and has a gradual onset. Unlike weakness, fatigue can be alleviated by periods of rest. Fatigue can have physical or mental causes. Physical fatigue is the transient inability of a muscle to maintain optimal physical performance, and is made more severe by intense physical exercise. Mental fatigue is a transient decrease in maximal cognitive performance resulting from prolonged periods of cognitive activity. It can manifest as somnolence, lethargy, or directed attention fatigue. (source)

 

Flipped learning

Flipped classroom is an instructional strategy and a type of blended learning that reverses the traditional learning environment by delivering instructional content, often online, outside of the classroom. It moves activities, including those that may have traditionally been considered homework, into the classroom. In a flipped classroom, students watch online lectures, collaborate in online discussions, or carry out research at home and engage in concepts in the classroom with the guidance of a mentor. (source)

 

Flow  

In positive psychology, flow, also known as ‘the zone’, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. Named by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields (and has an especially big recognition in occupational therapy), though the concept has existed for thousands of years under other guises, notably in some Eastern religions. Achieving flow is often colloquially referred to as being in the zone. (source)

 

Focused mode thinking 

Contrasted with ‘diffuse mode’, ‘focused mode thinking’ is just as it sounds – a concentrated, focused form of thinking. (source)

 

Forgetting

Forgetting or disremembering is the apparent loss or modification of information already encoded and stored in an individual’s long term memory. It is a spontaneous or gradual process in which old memories are unable to be recalled from memory storage. Forgetting also helps to reconcile the storage of new information with old knowledge. Problems with remembering, learning and retaining new information are a few of the most common complaints of older adults. Memory performance is usually related to the active functioning of three stages. These three stages are encoding, storage and retrieval. Many different factors influence the actual process of forgetting. An example of one of these factors could be the amount of time the new information is stored in the memory. Events involved with forgetting can happen either before or after the actual memory process. The amount of time the information is stored in the memory, depending on the minutes hours or even days, can increase or decrease depending on how well the information is encoded. Studies show that retention improves with increased rehearsal. This improvement occurs because rehearsal helps to transfer information into long term memory – practise makes perfect. (source)

 

Forgetting curve

The forgetting curve hypothesises the decline of memory retention in time. This curve shows how information is lost over time when there is no attempt to retain it. A related concept is the strength of memory that refers to the durability that memory traces in the brain. (source)

 

Formal learning 

Formal learning, normally delivered by trained teachers in a systematic intentional way within a school, academy/college/institute or university, is one of three forms of learning as defined by the OECD, the others being informal learning, which typically takes place naturally as part of some other activity, and non-formal learning, which includes everything else, such as sports instruction provided by non-trained educators without a formal curriculum. (source)

 

Formative assessment

Formative assessment, including diagnostic testing, is a range of formal and informal assessment procedures conducted by teachers during the learning process in order to modify teaching and learning activities to improve student attainment. It typically involves qualitative feedback (rather than scores) for both student and teacher that focuses on the details of content and performance. It is commonly contrasted with summative assessment, which seeks to monitor educational outcomes, often for purposes of external accountability. (source)

 

Forum theatre

A technique pioneered by Brazilian radical Augusto Boal. A play or scene, usually indicating some kind of oppression, is shown twice. During the replay, any member of the audience (‘spect-actor’) is allowed to shout ‘Stop!’, step forward and take the place of one of the oppressed characters, showing how they could change the situation to enable a different outcome. Several alternatives may be explored by different spect-actors. The other actors remain in character, improvising their responses. A facilitator (Joker) is necessary to enable communication between the players and the audience. The strategy breaks through the barrier between performers and audience, putting them on an equal footing. It enables participants to try out courses of action which could be applicable to their everyday lives. Originally the technique was developed by Boal as a political tool for change (part of the Theatre of the Oppressed), but has been widely adapted for use in educational contexts. (source)

 

Fuzzy logic

A type of logic that recognizes more than simple true and false values. With fuzzy logic, propositions can be represented with degrees of truthfulness and falsehood. For example, the statement “today is sunny” might be 100% true if there are no clouds, 80% true if there are a few clouds, 50% true if it’s hazy and 0% true if it rains all day. (source)

 

Gamification

The gamification of learning is an educational approach to motivate students to learn by using video game design and game elements in learning environments. The goal is to maximize enjoyment and engagement through capturing the interest of learners and inspiring them to continue learning. Gamification, broadly defined, is the process of defining the elements which comprise games that make those games fun and motivate players to continue playing, and using those same elements in a non-game context to influence behaviour. In educational contexts, examples of desired student behaviour which gamification can potentially influence include attending class, focusing on meaningful learning tasks, and taking initiative. (source)

 

Generation effects

The generation effect is a phenomenon where information is better remembered if it is generated from one’s own mind rather than simply read. Researchers have struggled to account for why generated information is better recalled than read information, but no single explanation has been sufficient. The generation effect is typically achieved in cognitive psychology experiments by asking participants to generate words from word fragments. This effect has also been demonstrated using a variety of other materials, such as when generating a word after being presented with its antonym or synonym, generating keywords in paragraphs, pictures, and arithmetic problems. In addition, the generation effect has been found in studies using free recall, cued recall, and recognition tests. In one study, the subject was provided with a stimulus word, the first letter of the response, and a word relating the two. For example, with the rule of opposite, the stimulus word “hot”, and the letter “c”, the word cold would be generated. This methodology has since been used in the majority of experiments investigating the generation effect. (source)

 

Grammar

  1. In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules governing the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics, and pragmatics. (source)
  2. One of 3 components of the Trivium, an ancient system of education through the liberal arts. Grammar teaches the mechanics of language to the student. This is the step where the student “comes to terms”, i.e. defining the objects and information perceived by the five senses. Hence, the Law of Identity: a tree is a tree, and not a cat. (source)

 

Ground rules

A set of expected behaviours for classroom conduct. These are often informally agreed between the teacher and students, and may sit alongside other, institutional rules and the rule of law. Ground rules can either be set by the instructor, or co-created with the students. Some people believe that students adhere more to ground rules they have played a role in creating. Ground rules should be established at the beginning of a course, and the instructor should explain the purpose they serve (for example, to ensure that discussions are spirited and passionate without descending into argumentation, to ensure that everyone is heard, to ensure that participants work together toward greater understanding rather than contribute disjointed pieces). Some instructors ask students to sign a contract based on the ground rules; others simply discuss and agree to the ground rules informally. It is important for instructors to remind students of these ground rules periodically, particularly if problems occur (for example, students cutting one another off in discussion or making inappropriate personal comments). (source)

 

Ground rules for group talk

Ground rules designed specifically to help ensure that group interactions are as productive as possible. For example, ground rules for exploratory talk might include the following: everyone in the group is encouraged to contribute; contributions are treated with respect; reasons are asked for; everyone is prepared to accept challenges; alternatives are discussed before a decision is taken; all relevant information is shared; the group seeks to reach agreement. (source)

 

Habituation

Habituation is a form of learning in which an organism decreases or ceases to respond to a stimulus after repeated presentations. Essentially, the organism learns to stop responding to a stimulus which is no longer biologically relevant. For example, organisms may habituate to repeated sudden loud noises when they learn these have no consequences. Habituation usually refers to a reduction in innate behaviours, rather than behaviours developed during conditioning in which the process is termed “extinction”. A progressive decline of a behaviour in a habituation procedure may also reflect nonspecific effects such as fatigue, which must be ruled out when the interest is in habituation as a learning process. (source)

 

Haptic memory

Haptic memory is a form of sensory memory that refers to the recollection of data acquired by touch after a stimulus has been presented. Haptic memory is used regularly when assessing the necessary forces for gripping and interacting with familiar objects. It may also influence one’s interactions with novel objects of an apparently similar size and density. Similar to visual iconic memory, traces of haptically acquired information are short lived and prone to decay after approximately two seconds. Haptic memory is best for stimuli applied to areas of the skin that are more sensitive to touch. (source)

 

Hobbies 

A Hobby is a regular activity that is done for enjoyment, typically during one’s leisure time. Hobbies can include collecting themed items and objects, engaging in creative and artistic pursuits, playing sports, or pursuing other amusements. By continually participating in a particular hobby, one can acquire substantial skill and knowledge in that area. Engagement in hobbies has increased since the late nineteenth century as workers have more leisure time and advancing production and technology have provided more support for leisure activities. As some hobbies have become less popular, like stamp collecting, others have been created following technological advances, like video games. (source)

 

Human scale education

HSE is an education reform movement committed to small scale learning communities based on the values of democracy, justice and respect. HSE works directly with schools and parents to promote human scale learning environments where children and young people are known and valued as individuals. HSE believes that ‘humanity of scale’ and the ‘primacy of relationships’ should not only inform the design of our schools but should also influence our public sector services. (source)

 

Illusion of truth effect

The illusory truth effect (also known as the truth effect or the illusion-of-truth effect) is the tendency to believe information to be correct after repeated exposure. (source)

 

Imaginative inquiry 

Imaginative-inquiry is a wide-ranging teaching and learning approach that brings together three successful and effective pedagogic strategies – community of inquiry, drama for learning, and mantle of the expert. By using imaginative-inquiry teachers can create exciting and meaningful contexts for learning, which can be used to engage their students in challenging and purposeful curriculum activities – extending their thinking, developing their skills, and broadening their understanding. (source)

 

Implicit memory

Implicit memory is one of the two main types of long-term human memory. It is acquired and used unconsciously, and can affect thoughts and behaviours. One of its most common forms is procedural memory, which helps people performing certain tasks without conscious awareness of these previous experiences. Implicit memory’s counterpart is known as explicit memory or declarative memory, which refers to the conscious, intentional recollection of factual information, previous experiences and concepts. (source)

 

Imprinting 

In psychology and ethology, imprinting is any kind of phase-sensitive learning (learning occurring at a particular age or a particular life stage) that is rapid and apparently independent of the consequences of behaviour. It was first used to describe situations in which an animal or person learns the characteristics of some stimulus, which is therefore said to be “imprinted” onto the subject. Imprinting is hypothesized to have a critical period. The best-known form of imprinting is filial imprinting, in which a young animal acquires several of its behavioural characteristics from its parent. (source)

 

Incentive theory

Incentive theory is a specific theory of motivation, derived partly from behaviourist principles of reinforcement, which concerns an incentive or motive to do something. The most common incentive would be a reward. Rewards can be tangible or intangible, and is presented generally after the occurrence of the action or behaviour that one is trying to correct or cause to happen again. This is done by associating positive meaning to the behaviour and or action. Studies show that if the person receives the reward immediately, the effect is greater, and decreases as delay lengthens. Repetitive action-reward combination can cause the action to become a habit. Motivation comes from two sources: oneself, and other people (see Intrinsic motivation and Extrinsic motivation). (source)

 

Inductive learning

Inductive learning is a teaching strategy that emphasizes the importance of developing a student’s evidence-gathering and critical-thinking skills. By first presenting students with examples of how a particular concept is used, the teacher allows the students to come up with the correct conclusion. (source)

 

Independence

Independent learning is a process, a method and a philosophy of education whereby a learner acquires knowledge by his or her own efforts and develops the ability for enquiry and critical evaluation. Essentially, in promoting independent learning we are encouraging and enabling our students to become self-directed in their learning experiences and to have more autonomy and control over their learning. In practice, most learning involves independent elements such as: finding and collecting information; making decisions about what to study and when; carrying out investigations or projects; learners learning at their own pace using ICT or VLEs; completing homework, extension work or coursework assignments. (source)

 

Informal (aka non-formal) learning

Non-formal learning is a loosely defined term covering various structured learning situations, such as swimming sessions for toddlers, community-based sports programs and conference style seminars, which do not either have the level of curriculum, syllabus, accreditation and certification associated with ‘formal learning’, but have more structure than that associated with ‘informal learning’, which typically take place naturally and spontaneously as part of other activities. These form the three styles of learning recognised and supported by the OECD. Examples of non-formal learning include swimming sessions for toddlers, community-based sports programs, and programs developed by organisations such as the Boy Scouts or the Girl Guides, community or non-credit adult education courses, sports or fitness programs, professional conferences and continuing professional development. The learner’s objectives may be to increase skills and knowledge, as well as to experience the emotional rewards associated with increased love for a subject or increased passion for learning. (source)

