2-6 The Value of Procedural Fluency and Deliberate Practice

دوره: Mindshift- Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential / فصل: Getting Deeper into Happy Learning / درس 6

2-6 The Value of Procedural Fluency and Deliberate Practice

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As a reaction to that extreme sort of learning equals memorization idea, in the last 100 years or so, a new approach has gradually arisen in Western ways of teaching. Psychologist Anders Ericsson's work has shown that all expertise develops through building strong, well practiced mental representations. The main point of this video is that practice, including some memorization, can help you to chunk key ideas and procedures, a vitally important part of learning.

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[MUSIC] So I have to tell you about a former student of mine. He came up, stuck out a red marked quiz that he just flunked and he said, I just don’t see how I could have done so poorly. I understood it when you taught it in class. Here’s the problem. In Western education, at least, we’ve gotten so wedded to the idea that conceptual understanding is the golden key to learning, that we’ve ignored the fact that practice and repetition is an equally vital aspect of learning. It’s that repeated banging away at it that ultimately can structure knowledge. Students themselves, including my former student, are fooled about how to learn effectively. In the past, for thousands of years the only way people thought learning happened was through memorization. People showed their learning mostly by just regurgitating what they’d memorized. Now, it’s not like this didn’t work at all. Otherwise, we’d never have the wonderful advances in the arts and sciences that we’ve seen in the last millennia. But of course, memorization isn’t everything in learning. As a reaction to that extreme sort of learning equals memorization idea, in the last 100 years or so, a new approach has gradually arisen in Western ways of teaching. This approach says that conceptual understanding, not rote learning or memorization, is the key to learning. But in the West, at least, we’ve now gone off on to the other end of the extreme. We’ve gone so far overboard in emphasizing the unique importance of conceptual understanding that we’ve lost sight of the fact that some memorization in practice, especially deliberate practice that focuses on the hardest parts of the material, is also important in any kind of learning. In fact, practice and repetition, not to mention memorization, don’t just reinforce your understanding, they can actually lead to a deeper and richer understanding, as this paper shows. Poets often say, memorize the poem and you will understand it more deeply. But why should we in other disciplines let only the poets have all the fun? Memorizing an equation, for example, can help you understand that equation more deeply, especially if you’re trying to understand what’s going on with that equation as you’re memorizing it. Unfortunately, you’ll sometimes hear even advanced educators and educational psychologists in the West saying, it doesn’t matter, you can always look it up, in regards many forms of learning, especially in math and science. But that’s really not true. Would you know the French language, for example, if you had to go look words up every time you needed them? Would you know how to properly design an engine if you hadn’t spent time memorizing some of the equations, or at least working enough with them such that they flowed fluently in your mind? Would you really want your doctor to breeze through medical school without memorizing any of the hundreds of thousands of facts doctors are typically asked to memorize during their preparatory studies? Psychologist Anders Ericsson’s work has shown that all expertise develops through building strong, well practiced mental representations. That is, large libraries of solidly built neural chunks that can be easily drawn into working memory. The main point of this video is that practice, including some memorization, can help you to chunk key ideas and procedures, a vitally important part of learning. Remember how when you’re first trying to figure something out, the working memory of your prefrontal cortex is going a little crazy? Of course, once you’ve got that concept chunked, that is, understood and practiced, you basically have the equivalent of a nice, smooth ribbon that you can easily bring into working memory whenever you need to, leaving the other slots of working memory free to process other related chunks to hook them together to form more advanced thoughts. This is a key idea. If you want to see true procedural fluency, that is brilliantly chunked expertise in action, take a look at Mr. Kazuyuki Takayanagi, the president of Soroban Kyoshitsu USA, which is actually located in Japan, as he works with two young children who are learning to add numbers incredibly quickly in their heads using a technique called Flash Anzan It’s almost impossible to believe that anyone could add that fast, much less young children, but add they can. What this means is that the rhythms of quickly practicing addition have formed fundamental neural structures that these children can access rapidly, easily, and largely subconsciously, which means that their conscious working memory can be working on more advanced ideas that build on the simpler ideas of addition. Some children can actually play verbal games while they’re doing Flash Anzan because the verbal processing uses a different part of the brain. I sometimes have students come to me saying they suffer from test anxiety. Test anxiety does exist. I suffer from it myself. But after decades of teaching, I’ve come to realize that those who claim test anxiety often simply haven’t studied well. Of course they feel anxious when they sit down to do a test. It’s just that they haven’t studied the material. Only when the test is put in front of them do they look deeply enough to realize that they didn’t understand it, it’s too late, and they panic. So remember, conceptual understanding is important, but equally important is practice and repetition enhanced by a healthy dose of memorization. I’m Barbara Oakley, happy Mindshift. [MUSIC]

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