Sunday, January 09, 2005

Novel and Associational Learning Part 2 : What Are the Implications for Teaching?

We're still thinking about the article about novelty and associational learning posted yesterday (January 8, 2005), and think it might be interesting to consider what it means for teaching. We need to think of 'Novelty Learning' not as negative trait, but rather a purposeful route of learning that may be highly developed in some people. A child who seems capable only of learning with he's highly interested or emotionally moved by a subject, may actually be a strong Novelty Learner, and a perhaps more artistic, inventive, and creative one at that. Novelty learning is not just what is left over when routine attention cannot be sustained. Specific and distinct brain pathways exist for discovery and noticing novelty (they are activated when two stimuli are brought together and highly incongruous), and these are very different from pathways that learn by repetition, deduction, or incremental knowledge. Novelty learning is what powers paradigm shifts or revolutionary ideas, and so it has been a fundamental part of all disciplines and critical in the advancement of all disciplines.

So what would teaching look like if we were to present information to these learners? Well, it might be a kind of 'backward' teaching of a rule or concept by showing the exception or "surprise" rather than a direct rule. This might mean teaching kindergarteners about seeing and perception by studying optical illusions, or middle school students, scientific principles by studying unexpected results in the science lab. Teaching for novelty may not be easy, but it does sound fun. There are various articles on brain-based pathways of novelty. We've added another one below.

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