 

Intelligence

Intelligence has been defined in many different ways including as one’s capacity for logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, planning, creativity and problem solving. It can be more generally described as the ability to perceive information, and to retain it as knowledge to be applied towards adaptive behaviours within an environment or context. Intelligence is most widely studied in humans, but has also been observed in non-human animals and in plants. Artificial intelligence is intelligence in machines. It is commonly implemented in computer systems using program software. Within the discipline of psychology, various approaches to human intelligence have been adopted. The psychometric approach is especially familiar to the general public, as well as being the most researched and by far the most widely used in practical settings. (source)

 

Intelligence quotient

An intelligence quotient (IQ) is a total score derived from one of several standardized tests designed to assess human intelligence. The abbreviation “IQ” was coined by the psychologist William Stern in a 1912 book. Historically, IQ is a score obtained by dividing a person’s mental age score, obtained by administering an intelligence test, by the person’s chronological age, both expressed in terms of years and months. The resulting fraction is multiplied by 100 to obtain the IQ score. When current IQ tests were developed, the median raw score of the norming sample is defined as IQ 100 and scores each standard deviation (SD) up or down are defined as 15 IQ points greater or less, although this was not always so historically. By this definition, approximately two-thirds of the population scores between IQ 85 and IQ 115. About 5 percent of the population scores above 125, and 5 percent below 75. IQ scores have been found to be associated with such factors as morbidity and mortality, parental social status, and, to a substantial degree, biological parental IQ. While the heritability of IQ has been investigated for nearly a century, there is still debate about the significance of heritability estimates and the mechanisms of inheritance. The notion of IQ has been strongly criticised in recent years, with scientists questioning its theoretical and methodological basis. (source)

 

Interest

  1. A feeling of wanting to learn more about something or to be involved in something
  2. A quality that attracts your attention and makes you want to learn more about something or to be involved in something
  3. Something (such as a hobby) that a person enjoys learning about or doing (source)

 

Interference theory

Interference theory is a theory regarding human memory. Interference occurs in learning when there is an interaction between the new material and transfer effects of past learned behaviour, memories or thoughts that have a negative influence in comprehending the new material. Bringing to memory old knowledge has the effect of impairing both the speed of learning and memory performance. There are two main kinds of interference: proactive interference (see Proactive learning), and retroactive interference (see Retroactive learning). The main assumption of interference theory is that the stored memory is intact but unable to be retrieved due to competition created by newly acquired information. (source)

 

Interleaving 

An approach to curriculum design and delivery; contrasts with blocking. Whereas blocking involves practicing one skill at a time before the next (for example, “skill A” before “skill B” and so on, forming the pattern “AAABBBCCC”), in interleaving one mixes, or interleaves, practice on several related skills together (forming for example the pattern “ABCABCABC”). (source)

 

Intermental development zone (IDZ)

A variation on the Vygotskian notion of the ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ (ZPD), proposed by Professor Neil Mercer and colleagues. The ZPD is seen as providing a way of conceptualizing the many ways in which an individual’s development may be assisted by other members of a culture, both in face-to-face interaction and through the legacy of artefacts that they have created. However some have criticised the concept of a ZPD as too static. The IDZ is defined as a shared communicative space where teachers and students stay attuned to each other’s changing states of knowledge and understanding over the course of an educational activity. As teacher and learner negotiate their way through an educational activity, the IDZ is reconstituted constantly as the dialogue continues. “If the quality of the zone is successfully maintained, the teacher can enable the learner to become able to operate just beyond their established capabilities and to consolidate this experience as new ability and understanding. If the dialogue fails to keep minds mutually attuned, the IDZ collapses and the scaffolded learning grinds to a halt. The IDZ is represented in talk by references to shared experience, but can also be sustained by tacit invocations of common knowledge. (source)

 

Interthinking

Essentially, interthinking means using talk to think collectively, to engage with others’ ideas through oral language. The notion that as well as thinking individually, under certain conditions humans are able to use talk to think creatively and productively together. In these conditions, talk can be viewed as a social mode of thinking. This is sometimes expressed the slogan that “two heads are better than one”. However not all forms of collective thinking are productive or successful; ‘groupthink’ is just one example of how collective thinking can go wrong. Neil Mercer and Karen Littleton have outlined ways to maximise the constructive benefits of interthinking. (source)

 

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is the self-desire to seek out new things and new challenges, to analyse one’s capacity, to observe and to gain knowledge. It is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on external pressures or a desire for consideration. The phenomenon of intrinsic motivation was first acknowledged within experimental studies of animal behaviour. In these studies, it was evident that the organisms would engage in playful and curiosity driven behaviours in the absence of reward. Intrinsic motivation is a natural motivational tendency and is a critical element in cognitive, social, and physical development. Students who are intrinsically motivated are more likely to engage in the task willingly as well as work to improve their skills, which will increase their capabilities. (source)

 

Knowledge

Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness or understanding of someone or something, such as facts, information, descriptions, or skills, which is acquired through experience or education by perceiving, discovering, or learning. Knowledge can refer to a theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. It can be implicit (as with practical skill or expertise) or explicit (as with the theoretical understanding of a subject); it can be more or less formal or systematic. In philosophy, the study of knowledge is called epistemology; the philosopher Plato famously defined knowledge as “justified true belief”, though this definition is now agreed by most analytic philosophers to be problematic. However, several definitions of knowledge and theories to explain it exist. Knowledge acquisition involves complex cognitive processes: perception, communication, and reasoning; while knowledge is also said to be related to the capacity of acknowledgment in human beings. (source)

 

Latent learning

Latent learning is a form of learning that is not immediately expressed in an overt response; it occurs without any obvious reinforcement of the behaviour or associations that are learned. Interest in latent learning arose largely because the phenomenon seemed to conflict with the widely held view that reinforcement was necessary for learning to occur. (source)

 

Learnable intelligence

David Perkins postulates three distinct types of intelligence: neural intelligence, experiential intelligence, and reflective intelligence. You are born with neural intelligence (measured by IQ), and it never changes. You gain experiential intelligence through experience in a specific area, such as playing chess. You gain reflective intelligence by being aware of your thinking patterns and the way you can change these patterns. According to Perkins, learnable intelligence is the combination of both experiential and reflective intelligence which means that “people can learn to think and act much more intelligently.” It is reflective intelligence that provides individuals with the opportunity to increase their effectiveness by using specific strategies. When we tap into reflective intelligence, we are able to increase our capacity for solving complex problems, making informed decisions, and generating new knowledge about the complicated world in which we live. There are clear overlaps between notions of ‘reflective intelligence’ and metacognition. (source)

 

Learned helplessness

Learned helplessness is defined as the general belief that one is incapable of accomplishing tasks and has little or no control of the environment. For example, a child who performs poorly on math tests and assignments will quickly begin to feel that nothing he or she does will have any effect on math performance. When later faced with any type of math-related task, the child may experience a sense of helplessness. Learned helplessness occurs when people attribute negative results to their internal, stable and global factors, leading them to think they have no control over their situation. Internal attributions occur when the individual assigns causality to factors within themselves. Stable attribution occurs when the individual believes the cause to be consistent across time, and global factor occurs when the individual believes that the cause of negative events is consistent across different contexts. Individuals low in self-concept who have experienced few successes are likely to (1) attribute failure to lack of ability and (2) see no relationships between their success and their own actions. (source)

 

Learning objectives (aka learning intentions) 

The learning intention (or objective) for a lesson or series of lessons is a statement which describes clearly what the teacher wants the students to learn (i.e. know / understand / be able to do) as a result of the learning and teaching activities. (source)

 

Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes are statements that describe significant and essential learning that learners have achieved, and can reliably demonstrate at the end of a course or program. In other words, learning outcomes identify what the learner will know and be able to do by the end of a course or program. (source)

 

Learning to learn

Broadly speaking, Learning to Learn (L2L) is an educational movement that arose out of Flavell’s work on metacognition in the late 1970s. Fundamentally, L2L is a recognition of the fact that the ability to learn is itself learnable. In this regard, there are strong links between L2L and notions of learnable intelligence, and growth mindset. L2L has been described as a ‘multidimensional entity whose meaning varies according to the meaning given to the word learning’ (Candy, 1990). To take one influential definition, the European Education Council Framework of Key Competences (2006) defines L2L as a competence, rooted in broad conceptions of meta-learning: “Learning to learn is the ability to pursue and persist in learning, to organise one’s own learning, including through effective management of time and information, both individually and in groups. This competence includes awareness of one’s learning process and needs, identifying available opportunities, and the ability to overcome obstacles in order to learn successfully. This competence means gaining, processing and assimilating new knowledge and skill as well as seeking and making use of guidance. Learning to learn engages learners to build on prior learning and life experiences in order to use and apply knowledge and skills in a variety of contexts: at home, at work, in education and training. Motivation and confidence are crucial to an individual’s competence..’ (source)

 

Liberal arts

The liberal arts are those subjects or skills that in classical antiquity were considered essential for a free person (Latin: liberalis, “worthy of a free person”) to know in order to take an active part in civic life. In Ancient Greece, this included participating in public debate, defending oneself in court, serving on juries, and most importantly, military service. Grammar, logic, and rhetoric were the core liberal arts (the trivium), while arithmetic, geometry, the theory of music, and astronomy also played a (somewhat lesser) part in education (the quadrivium). In modern times, liberal arts education is a term that can be interpreted in different ways. It can refer to academic subjects such as literature, philosophy, mathematics, and social and physical sciences, or it can also refer to overall studies in a liberal arts degree program. For example, Harvard University offers a Bachelor of Arts degree, which covers the social and physical sciences as well as the humanities. For both interpretations, the term generally refers to matters not relating to the professional, vocational, or technical curriculum. (source)

 

Linguistics

The scientific study of language and its structure, including the study of grammar, syntax, and phonetics. Specific branches of linguistics include sociolinguistics, dialectology, psycholinguistics, computational linguistics, comparative linguistics, and structural linguistics. (source)

 

Locus of control

In personality psychology, locus of control is the degree to which people believe that they have control over the outcome of events in their lives, as opposed to external forces beyond their control. Understanding of the concept was developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954, and has since become an aspect of personality studies. People’s “loci”, plural of “locus”, (Latin for “place” or “location”) is conceptualized as either internal, those people who believe they can control their life, or external, meaning they believe their decisions and life are controlled by environmental factors which they cannot influence, or that chance or fate controls their lives. Individuals with a strong internal locus of control believe events in their life derive primarily from their own actions: for example, when receiving exam results, people with an internal locus of control tend to praise or blame themselves and their abilities. People with a strong external locus of control tend to praise or blame external factors such as the teacher or the exam. (source)

 

Logic

  1. Generally held to consist of the systematic study of the form of arguments. A valid argument is one where there is a specific relation of logical support between the assumptions of the argument and its conclusion. (In ordinary discourse, the conclusion of such an argument may be signified by words like therefore’, hence, ergo and so on). There is no universal agreement as to the exact scope and subject matter of logic, but it has traditionally included the classification of arguments, the systematic exposition of the ‘logical form’ common to all valid arguments, the study of inference, including fallacies, and the study of semantics, including paradoxes. Historically, logic has been studied in philosophy (since ancient times) and mathematics (since the mid-1800s). Recently, logic has been studied in computer science, linguistics, psychology, and other fields. (source)
  2. One of 3 components of the Trivium, an ancient system of education through the liberal arts. Logic (aka dialectic) is the “mechanics” of thought and of analysis; the process of identifying fallacious arguments and statements, and so systematically removing contradictions, thereby producing factual knowledge that can be trusted. (source)

Logical fallacies

In philosophy, a formal fallacy (also called deductive fallacy) is a pattern of reasoning rendered invalid by a flaw in its logical structure that can neatly be expressed in a standard logic system, for example propositional logic. An argument that is formally fallacious is always considered wrong. A formal fallacy is contrasted with an informal fallacy, which may have a valid logical form and yet be unsound because one or more premises are false. (source)

 

Long-term memory

Long-term memory (LTM) is the stage of the dual memory model proposed by the Atkinson-Shiffrin memory model, and informative knowledge can be stored for long periods of time. While short-term and working memory persist for only about 18 to 30 seconds, informative knowledge can remain as long-term memory indefinitely. Long-term memory is commonly labelled as explicit memory (declarative), as well as episodic memory, semantic memory, and autobiographical memory, and implicit memory (procedural memory). (source)

 

Long-term potentiation

In neuroscience, long-term potentiation (LTP) is a persistent strengthening of synapses based on recent patterns of activity. These are patterns of synaptic activity that produce a long-lasting increase in signal transmission between two neurons. The opposite of LTP is long-term depression, which produces a long-lasting decrease in synaptic strength. It is one of several phenomena underlying synaptic plasticity, the ability of chemical synapses to change their strength. As memories are thought to be encoded by modification of synaptic strength, LTP is widely considered one of the major cellular mechanisms that underlies learning and memory. (source)

 

Machine learning

Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning focuses on the development of computer programs that can teach themselves to grow and change when exposed to new data. The process of machine learning is similar to that of data mining. Both systems search through data to look for patterns. However, instead of extracting data for human comprehension — as is the case in data mining applications — machine learning uses that data to detect patterns in data and adjust program actions accordingly. Machine learning algorithms are often categorized as being supervised or unsupervised. Supervised algorithms can apply what has been learned in the past to new data. Unsupervised algorithms can draw inferences from datasets. For example, Facebook’s News Feed uses machine learning to personalize each member’s feed. If a member frequently stops scrolling in order to read or “like” a particular friend’s posts, the News Feed will start to show more of that friend’s activity earlier in the feed. Behind the scenes, the software is simply using statistical analysis and predictive analytics to identify patterns in the user’s data and use to patterns to populate the News Feed. Should the member no longer stop to read, like or comment on the friend’s posts, that new data will be included in the data set and the News Feed will adjust accordingly. (source)

 

Mantle of the expert

A dramatic-inquiry based approach to teaching and learning invented and developed by Professor Dorothy Heathcote at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in the 1980’s. The big idea is that the class do all their curriculum work as if they are an imagined group of experts. They might be scientists in a laboratory or archaeologists excavating a tomb, or a rescue team at the scene of a disaster. They might be running a removal company, or a factory, or a shop, or a space station or a French resistance group. Because they behave ‘as if they are experts’, the children are working from a specific point of view as they explore their learning and this brings special responsibilities, language needs and social behaviours. (source)

 

Mastery learning 

Mastery learning (or, as it was initially called, “learning for mastery”) is an instructional strategy and educational philosophy, first formally proposed by Benjamin Bloom in 1968. Mastery learning maintains that students must achieve a level of mastery (e.g., 90% on a knowledge test) in prerequisite knowledge before moving forward to learn subsequent information. If a student does not achieve mastery on the test, they are given additional support in learning and reviewing the information and then tested again. This cycle continues until the learner accomplishes mastery, and they may then move on to the next stage. Mastery learning methods suggest that the focus of instruction should be the time required for different students to learn the same material and achieve the same level of mastery. This is very much in contrast with classic models of teaching, which focus more on differences in students’ ability and where all students are given approximately the same amount of time to learn and the same set of instructions. In mastery learning, there is a shift in responsibilities, so that student’s failure is more due to the instruction and not necessarily lack of ability on his or her part. Therefore, in a mastery learning environment, the challenge becomes providing enough time and employing instructional strategies so that all students can achieve the same level of learning. (source)

 

Memory

Memory is the process by which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved. Encoding allows information from the outside world to be sensed in the form of chemical and physical stimuli. Storage is the second memory process and allows for the creation of a stable, more permanent record of encoded information. Finally, the third process is the retrieval of information that has been stored. Such information must be accessed and returned to consciousness or working memory. Depending on the type of information stored, retrieval may be effortless or it may require a more cognitively demanding search through memory. From an information processing perspective there are three main stages in the formation and retrieval of memory: encoding or registration (receiving, processing and combining of received information); storage (creation of a permanent record of the encoded information in short term or long term memory); and retrieval, recall or recollection (calling back the stored information in response to some cue for use in a process or activity). (source)

 

Memory modifier

A notion introduced by Robert Bjork to describe the way in which the act of retrieval does not just mine, but can also modify memory. (source)

 

Meta-cognition 

Metacognition is “cognition about cognition”, “thinking about thinking”, or “knowing about knowing” and higher order thinking skills. It comes from the root word “meta”, meaning beyond. It can take many forms; it includes knowledge about when and how to use particular strategies for learning or for problem solving. There are generally two components of metacognition: knowledge about cognition, and regulation of cognition. (source)

 

Meta-learning 

Meta learning is originally described by Donald B. Maudsley (1979) as “the process by which learners become aware of and increasingly in control of habits of perception, inquiry, learning, and growth that they have internalized”. Maudsely sets the conceptual basis of his theory as synthesized under headings of assumptions, structures, change process, and facilitation. Five principles were enunciated to facilitate meta-learning. Learners must: (a) have a theory, however primitive; (b) work in a safe supportive social and physical environment; (c) discover their rules and assumptions; (d) reconnect with reality-information from the environment; and (e) reorganize themselves by changing their rules/assumptions. The idea of meta learning was later used by John Biggs (1985) to describe the state of “being aware of and taking control of one’s own learning”. You can define meta learning as an awareness and understanding of the phenomenon of learning itself as opposed to subject knowledge. Implicit in this definition is the learner’s perception of the learning context. (source)

 

Meta-memory

Meta-memory, a type of metacognition, is both the introspective knowledge of one’s own memory capabilities (and strategies that can aid memory) and the processes involved in memory self-monitoring. This self-awareness of memory has important implications for how people learn and use memories. When studying, for example, students make judgements of whether they have successfully learned the assigned material and use these decisions, known as “judgments of learning”, to allocate study time. (source)

 

Mindset

According to Carol Dweck, individuals can be placed on a continuum according to their implicit views of “where ability comes from”. Dweck states that there are two categories (growth mindset versus fixed mindset) that can group individuals based on their behaviour, specifically their reaction to failure. Those with a “fixed mindset” believe that abilities are mostly innate and interpret failure as the lack of necessary basic abilities, while those with a “growth mindset” believe that they can acquire any given ability provided they invest effort or study. Dweck argues that the growth mindset “will allow a person to live a less stressful and more successful life”. In a 2012 interview, Dweck defined both fixed and growth mindsets: “In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.” (source)

 

Minimally invasive learning 

Minimally invasive education (MIE) is a form of learning in which children operate in unsupervised environments. The methodology arose from an experiment done by Sugata Mitra while at NIIT in 1999, often called The Hole in the Wall. (source)

 

Mnemonics

A mnemonic device, or memory device is any learning technique that aids information retention in the human memory. Mnemonics make use of elaborative encoding, retrieval cues, and imagery as specific tools to encode any given information in a way that allows for efficient storage and retrieval. Mnemonics aid original information in becoming associated with something more meaningful, which in turn, allows the brain to have better retention of the information. Commonly encountered mnemonics are often used for lists and in auditory form, such as short poems, acronyms, or memorable phrases, but mnemonics can also be used for other types of information and in visual or kinaesthetic forms. Their use is based on the observation that the human mind more easily remembers spatial, personal, surprising, physical, sexual, humorous, or otherwise “relatable” information, rather than more abstract or impersonal forms of information. (source)

 

MOOC 

A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as filmed lectures, readings, and problem sets, many MOOCs provide interactive user forums to support community interactions among students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs). MOOCs are a recent and widely researched development in distance education which were first introduced in 2008 and emerged as a popular mode of learning in 2012. Early MOOCs often emphasized open-access features, such as open licensing of content, structure and learning goals, to promote the reuse and remixing of resources. Some later MOOCs use closed licenses for their course materials while maintaining free access for students. Robert Zemsky (2014) argues that they have passed their peak: “They came; they conquered very little; and now they face substantially diminished prospects.” Others have pointed to a backlash arising from the tiny completion rates. (source)

 

Motivation

Motivation is a theoretical construct used to explain behaviour. It gives the reasons for people’s actions, desires, and needs. Motivation can also be defined as one’s direction to behaviour, or what causes a person to want to repeat a behaviour and vice versa. A motive is what prompts the person to act in a certain way, or at least develop an inclination for specific behaviour. (source)

 

Nature vs nurture

Like most aspects of human behaviour and cognition, intelligence is a complex trait that is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Intelligence is challenging to study, in part because it can be defined and measured in different ways. Most definitions of intelligence include the ability to learn from experiences and adapt to changing environments. Elements of intelligence include the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, and understand complex ideas. Many studies rely on a measure of intelligence called the intelligence quotient (IQ). Research suggests that genetic factors underlie about 50%of the difference in intelligence among individuals. These studies have not conclusively identified any genes that underlie differences in intelligence. It is likely that a large number of genes are involved, each of which makes only a small contribution to a person’s intelligence. Intelligence is also strongly influenced by the environment. Factors related to a child’s home environment and parenting, education and availability of learning resources, and nutrition, among others, all contribute to intelligence. A person’s environment and genes influence each other, and it can be challenging to tease apart the effects of the environment from those of genetics. (source)

 

Negative transfer

Negative transfer occurs when the process of solving an earlier problem makes later problems harder to solve. It is contrasted with positive transfer, which occurs when solving an earlier problem makes it easier to solve a later problem. Learning a foreign language, for example, can either hinder or help the subsequent learning of another language. (source)

 

Neural network

An Artificial Neural Network (ANN) is an information-processing paradigm that is inspired by the way biological nervous systems, such as the brain, process information. The key element of this paradigm is the novel structure of the information processing system. It is composed of a large number of highly interconnected processing elements (neurones) working in unison to solve specific problems. ANNs, like people, learn by example. An ANN is configured for a specific application, such as pattern recognition or data classification, through a learning process. Learning in biological systems involves adjustments to the synaptic connections that exist between the neurones. This is true of ANNs as well. (source)

 

Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity or neural plasticity, is an umbrella term that describes lasting change to the brain throughout an individual’s life course. The term gained prominence in the latter half of the 20th century, when new research showed that many aspects of the brain can be altered (or are “plastic”) even into adulthood. This notion is in contrast with the previous scientific consensus that the brain develops during a critical period in early childhood and then remains relatively unchanged (or “static”). Neuroplasticity can be observed at multiple scales, from microscopic changes in individual neurons to larger-scale changes such as cortical remapping in response to injury. However, cortical remapping is more extensive early in development. Behaviour, environmental stimuli, thought, and emotions may also cause neuroplastic change through activity-dependent plasticity, which has significant implications for healthy development, learning, memory, and recovery from brain damage. (source)

 

Non-associative learning

Non-associative learning refers to a relatively permanent change in the strength of response to a single stimulus due to repeated exposure to that stimulus. Changes due to such factors as sensory adaptation, fatigue, or injury do not qualify as non-associative learning. Non-associative learning can be divided into habituation and sensitization. (source)

 

Novice 

A novice is a person who is new to a field or activity; a beginner. Often distinguished from experts. As Crowe & Youga (1986, 218) put it: “Research in cognitive development has demonstrated that learning is the process of making connections, linking what the student already knows to the new information presented.” The problem for novices is not just that they don’t know very much about a discipline, but more importantly that they that don’t understand how the discipline is organized. Thus when novices learn, they see the new information as more or less random data points. By contrast, when experts learn, they immediately categorize the new information and plug it into the appropriate part of their mental model of the discipline. For novices, learning new information is like juggling, while for experts, it’s like placing new information on the appropriate shelf, where it’s much less likely to be dropped. (source)

 

Ontology

Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, becoming, existence or reality as well as the basic categories of being and their relations. Traditionally listed as a part of the major branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, ontology often deals with questions concerning what entities exist or may be said to exist and how such entities may be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences. Although ontology as a philosophical enterprise is highly theoretical, it also has practical application in information science and technology, such as ontology engineering. (source)

 

Oracy

The ability to express oneself fluently and grammatically in speech. The term oracy was coined by Andrew Wilkinson, a British researcher and educator, in the 1960s. This word is formed by analogy from literacy and numeracy. The purpose is to draw attention to the neglect of oral skills in education. (source)

 

Paradigm shift

A paradigm shift, as identified by American physicist and philosopher Thomas Kuhn, is a fundamental change in the basic concepts and experimental practices of a scientific discipline. Kuhn contrasted these shifts, which characterize a scientific revolution, to the activity of normal science, which he described as scientific work done within a prevailing framework (or paradigm). (source)

 

Performance orientation (aka achievement orientation)

Achievement Orientation refers to how an individual interprets and reacts to tasks, resulting in different patterns of cognition, affect and behaviour. Developed within a social-cognitive framework, achievement goal theory proposes that students’ motivation and achievement-related behaviours can be understood by considering the reasons or purposes they adopt while engaged in academic work. The focus is on how students think about themselves, their tasks, and their performance. In general, an individual can be said to be “mastery” or “performance” oriented, based on whether one’s goal is to develop one’s ability or to demonstrate one’s ability, respectively. Achievement orientations have been shown to be associated with individuals’ academic achievement, adjustment, and well-being. (source) Often contrasted, unfavourably among educators, with a learning orientation (e.g. see here).

 

Philosophical enquiry 

An approach to teaching and learning developed by Professor Matthew Lipman in the 1970s. Children are taught how to create their own philosophical questions. They then choose one question that is the focus of a philosophical enquiry, or dialogue. For example the question might be ‘is it ever ok to steal? The teacher, as facilitator, supports the children in their thinking, reasoning and questioning, as well as the way the children speak and listen to each other in the dialogue. After the enquiry the children and facilitator reflect on the quality of the thinking, reasoning and participation, and suggest how they could improve; either as individuals or as a group (community). Philosophical enquiry is intended to be a regular activity so that the children develop their skills and understanding over time. The role of the facilitator is crucial to ensuring quality dialogue and progress, as well as integration with the curriculum. (source)

 

Phonological loop 

The Phonological Loop is the part of our working memory system that handles auditory and verbal information, including language and music. It consists of two components: storage, where we briefly hold information in our short-term memory, and rehearsal, a mechanism by which we maintain and strengthen our memory of the information. Research suggests that information held in the loop only lasts for 2 seconds unless it’s processed via rehearsal. You use the phonological loop whenever you try to memorize a telephone number or access code. You repeat the numbers to yourself in order, either saying them out loud or under your breath, to help you remember. (source)

 

Phronesis                                

Phronesis is a Greek word for a type of wisdom or intelligence. It is more specifically a type of wisdom relevant to practical things, requiring an ability to discern how or why to act virtuously and encourage practical virtue, excellence of character, in others. Phronesis was a common topic of discussion in ancient Greek philosophy. The word was used in Greek philosophy, and such discussions are still influential today. Because of its practical character, when it is not simply translated by words meaning wisdom or intelligence, it is often translated as “practical wisdom”. (source) Among teachers, it is sometimes used as a notion akin to “professional judgment”.

 

Play

In psychology and ethology, play is a range of voluntary, intrinsically motivated activities normally associated with recreational pleasure and enjoyment. Play is commonly associated with children and juvenile-level activities, but play occurs at any life stage, and among other higher-functioning animals as well, most notably mammals. Many prominent researchers in the field of psychology, including Melanie Klein, Jean Piaget, William James, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Lev Vygotsky have viewed play as confined to the human species, believing play was important for human development and using different research methods to prove their theories. Play is often interpreted as frivolous; yet the player can be intently focused on their objective, particularly when play is structured and goal-oriented, as in a game. Accordingly, play can range from relaxed, free-spirited and spontaneous through frivolous to planned or even compulsive. Play is not just a pastime activity; it has the potential to serve as an important tool in numerous aspects of daily life for adolescents, adults, and cognitively advanced non-human species (such as primates). Not only does play promote and aid in physical development (such as hand–eye coordination), but it also aids in cognitive development and social skills, and can even act as a stepping stone into the world of integration, which can be a very stressful process. (source)

 

Praxis 

Praxis (from ancient Greek) is the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realized. “Praxis” may also refer to the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practising ideas. This has been a recurrent topic in the field of philosophy, discussed in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Immanuel Kant, Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Marx, Martin Heidegger, Hannah Arendt, Paulo Freire, Ludwig von Mises, and many others. It has meaning in the political, educational, and spiritual realms. In Ancient Greek the word praxis referred to activity engaged in by free men. The philosopher Aristotle held that there were three basic activities of man: theoria (thinking), poiesis (making), and praxis (doing). Corresponding to these activities were three types of knowledge: theoretical, the end goal being truth; poietical, the end goal being production; and practical, the end goal being action. (source)

 

Priming

Priming is an implicit memory effect in which exposure to one stimulus (i.e., perceptual pattern) influences the response to another stimulus. The seminal experiments of Meyer and Schvaneveldt in the early 1970s led to the flowering of research on priming of many sorts. Their original work showed that people were faster in deciding that a string of letters is a word when the word followed an associatively or semantically related word. For example, NURSE is recognized more quickly following DOCTOR than following BREAD. Various experiments supported the theory that activation spreading among related ideas was the best explanation for the facilitation observed in the lexical decision task. The priming paradigm provides excellent control over the effects of individual stimuli on cognitive processing and associated behaviour because the same target stimuli can be presented with different primes. Thus differences in performance as a function of differences in priming stimuli must be attributed to the effect of the prime on the processing of the target stimulus. (source)

 

Procedural knowledge

Procedural knowledge, also known as imperative knowledge, is the knowledge exercised in the performance of some task. See below for the specific meaning of this term in cognitive psychology and intellectual property law. Procedural knowledge is different from other kinds of knowledge, such as declarative knowledge, in that it can be directly applied to a task. For instance, the procedural knowledge one uses to solve problems differs from the declarative knowledge one possesses about problem solving because this knowledge is formed by doing. (source)

 

Process praise 

Over the past several decades, researchers have distinguished between praise that is directed at a person’s general abilities and qualities (e.g., “You’re such a good drawer.”) and praise that is directed at the process of performance (e.g., “You are working so hard at that drawing.”). This distinction between person versus process praise is sometimes referred to as ability versus effort praise, though ability and effort statements can be seen as subcategories of person and process statements, respectively. Traditionally, person(trait)-oriented praise was thought to instill a child’s belief that they have the capacity to succeed, and thus help motivate them to learn. However, social-cognitive theorists have more recently suggested that person-oriented (as opposed to process-oriented) praise may have detrimental impacts on a child’s self-perceptions, motivation and learning. For example, praising children for their personal attributes, rather than specifics about their performance, may teach them to make interferences about their global worth, and may thus undermine their intrinsic motivation. In a study of person- versus process-oriented praise, Kamins and Dweck found that children who received person-oriented praise displayed more “helpless” responses following a failure including self-blame, than those in the process condition. (source)

 

Procrastination

Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished. It is the practice of doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, or carrying out less urgent tasks instead of more urgent ones, thus putting off impending tasks to a later time. Sometimes, procrastination takes place until the “last minute” before a deadline. Procrastination can take hold on any aspect of life — putting off cleaning the stove, repairing a leaky roof, seeing a doctor or dentist, submitting a job report or academic assignment or broaching a stressful issue with a partner. Procrastination can lead to feelings of guilt, inadequacy, depression and self-doubt. (source)

 

Professional development

Professional development refers to individuals learning to earn or maintain professional credentials. This can take a number of forms, including the attainment of academic degrees and formal coursework, attendance at conferences, and participation in informal learning opportunities situated in practice. It has been described as intensive and collaborative, ideally incorporating an evaluative stage. There are a variety of approaches to professional development, including consultation, coaching, communities of practice, lesson study, mentoring, reflective supervision and technical assistance. (source)

 

Problem-based learning

Problem-based learning (PBL) is a student-centered pedagogy in which students learn about a subject through the experience of solving an open-ended problem found in trigger material. The PBL process does not focus on problem solving with a defined solution, but it allows for the development of other desirable skills and attributes. This includes knowledge acquisition, enhanced group collaboration and communication. The PBL process was developed for medical education and has since been broadened in applications for other programs of learning. The process allows for learners to develop skills used for their future practice. It enhances critical appraisal, literature retrieval and encourages ongoing learning in a team environment. (source)

 

Project-based learning

Project-based learning (PBL) is a student-centered pedagogy that involves a dynamic classroom approach in which students acquire a deeper knowledge through active exploration of real-world challenges and problems. Students learn about a subject by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, challenge, or problem. It is a style of active learning and inquiry-based learning. PBL contrasts with paper-based, rote memorization, or teacher-led instruction that simply presents established facts or portrays a smooth path to knowledge by instead posing questions, problems or scenarios. Thomas Markham (2011) describes project-based learning (PBL) thus: “PBL integrates knowing and doing. Students learn knowledge and elements of the core curriculum, but also apply what they know to solve authentic problems and produce results that matter. PBL students take advantage of digital tools to produce high quality, collaborative products. PBL refocuses education on the student, not the curriculum—a shift mandated by the global world, which rewards intangible assets such as drive, passion, creativity, empathy, and resiliency. These cannot be taught out of a textbook, but must be activated through experience.” (source)

 

Propositional theory 

The propositional theory claims that mental representations are stored as propositions rather than as images. Here, proposition is defined as the meaning that underlies the relationship between concepts (Sternberg, 2003). This theory states that images occur as a result of other cognitive processes because knowledge is not represented in the form of images, words, or symbols. (source)

 

Recall 

Recall in memory refers to the mental process of retrieval of information from the past. Along with encoding and storage, it is one of the three core processes of memory. There are three main types of recall: free recall, cued recall and serial recall. Psychologists test these forms of recall as a way to study the memory processes of humans and animals. Two main theories of the process of recall are the Two-Stage Theory and the theory of Encoding Specificity. Often contrasted with (and seen as superior to, or more difficult than) recognition. (source)

 

Recognition

Recognition is identifying something you learned previously and is therefore stored in some manner in memory. For example, taking a multiple choice test requires you to identify material you learned and not necessarily “recall” information learned previously. (source)

 

Reconstructive memory

Reconstructive memory is a theory of elaborate memory recall proposed within the field of Cognitive Psychology, in which the act of remembering is influenced by various other cognitive processes including perception, imagination, semantic memory and beliefs, amongst others. People view their memories as being a coherent and truthful account of episodic memory and believe that their perspective is free from error during recall. However the reconstructive process of memory recall is subject to distortion by other intervening cognitive functions such as individual perceptions, social influences, and world knowledge, all of which can lead to errors during reconstruction. (source)

 

Rehearsal 

Rehearsal in educational psychology refers to the “cognitive process in which information is repeated over and over as a possible way of learning and remembering it”. A person can do this by saying aloud or thinking of material repeatedly until it becomes a part of the working memory. However, the material may fade from the working memory quickly. This is a common form of rote learning. Rote learning is learning or memorization by repetition, often without an understanding of the reasoning or relationships involved in the material that is learned. However, the material may register eventually and take large amounts of time and hard work. Rehearsal is viewed in educational psychology as an ineffective way of getting information to the long-term memory. (source)

 

Repetition priming

Repetition priming refers to improvements in a behavioural response when stimuli are repeatedly presented. The improvements can be measured in terms of accuracy or reaction time, and can occur when the repeated stimuli are either identical or similar to previous stimuli. These improvements have been shown to be cumulative, so as the number of repetitions increases the responses get continually faster up to a maximum of around seven repetitions. These improvements are also found when the repeated items are changed slightly in terms of orientation, size and position. The size of the effect is also modulated by the length of time the item is presented for and the length time between the first and subsequent presentations of the repeated items. (source)

 

Retrieval

Psychologists distinguish between three necessary stages in the learning and memory process: encoding, storage, and retrieval (Melton, 1963). Encoding is defined as the initial learning of information; storage refers to maintaining information over time; retrieval is the ability to access information when you need it. (source)

 

Retrieval-induced forgetting 

Retrieval-induced forgetting (or RIF) is a memory phenomenon where remembering causes forgetting of other information in memory. The phenomenon was first demonstrated in 1994, although the concept of RIF has been previously discussed in the context of retrieval inhibition. RIF is demonstrated through a three-phase experiment consisting of study, practice of some studied material, and a final test of all studied material. Such experiments have also used multiple kinds of final tests including recall using only category cues, recall using category and word stems, and recognition tests. The effect has been produced using many different kinds of materials, can be produced in group settings, and is reduced in special populations such as individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or schizophrenia. Although RIF occurs as a consequence of conscious remembering through explicit retrieval, the actual forgetting is thought to occur implicitly, below the level of awareness. (source)

 

Retrieval inhibition 

In psychology, memory inhibition is the ability not to remember irrelevant information. The scientific concept of memory inhibition should not be confused with everyday uses of the word “inhibition.” Scientifically speaking, memory inhibition is a type of cognitive inhibition, which is the stopping or overriding of a mental process, in whole or in part, with or without intention. Memory inhibition is a critical component of an effective memory system. While some memories are retained for a lifetime, most memories are forgotten. According to evolutionary psychologists, forgetting is adaptive because it facilitates selectivity of rapid, efficient recollection. For example, a person trying to remember where he parked his car would not want to remember every place he has ever parked. In order to remember something, therefore, it is essential not only to activate the relevant information, but also to inhibit irrelevant information. (source)

 

Rhetoric

  1. Language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect, but which is often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content. (source)
  2. One of 3 components of the Trivium, an ancient system of liberal arts education. Rhetoric is the application of language in order to instruct and to persuade the listener and the reader. It is the knowledge (grammar) now understood (logic) being transmitted outwards, as wisdom (rhetoric). (source)

 

Roleplay simulation

Roleplay simulation is an experiential learning method in which either amateur or professional roleplayers (also called interactors) improvise with learners as part of a simulated scenario. Roleplay is designed primarily to build first-person experience in a safe and supportive environment. Roleplay is widely acknowledged as a powerful technique across multiple avenues of training and education. (source)

 

Rote learning

Rote learning is a memorization technique based on repetition. The idea is that one will be able to quickly recall the meaning of the material the more one repeats it. Some of the alternatives to rote learning include meaningful learning, associative learning, and active learning. Rote methods are routinely used when fast memorization is required, such as learning one’s lines in a play or memorizing a telephone number. Rote learning is widely used in the mastery of foundational knowledge. Examples of school topics where rote learning is frequently used include phonics in reading, the periodic table in chemistry, multiplication tables in mathematics, anatomy in medicine, cases or statutes in law, basic formula in any science, etc. By definition, rote learning eschews comprehension, so by itself it is an ineffective tool in mastering any complex subject at an advanced level. For instance, one illustration of rote learning can be observed in preparing quickly for exams, a technique which may be colloquially referred to as “cramming”. (source)

 

Sandwich model of cognition

The classical approach to cognition is a ‘sandwich’ model which assumes three stages of information processing: perception, cognition and then action. In this model, perception and action do not interact directly, instead cognitive processing is needed to convert perceptual representations into action. For example, this might require creating arbitrary linkages (mapping between sensory and motor codes). In contrast, the common coding account claims that perception and action are directly linked by a common computational code. (source)

 

Scaffolding

In education, the term scaffolding refers to a process in which teachers model or demonstrate how to solve a problem, and then step back, offering support as needed. Psychologist and instructional designer Jerome Bruner first used the term ‘scaffolding’ in this context in the 1960s. (source)

 

Schema

In psychology and cognitive science, a schema (plural schemata or schemas) describes a pattern of thought or behaviour that organizes categories of information and the relationships among them. It can also be described as a mental structure of preconceived ideas, a framework representing some aspect of the world, or a system of organizing and perceiving new information. Schemata influence attention and the absorption of new knowledge: people are more likely to notice things that fit into their schema, while re-interpreting contradictions to the schema as exceptions or distorting them to fit. Schemata have a tendency to remain unchanged, even in the face of contradictory information. Schemata can help in understanding the world and the rapidly changing environment. People can organize new perceptions into schemata quickly as most situations do not require complex thought when using schema, since automatic thought is all that is required. People use schemata to organize current knowledge and provide a framework for future understanding. Examples of schemata include academic rubrics, social schemas, stereotypes, social roles, scripts, worldviews, and archetypes. In Piaget’s theory of development, children construct a series of schemata to help them understand the world. (source)

 

Self-actualisation

Self-actualisation is a term that has been used in various psychology theories, often in slightly different ways. The term was originally introduced by the organismic theorist Kurt Goldstein for the motive to realize one’s full potential. Expressing one’s creativity, quest for spiritual enlightenment, pursuit of knowledge, and the desire to give to society are examples of self-actualization. In Goldstein’s view, it is the organism’s master motive, the only real motive: “the tendency to actualize itself as fully as possible is the basic drive… the drive of self-actualization.” Carl Rogers similarly wrote of “the curative force in psychotherapy – man’s tendency to actualize himself, to become his potentialities… to express and activate all the capacities of the organism.” The concept was brought most fully to prominence in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory as the final level of psychological development that can be achieved when all basic and mental needs are essentially fulfilled and the “actualization” of the full personal potential takes place, although he adapted this viewpoint later on in life, and saw it more flexibly. Self-actualization can be seen as similar to words and concepts such as self-discovery, self-reflection, self-realisation and self-exploration. (source)

 

Self-concept

One’s self-concept (also called self-construction, self-identity, self-perspective or self-structure) is a collection of beliefs about oneself that includes elements such as academic performance, gender roles, sexuality and racial identity. Generally, self-concept embodies the answer to “Who am I?”. One’s self-concept is made up of self-schemas, and their past, present, and future selves. Self-concept is distinguishable from self-awareness, which refers to the extent to which self-knowledge is defined, consistent, and currently applicable to one’s attitudes and dispositions. Self-concept also differs from self-esteem: self-concept is a cognitive or descriptive component of one’s self (e.g. “I am a fast runner”), while self-esteem is evaluative and opinionated (e.g. “I feel good about being a fast runner”). (source)

 

Self-managed learning

Self-managed learning (SML) is a learning approach developed by Ian Cunningham in the 1970s, which is used in business as well as educational settings. The elements of SML focus on individual responsibility for learning, as opposed to being taught in a traditional way. However SML is also grounded in organisational needs so that the individual is learning firmly in an organisational context. In addition there is ‘collective responsibility’ whereby learners support each other and are active participants in the learning of others. In an SML programme, the curriculum is not viewed as being separate from the learner, but is co-constructed or identified by the learner according to perceived needs. Adequate time must be given to the crucial diagnostic phase where individuals decide and clarify their learning needs. This is done by working through five SML questions: 1) Where have I been? 2) Where am I now? 3) Where do I want to get to? 4) How will I get there? 5) How will I know I have arrived? Support may be required during a transition period where the individual is becoming familiar with the approach; Learning experiences are identified to satisfy needs by a mapping process. Learning contracts are an essential feature and are personal documents that can subsequently be used to evaluate and measure the outcomes of the programme. Learning sets are an essential feature where members support, challenge and assess each other’s contributions facilitated by a skilled set adviser. A learning budget may be available to the individual, providing a more focussed and targeted way to purchase appropriate resources or expert help. Feedback and guidance are provided by the learning set which must also ensure that social processes and issues of personal relationships are resolved. SML combines individual and group-based learning. As well as self-assessment, there is joint assessment with the set, adviser and the individual. SML is a flexible approach, and SML programmes are responsive to individual and organisational cultures. (source)

 

Self-regulation 

Self-regulation describes a process of taking control of and evaluating one’s own learning and behaviour. It is characterised as learning that is guided by metacognition (thinking about one’s thinking), strategic action (planning, monitoring, and evaluating personal progress against a standard), and motivation to learn. Self-regulated learning emphasizes autonomy and control by the individual who monitors, directs, and regulates actions toward goals of information acquisition, expanding expertise, and self-improvement. In particular, self-regulated learners are cognisant of their academic strengths and weaknesses, and they have a repertoire of strategies they appropriately apply to tackle the day-to-day challenges of academic tasks. These learners hold incremental beliefs about intelligence (as opposed to entity, or fixed views of intelligence) and attribute their successes or failures to factors (e.g., effort expended on a task, effective use of strategies) within their control. Students who are self-regulated learners believe that opportunities to take on challenging tasks, practice their learning, develop a deep understanding of subject matter, and exert effort will give rise to academic success. In part, these characteristics may help to explain why self-regulated learners usually exhibit a high sense of self-efficacy. In the educational psychology literature, researchers have linked these characteristics to success in and beyond school. (source)

 

Self-worth theory

The self-worth theory of achievement motivation (Covington & Beery, 1976; Covington, 1984) assumes that the highest human priority is the search for self-acceptance and that “one’s worth often comes to depend on the ability to achieve competitively”. In society there is a pervasive tendency to equate accomplishment with human value—put simply, individuals are thought to be only as worthy as their achievements. Because of this, it is understandable that students often confuse ability with worth. In essence, self-worth theory holds that, psychologically speaking, school achievement is best understood in terms of maintaining a positive self-image of one’s ability, particularly when risking competitive failure. (source)

 

Semantic memory

Semantic memory is one of the two types of declarative or explicit memory (our memory of facts or events that is explicitly stored and retrieved). Semantic memory refers to general world knowledge that we have accumulated throughout our lives. This general knowledge (facts, ideas, meaning and concepts) is intertwined in experience and dependent on culture. Semantic memory is distinct from episodic memory, which is our memory of experiences and specific events that occur during our lives, from which we can recreate at any given point. For instance, semantic memory might contain information about what a cat is, whereas episodic memory might contain a specific memory of petting a particular cat. We can learn about new concepts by applying our knowledge learned from things in the past. The counterpart to declarative, or explicit memory, is procedural memory, or implicit memory. (source)

 

Sensory memory

During every moment of an organism’s life, sensory information is being taken in by sensory receptors and processed by the nervous system. Sensory information is stored in sensory memory just long enough to be transferred to short-term memory. Humans have five main senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch. Sensory memory (SM) allows individuals to retain impressions of sensory information after the original stimulus has ceased. A common demonstration of SM is a child’s ability to write letters and make circles by twirling a sparkler at night. When the sparkler is spun fast enough, it appears to leave a trail which forms a continuous image. This “light trail” is the image that is represented in the visual sensory store known as iconic memory. The other two types of SM that have been most extensively studied are echoic memory, and haptic memory; however, it is reasonable to assume that each physiological sense has a corresponding memory store. (source)

 

Sequence learning 

In cognitive psychology, sequence learning is inherent to human ability because it is an integrated part of conscious and non-conscious learning as well as activities. Sequences of information or sequences of actions are used in various everyday tasks: “from sequencing sounds in speech, to sequencing movements in typing or playing instruments, to sequencing actions in driving an automobile.” Sequence learning can be used to study skill acquisition and in studies of various groups ranging from neuropsychological patients to infants. According to Ritter and Nerb, “The order in which material is presented can strongly influence what is learned, how fast performance increases, and sometimes even whether the material is learned at all.” Sequence learning, more known and understood as a form of explicit learning, is now also being studied as a form of implicit learning as well as other forms of learning. (source)

 

Short-term memory

Short-term memory (or “primary” or “active memory”) is the capacity for holding, but not manipulating, a small amount of information in mind in an active, readily available state for a short period of time. The duration of short-term memory (when rehearsal or active maintenance is prevented) is believed to be in the order of seconds. The most commonly cited capacity is The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two (which is frequently referred to as Miller’s Law), despite the fact that Miller himself stated that the figure was intended as “little more than a joke” (Miller, 1989, page 401) and that Cowan (2001) provided evidence that a more realistic figure is 4±1. In contrast, long-term memory can hold an indefinite amount of information. While the two concepts are closely related, short-term memory should be distinguished from working memory, which refers to structures and processes used for temporarily storing and manipulating information. (source)

 

Significant learning

The distinction between significant and non-significant learning was notably expressed by Carl Rogers, who wrote: “It seems to me that anything that can be taught to another is relatively inconsequential and has little or no significant influence on behaviour. I realize increasingly that I am only interested in learnings which significantly influence behaviour.” It is worth noting that Rogers was a psychotherapist who was primarily interested in “learnings which significantly influence behaviour”. It should also be borne in mind that significance is a subjective notion. Nevertheless, since almost all students ask the question “Why do I need to learn this?” at some point or other in their school career – understandably, since many teachers ask the same question – the question of learning significance remains one worthy of reflection. (source)

 

Simulations

Simulation is the imitation of the operation of a real-world process or system over time. The act of simulating something first requires that a model be developed; this model represents the key characteristics or behaviours/functions of the selected physical or abstract system or process. The model represents the system itself, whereas the simulation represents the operation of the system over time. Simulation is used in many contexts, such as simulation of technology for performance optimization, safety engineering, testing, training, education, and video games. Often, computer experiments are used to study simulation models. Simulation is also used with scientific modelling of natural systems or human systems to gain insight into their functioning. Simulation can be used to show the eventual real effects of alternative conditions and courses of action. (source) See also: roleplay.

 

Skills

A skill is the ability to carry out a task with pre-determined results often within a given amount of time, energy, or both. Skills can often be divided into domain general and domain-specific skills. For example, in the domain of work, some general skills would include time management, teamwork and leadership, self-motivation and others, whereas domain-specific skills would be useful only for a certain job. Skill usually requires certain environmental stimuli and situations to assess the level of skill being shown and used. (source)

 

Slow education

Slow Education is an approach which seeks to make time in the classroom for creative teaching and learning. Like the Slow Food movement, Slow Education is about process: how children learn is seen to be as important as targets and tests. Principles of Slow Education include: time for deep learning experiences with real outcomes; time for curiosity, passion and reflection to be at the heart of learning experiences; time for dynamic, collaborative, democratic and supportive relationships for learning. (source)

 

Social cognitive theory 

Social cognitive theory (SCT), used in psychology, education, and communication, holds that portions of an individual’s knowledge acquisition can be directly related to observing others within the context of social interactions, experiences, and outside media influences. The theory states that when people observe a model performing a behaviour and the consequences of that behaviour, they remember the sequence of events and use this information to guide subsequent behaviours. Observing a model can also prompt the viewer to engage in behaviour they already learned. (source)

 

Social and emotional learning

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is an umbrella term that refers to students’ “acquisition of skills to recognise and manage emotions, develop care and concern for others, make responsible decisions, establish positive relationships, and handle challenging situations effectively”. SEL it refers to skills to manage self, relate to others positively and make responsible decisions. (source)

 

Social learning theory

Social learning theory was developed by Albert Bandura, who posited that learning is a cognitive process that takes place in a social context and can occur purely through observation or direct instruction, even in the absence of motor reproduction or direct reinforcement. In addition to the observation of behaviour, learning also occurs through the observation of rewards and punishments, a process known as vicarious reinforcement. The theory expands on traditional behavioural theories, in which behaviour is governed solely by reinforcements, by placing emphasis on the important roles of various internal processes in the learning individual. (source)

 

Spaced learning 

Spaced Learning is a learning method in which highly condensed learning content is repeated three times, with two 10-minute breaks during which distractor activities such as physical activities are performed by the students. It is based on the temporal pattern of stimuli for creating long-term memories reported by R. Douglas Fields in Scientific American in 2005. The distinctive features of the approach are: the speed of instruction being minutes (as opposed to hours, days or months), the spaces and their function, and why content is repeated three times. Spaced learning has also been reported in other species as being required for long-term memory creation. (source)

 

Spacing effect

The spacing effect is the phenomenon whereby learning is greater when studying is spread out over time, as opposed to studying the same amount of time in a single session. That is, it is better to use spaced presentation rather than massed presentation. Practically, this effect suggests that “cramming” (intense, last-minute studying) the night before an exam is not likely to be as effective as studying at intervals in a longer time frame. Important to note, however, is that the benefit of spaced presentations does not appear at short retention intervals, in which massed presentations tend to lead to better memory performance. (source)

 

Special educational needs

Special Educational Needs (SEN) is a legal term. It describes the needs of a child who has a difficulty or disability which makes learning harder for them than for other children their age. Around one in five children has SEN at some point during their school years. Some children have SEN right through their time in school. SEN covers a broad spectrum of difficulty or disability. Children may have wide-ranging or specific problems – e.g., a child might have difficulty with one area of learning, such as letters or numbers. Or they might have problems relating to other children, or to adults. (source)

 

Stage not age learning

The notion that learners should be grouped according to their stage of development, ability or interest level, rather than their chronological age. (source)

 

Storage

Memory is the ability of the mind to store and recall information that was previously acquired. Memory is processed through three fundamental processing stages: storage, encoding, and retrieval. Storing refers to the process of placing newly acquired information into memory, which is modified in the brain for easier storage. Encoding this information makes the process of retrieval easier for the brain where it can be recalled and brought into conscious thinking. Modern memory psychology differentiates between the two distinct types of memory storage: short-term memory and long-term memory. In addition, different memory models have suggested variations of existing short- and long-term memory to account for different ways of storing memory. (source)

 

Summative assessment

Summative assessment (or summative evaluation) refers to the assessment of participants where the focus is on the outcome of a program. This contrasts with formative assessment, which summarizes the participants’ development at a particular time. (source)

 

Synaptic plasticity

In neuroscience, synaptic plasticity is the ability of synapses to strengthen or weaken over time, in response to increases or decreases in their activity. Since memories are postulated to be represented by vastly interconnected networks of synapses in the brain, synaptic plasticity is one of the important neurochemical foundations of learning and memory. Plastic change often results from the alteration of the number of neurotransmitter receptors located on a synapse. There are several underlying mechanisms that cooperate to achieve synaptic plasticity, including changes in the quantity of neurotransmitters released into a synapse and changes in how effectively cells respond to those neurotransmitters. Synaptic plasticity in both excitatory and inhibitory synapses has been found to be dependent upon postsynaptic calcium release. (source)

 

Synchronous learning

A learning event in which a group of students are engaging in learning at the same time. Before learning technology allowed for synchronous learning environments, most online education took place through asynchronous learning methods. Since synchronous tools that can be used for education have become available, many people are turning to them as a way to help decrease the challenges associated with transactional distance that occurs in online education. (source)

 

Tangential learning

Tangential learning is the process by which people self-educate if a topic is exposed to them in a context that they already enjoy. For example, after playing a music-based video game, some people may be motivated to learn how to play a real instrument, or after watching a TV show that references Faust and Lovecraft, some people may be inspired to read the original work. Self-education can be improved with systematization. According to experts in natural learning, self-oriented learning training has proven an effective tool for assisting independent learners with the natural phases of learning. (source)

 

Threshold concept 

A term used to describe core concepts that once understood, transform perception of a given subject and are central to the process of mastery. Features of a threshold concept are that it is transformative, troublesome, irreversible, integrative, bounded, discursive, reconstitutive, and liminal. (source)

 

Tip of the tongue

Tip of the tongue (or TOT) is the phenomenon of failing to retrieve a word from memory, combined with partial recall and the feeling that retrieval is imminent. The phenomenon’s name comes from the saying, “It’s on the tip of my tongue.” The tip of the tongue phenomenon reveals that lexical access occurs in stages. People experiencing the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon can often recall one or more features of the target word, such as the first letter, its syllabic stress, and words similar in sound and/or meaning. Individuals report a feeling of being seized by the state, feeling something like mild anguish while searching for the word, and a sense of relief when the word is found. While many aspects of the tip-of-the-tongue state remain unclear, there are two major competing explanations for its occurrence, the direct-access view and the inferential view. The direct-access view posits that the state occurs when memory strength is not enough to recall an item, but is strong enough to trigger the state. The inferential view claims that TOTs aren’t completely based on inaccessible, yet activated targets; rather they arise when the subject tries to piece together different clues about the word. Emotional-induced retrieval often causes more TOT experiences than an emotionally neutral retrieval, such as asking where a famous icon was assassinated rather than simply asking the capital city of a state. Emotional TOT experiences also have a longer retrieval time than non-emotional TOT experiences. The cause of this is unknown but possibilities include using a different retrieval strategy when having an emotional TOT experience rather than a non-emotional TOT experience, fluency at the time of retrieval, and strength of memory. (source)

 

Transfer

Transfer of learning is the dependency of human conduct, learning, or performance on prior experience. The notion was originally introduced as transfer of practice by Edward Thorndike and Robert S. Woodworth. They explored how individuals would transfer learning in one context to another, similar context – or how “improvement in one mental function” could influence a related one. Their theory implied that transfer of learning depends on how similar the learning task and transfer tasks are, or where “identical elements are concerned in the influencing and influenced function”, now known as the identical element theory. Today, transfer of learning is usually described as the process and the effective extent to which past experiences (also referred to as the transfer source) affect learning and performance in a new situation (the transfer target). However, there remains controversy as to how transfer of learning should be conceptualized and explained, what its prevalence is, what its relation is to learning in general, and whether it exists at all. (source)

 

Trivium

The Trivium is a systematic method of critical thinking used to derive factual certainty from information perceived with the traditional five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. In the medieval university, the trivium was the lower division of the seven liberal arts, and comprised grammar, logic, and rhetoric (input, process, and output). The trivium is implicit in the De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii (“On the Marriage of Philology and Mercury”), by Martianus Capella, although the term was not used until the Carolingian Renaissance, when the term was coined, in imitation of the earlier quadrivium. Grammar, logic, and rhetoric were essential to a classical education, as explained in Plato’s dialogues. Together, the three subjects were included to and denoted by the word “trivium” during the Middle Ages, but the tradition of first learning those three subjects was established in ancient Greece. Contemporary iterations have taken various forms, including those found in certain British and American universities (some being part of the Classical education movement). (source)

 

Visuospatial Sketchpad

The visuospatial Sketchpad is the component of working memory responsible for handling visual and spatial information. It temporarily stores information on how things look and allows us to manipulate images in our mind, such as when we mentally rotate a shape to see how it might appear from a different angle or when we give directions to a friend to help them navigate through a city. The visuospatial sketchpad also allows us to recreate images either based on something we’re seeing in real time or something we’ve seen in the past. If you’re drawing a flower, for example, you use the visuospatial sketchpad to hold a picture of the flower in your mind while you reproduce it on paper. Images on our mental scratch paper fade quickly though. While creating your drawing you have to either keep looking back at an actual flower or keep retrieving an image of a flower from your long-term memory. (source)

 

Working memory

Working memory, a core executive function, is a cognitive system with a limited capacity that is responsible for the transient holding, processing, and manipulation of information. Working memory is an important process for reasoning and the guidance of decision making and behaviour. Working memory is often used synonymously with short-term memory, but neuropsychologists have noted that the two forms of memory are distinct, particularly since they arise from different neural subsystems within the prefrontal cortex. Working memory is a short-term memory buffer that allows for the manipulation of stored information, while short-term memory is only involved in the short-term storage of information and does not entail the manipulation or organization of material held in memory. Working memory also develops later and at a slower pace than short-term memory. (source)

 

Zone of proximal development (ZPD)

The zone of proximal development, often abbreviated as ZPD, is the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help. It is a concept introduced, yet not fully developed, by Soviet psychologist Lev Vygostsky (1896–1934) during the last ten years of his life. Vygotsky stated that a child follows an adult’s example and gradually develops the ability to do certain tasks without help. Vygotsky and some other educators believe that the role of education is to give children experiences that are within their zones of proximal development, thereby encouraging and advancing their individual learning. (source)

 

Index

Accidental learning

Accredited learning

Action research

Active learning

Accelerated learning

Accommodation

Acculturation

Adaptive learning

Advance organisers

Argumentation theory

Artificial intelligence

Assessment for learning

Assimilation

Associative learning

Associative memory

Asynchronous learning

Attention

Attentional capture

Autobiographical memory

Behaviourism

Blended learning

Blocking

Central executive

Chunking

Cognition

Cognitive acceleration

Cognitive bias

Cognitive conflict

Cognitive dissonance

Cognitive enhancers (aka nootropics)

Cognitive load

Cognitive motivation

Cognitive science

Common coding theory

Communicative action

Community of inquiry

Competency-based learning

Compulsory learning

Concrete examples

Conditioning, classical

Conditioning, operant

Confirmation bias

Constructivism

Contextual interference

Convergent thinking

Cooperative learning

Core conditions

Core knowledge

Creativity

Critical thinking

Cues

Cue-dependent forgetting

Cultural literacy

Cumulative talk

Cybernetics

Decay theory

Declarative memory

Deductive learning

Deschooling

Desirable difficulties

Dialogic learning

Diffuse mode thinking

Direct instruction

Disputational talk

Distance learning

Divergent thinking

Domains

Drama-based instruction

Dreyfuss model of skill acquisition

Drill

Dual coding

Echoic memory

Ed tech

Elaborative interrogation

E-learning

Elicitation

Embodied cognition

Emotional intelligence

Empathy

Encoding

Enculturation

Engagement

Engram

Episodic buffer

Episodic memory

Epistemology

Evaluation

Expeditionary learning

Experiential learning

Expert

Explicit instruction

Explicit memory

Exploratory talk

Extrinsic motivation

Facilitation

Fatigue

Flipped learning

Flow

Focused mode thinking

Forgetting

Forgetting curve

Formal learning

Formative assessment

Forum theatre

Fuzzy logic

Gamification

Generation effects

Grammar

Ground rules

Ground rules for group talk

Habituation

Haptic memory

Hobbies

Human scale education

Illusion of truth effect

Imaginative inquiry

Implicit memory

Imprinting

Incentive theory

Inductive learning

Independence

Informal (aka non-formal) learning

Intelligence

Intelligence Quotient

Interest

Interference theory

Interleaving

Intermental development zone

Interthinking

Intrinsic motivation

Knowledge

Latent learning

Learnable intelligence

Learned helplessness

Learning objectives (aka learning intentions)

Learning outcomes

Learning to learn

Liberal arts

Linguistics

Locus of control

Logic

Logical fallacies

Long-term memory

Long-term potentiation

Machine learning

Mantle of the expert

Mastery learning

Memory

Memory modifier

Meta-cognition

Meta-learning

Meta-memory

Mindset

Minimally invasive learning

Mnemonics

MOOC

Motivation

Nature vs nurture

Negative transfer

Neural network

Neuroplasticity

Non-associative learning

Novice

Ontology

Oracy

Paradigm shift

Performance orientation (aka achievement orientation)

Philosophical enquiry

Phonological loop

Phronesis

Play

Praxis

Priming

Procedural knowledge

Process praise

Procrastination

Professional development

Problem-based learning

Project-based learning

Propositional theory

Recall

Recognition

Reconstructive memory

Rehearsal

Repetition priming

Retrieval

Retrieval-induced forgetting

Retrieval inhibition

Rhetoric

Roleplay simulation

Rote learning

Sandwich model of cognition

Scaffolding

Schema

Self-actualisation

Self-concept

Self-managed learning

Self-regulation

Self-worth theory

Semantic memory

Sensory memory

Sequence learning

Short-term memory

Significant learning

Simulations

Skills

Slow education

Social cognitive theory

Social and emotional learning

Social learning theory

Spaced learning

Spacing effect

Special educational needs

Stage not age learning

Storage

Summative assessment

Synaptic plasticity

Synchronous learning

Tangential learning

Threshold concept

Tip of the tongue

Transfer

Trivium

Visuospatial Sketchpad

Working memory

Zone of proximal development

Learning is meaningless

| by James Mannion |

Definitions are important. Everybody knows this. If we can’t be clear about the meanings of the words we use, we should stop using them and find better ones instead. And yet, defining even the simplest of things can be horrible. If you’re not sure what I mean, try defining ‘chair’ to a Devil’s Advocate. It’s likely to go something like this:

You:    It’s a thing you sit on.
DA:     I’m sitting on my bum, is my bum a chair?
You:    A thing you sit on that isn’t part of your body.
DA:     Oh like the floor!
You:    No, it’s an object you sit on.
DA:     Oh. Is a settee a chair?
You:    A seat for one person.
DA:     How about a tree stump?
You:    No it has to have 4 legs.
DA:     Like a cat?
You:    It has to have 4 legs and not be alive.
DA:     A dead cat.
You:    Now you’re just being facetious.
DA:     A table then?
You:    4 legs and a bit you can learn back against.
DA:     Like this?bs1You:    No, that’s a bar stool.
DA:     How about this, is this a chair?weird-chYou:    Yes.
DA:     I thought you said it has to have 4 legs?
You:    Um…
DA:     How about this, is this a chair?
ec1

If defining an everyday object like a chair can prove tricky, when it comes to pinning down something abstract like learning – well, you can be sure we’re in for a rough ride. (By the way, the Oxford English Dictionary sidestep the entire issue by defining chair as ‘a seat for one personal that typically has 4 legs and a back’. Emphasis added… the swines!)

6 statements about learning

Here are 6 definitions of / statements about learning that I have encountered in the last year or so:

1. I define learning as the long-term retention of knowledge and skills and the ability to transfer between contexts. The retention bit is fairly straightforward and uncontroversial: if you can’t remember something tomorrow, can you really be said to have learned it? (source)

2. If nothing has changed in long-term memory, nothing has been learned. (source)

3. Learning is acquiring knowledge and skills and having them readily available from memory so you can make sense of future problems and opportunities. (source)

4. Learning is what happens when you think hard. (source)

5. Learning is impossible without extended practice. (source)

6. Learning and memory are closely related concepts. Learning is the acquisition of skill or knowledge, while memory is the expression of what you’ve acquired. Another difference is the speed with which the two things happen. If you acquire the new skill or knowledge slowly and laboriously, that’s learning. If acquisition occurs instantly, that’s making a memory. (source)

To summarise: In the first 3 statements, learning is defined as something very closely related to memory. In statements 4 and 5, we find learning defined in terms of effort: learning is something you have to earn. And in statement 6, we find both of these ideas combined.

Here’s our Devil’s Advocate again, to give these statements a run for their money:

“Learning is the long-term retention…”

DA:      Learning is retention? Is learning not more to do with acquisition – something that might lead to retention? Is it a combination of the two perhaps? Or are you defining learning as a noun here – that which is possessed by a learned person – rather than the process by which it is acquired? Also – if learning is defined as retention, where does that leave forgetting? As Robert Bjork points out here, “forgetting enables learning and focuses remembering”. So if learning is retention, and forgetting (i.e. non-retention) enables learning – what exactly is going on? If you forget something, does that mean you never learnt it? Are you not defining learning merely as ‘the ability to remember’? Also – what exactly do you mean by long-term? Psychologists use short-term memory (STM) to refer to the capacity for storing, but not manipulating, information which, in the absence of rehearsal, typically lasts for around 20-30 seconds before fading. Long-Term Memory (LTM) is considered to span from a few minutes through to a lifetime. This is quite a range! By defining learning as ‘long-term retention’, does this mean anything upwards of 30 seconds? A week? A month? A year? Also – how accurately does retention have to be maintained over the allotted time period in order to qualify as learning? Does 50% retention count as learning, forgetting or both?

“…of knowledge and skills…”

DA:      How are you defining knowledge here? Is all knowledge the same? Is knowledge of self the same as knowledge of trivia? Similarly, how do you define skills? Are skills something distinct to knowledge, or is the ability to juggle, say, merely a form of “procedural knowledge”?  Is the learning process the same for memorising the names of 30 students, learning to solve a simultaneous equation, learning sign language, learning to get really good at playing bridge, or learning to play a musical instrument? Can we really lump “knowledge and skills” together in one definition?

“…that is transferred.”

DA:      I’ll come on to that in a minute.

“The retention bit is fairly straightforward and uncontroversial: if you can’t remember something tomorrow, can you really be said to have learned it?”

DA:      I assume you are using the word “tomorrow” figuratively, because it’s obviously a pretty low bar for retention. But the question remains: what is your cut-off? Also – what is this “something” that you speak of? Does the appropriate amount of retention not depend on the nature of the material to be learned? If I’m in a restaurant and I can learn and remember what’s on the specials board for the few minutes it takes me to return to my table and place my order (note, longer than the standard 30-second STM decay), what’s the problem if I can’t remember next week whether the ribs came with wedges or Cajun fries? Does this mean I never learned the information in the first place? The American Psychological Association might say “that wasn’t learning, it was just making a memory”, as per statement 6 above. But since they define memory as an expression of learning, they would be on pretty thin ice. An alternative view would be that I learned this information for as long as I needed it, and then I forgot it so it wouldn’t clutter up my mind. (Thank goodness – who wants to be thinking about Cajun fries 20 years after you ate them?) Why can we not recognise the functional, short-term retention and forgetting of information as a form of temporary learning?

To use a longer-term example: compare learning the chemical symbol for Gold with learning the words to Tom Lehrer’s The Element Song. If tomorrow I can’t remember that the symbol for Gold is Au, then we can agree that I haven’t learned that thing. But what if on the day of study I can remember all the words to The Element Song, and then a week later I can only remember half the words? Obviously, retention has something to do with learning. Perhaps it can be seen as a kind of product or residue of learning, or a performance enabled by – but distinct from – the process of learning. But one thing is clear: defining learning as retention is neither straightforward nor uncontroversial.

“Acquiring knowledge and skills and having them readily available from memory so you can make sense of future problems and opportunities.”

DA:      As a child, I learned to play the piano to about grade 4 or 5. I stopped playing when I was 14. When I was 24, I joined a band and started playing keyboard. I was hopeless, and essentially had to learn again from scratch. However, to my amazement I could still play the Maple Leaf Rag, note perfect. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as “muscle memory” – a kind of implicit, procedural memory. My ability to play the Maple Leaf Rag was not “transferrable” in any meaningful way. I could not play anything else to nearly the same standard, and it did not help me learn how to play the kind of keyboard I needed to play in a band, age 24. Nor have I yet encountered a situation where I have been able to transfer my ability to play the Maple Leaf Rag to solve a problem or make sense of an opportunity, although I remain eternally vigilant. If ‘acquired knowledge and skills’ needs to be transferrable in order to satisfy your definition of learning, does the fact that my ability to play the Maple Leaf Rag is non-transferrable mean that I didn’t learn it? I could give you a thousand more examples of things I have learned which are not transferrable. I’m not saying transfer is not desirable, or something to work towards in certain circumstances – but should it really feature in the very definition of learning? And what exactly do you mean by transfer? Is answering a quiz question transfer?

“Learning is what happens when you think hard”

“Learning is impossible without extended practice”

“If nothing has changed in long-term memory, nothing has been learned”

DA:     One thing I have learned, or “become aware of” recently is that on the Monday of half-term, my son went trampolining at 4 o clock. When I woke up that morning, I did not know this information. I do now, because that day I happened to overhear a conversation about what time he was going trampolining at. You might say I acquired this knowledge through experience. It was of no importance – I didn’t have to take him there or pick him up. I did not process, manipulate or rehearse this information. It’s just a thing I noticed, which I can now recall some 19 days later – far beyond the 30-second STM window. If this is not learning – and yet it is an example of information that has been retained in the LTM – what shall we call it?

To use an example with a longer time-span, I can recall that when I was about 5, I went to a bonfire and ate a toffee apple. I have not reinforced this information with extended practice, or even really thought about it since; it’s just a thing that happened more than 30 years ago. If it is true that “if nothing has changed in the long-term memory, nothing has been learned”, then if something is retained in the long-term memory, does that mean that that thing has been learned? Does the definition work in reverse? If so, does this undermine the idea that learning is something that is impossible without extended practice, or thinking hard? You might argue that this is simply a memory of an experience, rather than an example of learning. But why then do I remember that particular instance, rather than the bonfire at which I ate a candy floss or a nice slice of Parkin? A definition of learning as “memory accruing from effort” should be able to explain why some things are retained in the LTM in the absence of hard thinking and extended practice, while others are not. Clearly, there are other factors at play which do not feature in your definition of learning.

“Learning and memory are closely related concepts. Learning is the acquisition of skill or knowledge, while memory is the expression of what you’ve acquired. Another difference is the speed with which the two things happen. If you acquire the new skill or knowledge slowly and laboriously, that’s learning. If acquisition occurs instantly, that’s making a memory.”

DA:      Memory is expression? Really? What about memories that are not being expressed – or which may never be expressed – but which are stored? Also – one minute you say memory is an expression of learning; the next, merely “making a memory” does not constitute learning. That seems kind of inconsistent. How and where do you draw the distinction? Also – how exactly do you define “slowly and laboriously?” Is there a cut-off point? What if you’re a so-called “fast learner”? Is this statement equally true of novices and experts?

One of the problems here is the sense of certainty with which these 6 statements were made. With the exception of Professor Rob Coe, who follows his “hard thinking” definition with the caveat that “obviously, this is over-simplistic, vague and not original”, the statements above all seem to assume that learning is *a thing*, and all we need to do is accurately describe that thing. We see such declarative language all the time: “Learning is tripartite”, or “Learning is liminal”. Or how about this apparently serious attempt to refine the definition, from the Journal of Psychology: “Learning is the process by which a relatively stable modification in stimulus–response relations is developed as a consequence of functional environmental interaction via the senses”.

This is even worse than I thought. My question is this: What if learning is more than just *a thing* which can be defined in a single sentence? What if learning is… multidimensional?

Pay attention

For example, one thing that is missing from any of the 6 statements above is any mention of attention. Clearly, while our Devil’s Advocate did not rehearse or think hard about the fact that his son went trampolining at 4pm, on some level he attended to it while overhearing it. So perhaps attention is required for learning. (At face value, this might seem so obvious as to not even be worth mentioning. But in this this study, researchers found that learning can happen in the absence of attention. So even the requirement to “pay attention” is not as straightforward as it might seem!)

In recent years, the advent of social media has precipitated a period of accelerated “learning about learning” among teachers. The profession is better informed than ever before. But I think it’s also clear that if we’re struggling to define learning, we still have some distance left to run. I would argue that if we are truly to navigate our way through the ‘swampy lowland’ of institutionalised learning, it’s time to stop thinking of learning as a simple construct and embrace it in all of its dynamic, multidimensional glory.

To get the ball rolling, here are ten dimensions of learning that we might wish to consider (please note, this is not intended as an exhaustive list).

Ten dimensions of learning

Dimension 1: Learning as memory.

To the extent that learning is synonymous with memory, the spectrum almost writes itself. At one end, we have stuff that is immediately forgotten. A 6-digit security code that is texted to you so you can type it into a website, say. It enters your working memory for the few seconds that you need it, perhaps in 2 or 3 digit chunks, and then fades almost immediately.

At the other end, we have things that are learned to the point of automaticity: your name, where you live, the fact that socks go on your feet. Save some brain injury or disease, you’re unlikely to forget these things in a hurry.

But even within the realm of memory, there are more things to consider than mere retention. Here are 4 other dimensions of learning related to aspects of memory:

Dimension 2: Implicit vs explicit memory

Implicit memory is sometimes referred to as automatic or unconscious memory, which may be expressed in the absence of deliberate recollection. Examples include being ride a bike, button a shirt, play the piano etc. These are examples of procedural memory (see below). Implicit memory can also include behaviours, such as locking the door as you leave the house, or associations, such those related to smells.

Explicit memory involves the conscious, intentional remembering of information. Remembering your sort code and account number is an example of explicit memory.

Dimension 3: Procedural vs declarative

Procedural memory is a subset of implicit memory, and involves being able to recall how to do things like driving a car, juggling or brushing your teeth to the point of automaticity. Declarative memory involves the factual recall of dates, facts, events and concepts. Remembering the capitals of countries, the properties of transition metals or what happened on the way to school are examples of declarative memory.

Dimension 4: Semantic vs episodic

Declarative memory is divided into two types. Semantic memory is the recall of general facts, while episodic memory is recall of personal facts. Remembering the capitals of countries is an example of semantic memory, whereas being able to recall what happened on the way to school is an example of episodic memory.

This distinction is often exploited by people who memorise competitively, using episodic memory (e.g. walking through a familiar house or location) as a framework for memorising declarative objects for by associating them with visual cues rooted in episodic memory).

Dimension 5: Recall vs recognition

Psychologists distinguish between two types of memory retrieval. Recognition refers to our ability to, er, recognise an event or piece of information as being familiar. This is the kind of memory that students might use in a multiple choice test.

Recall, on the other hand, requires all the information to be retrieved from the Long-Term Memory. This is the kind of retrieval a student might need to write an essay from memory, or to answer a long-answer question in an exam, although this might also require procedural memory as well. Recall is generally considered to require a greater depth of information processing, storage and retrieval than recognition.

If you will pardon the pun, it is also important to remember that memory is not the only game in town. Here are 5 more dimensions of learning:

Dimension 6: Naturally occurring vs. elicited data

Some things we learn can be considered naturally occurring data: your sibling’s names say, or the names for common foods. Other things we learn are elicited: you either look it up, or you’re taught it, or it’s some combination of the two.

As well as simply describing data, this can be seen as a kind of continuum which overlaps to some extent with what schools often refer to as ‘attitude to learning’. At the ‘elicited’ end of the spectrum, we find the autodidact. At the opposite end, the incurious drifter who takes life as it comes. In the middle, there are things you encounter naturally – a book that catches your eye, say – which you may then choose to pursue in more detail. There are also some grey areas here. Material you are taught on a compulsory course – is this naturally occurring or elicited?

Dimension 7: Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation

Compare these two statements:

“I am learning about memory because I find it is fascinating”
vs
“I am learning about memory because I want to pass the test and please my parents”.

Or

“I am learning to solve a Rubik’s cube because I enjoy the challenge”
vs
“I am learning to solve a Rubik’s cube so I can show off to my friends”.

Each of these motivations may be strong or weak. We also may hold several such positions simultaneously.

Dimension 8: Classical vs operant conditioning

Put simply, classical conditioning is “a learning process that occurs when two stimuli are repeatedly paired: a response which is at first elicited by the second stimulus is eventually elicited by the first stimulus alone” (source). This was made famous by Pavlov’s (rather cruel) experiments with dogs, who were repeatedly exposed to the twin stimuli of food and a bell; eventually, the bell alone was sufficient to prompt them to drool.

Classical conditioning forms the basis of much animal training, where treats are used to elicit desirable behaviours. However classical conditioning may also feature in certain types of school-based learning, such as training students to tidy up by playing a particular piece of music.

Operant conditioning is “a type of learning in which the strength of a behaviour is modified by the behaviour’s consequences, such as reward or punishment” (source). Obviously this idea underpins many schools’ behaviour management systems.

Dimension 9: Inductive vs deductive

Inductive reasoning is essentially a “bottom up” approach to learning, where the focus moves from the specific to the general. For example, students may be presented with several examples of a phenomenon (e.g. photographs with examples of specific animal adaptations) and they are required to identify general patterns or “rules” (e.g. camouflage, body size, ear shape).

Deductive reasoning is a “top-down” approach to learning, where the focus moves from the general to the specific. In the example above, students may be taught types of adaptations types of adaptations first, and then these “rules” are tested with particular examples (e.g. the photos of animal adaptations).

Dimension 10: Significant vs non, or less-significant learning

Carl Rogers once wrote: “It seems to me that anything that can be taught to another is relatively inconsequential and has little or no significant influence on behaviour. I realize increasingly that I am only interested in learnings which significantly influence behaviour.”

It is worth noting that Rogers was a psychotherapist, and not a teacher. And it should also be borne in mind that significance is rather a subjective notion. Nevertheless, since almost all students ask the question “Why do I need to learn this?” at some point or other in their school career – understandably, some might say – the question of significance remains worthy of reflection.

 

So learning is multidimensional. So what? 

These 10 dimensions are just a few examples of the many lenses through which learning can be viewed. I could go on, but this blog post is an impolite length as it is and I feel the point has been made.

My question is this: how can we hope to pull together so many dimensions of learning into a single definition? One is almost tempted to come up with some kind of a visual metaphor to capture the complexity. With tongue firmly in cheek, I offer Learning Kerplunk:

kp1
Learning Kerplunk. Each straw is a dimension of learning. Collectively, they hold your marbles in place. Disregard one, and the others may compensate. Disregard more than a few, and you may lose your marbles entirely.

I have no desire to add to the pantheon of ludicrous learning metaphors. However I hope I have succeeded in making the point that we need to find new ways of thinking about learning.

To bring ourselves back to earth, and to return to the start of this post:

“Definitions are important. Everybody knows this. If we can’t be clear about the meanings of the words we use, we should stop using them and find better ones instead.”

Before we go any further, let’s do what you should always do when we need a dose of sanity, and reach for the dictionary definition:

“Learning: The acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught.” (source)

Now, hold on just a minute… this is actually pretty good! It talks about acquisition rather than retention. It mentions the possibility of learning through experience, rather than limiting it to hard thinking and extended practice. And it includes the possibility for learning to arise either through teaching or through independent study. However, this definition doesn’t mention memory at all. That’s not going to go down well in some quarters. Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say on the matter:

“Learning is the act of acquiring new, or modifying and reinforcing existing, knowledge, behaviours, skills, values or preferences and may involve synthesising different types of information.” (source)

Hold on to your hats! This definition might be flagged up as “citation needed”– never a good sign – but come on: “acquiring new, or modifying and reinforcing existing, knowledge, behaviours, skills, values or preferences”… that is kind of amazing. And yet even this muscular sentence – this gymnastic performance of commas and caveats – makes no mention of memory, attention, rehearsal, motivation, retrieval, metacognition, chunking, agency, elicitation, intentionality, schema…

Reflecting upon all of the above, I can think of only one *learning is* statement that I could possibly make with any confidence that it might actually be true, which I will present in the form of a motivational poster:

meaningless

If this seems a rather downbeat note to end on, let me state my belief that recognising and accepting this simple truth is the first step toward a brighter, better-defined future.

Perhaps meaningless is a bit strong. As far as the layperson is concerned, the fact that ‘learning’ is a bit nebulous doesn’t really matter. We all sort of know what it means. But for educators, we should think of ‘learning’ as an umbrella term at best, taken to mean something like “the thing we want students to do”. Beyond that, we really need to roll our sleeves up and start talking about the specific kinds and features of learning that we’re interested in.

For example, I might say something like “I am dong a PhD in Learning to Learn. In particular, I am interested in the interplay of metacognition, self-regulation, oracy and transfer in helping people become more effective at driving and managing the process of acquiring and retaining useful knowledge and skills. To define these terms further…”

To help us navigate our way through this brighter, more sharply-defined future, we’re going to need something practical – not a new definition or metaphor, but some kind of a toolkit. Fortunately, we do have a model in education for what to do when seeking to understand an “umbrella term” which consists of many other concepts. It’s called a glossary.

In my next post I will propose a glossary of learning terms.