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The getting of wisdom occurs differently at various ages. Kristin Owen reports

The two modes of learning develop at different stages. Babies do discovery expertly but the rotelearning-type ability develops later. Both are necessary. The routinised learning frees attention and thought for new discoveries. Consider for example: If one could not read (the product of routinised learning), then one could not decode and make meaning of a new book. Another thing to consider in relation to children’s learning is gender difference.


Alison Gopnik

DATE: 14/11/06


Ordinary adults also have more powerful learning abilities than we might have thought . . .

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Melbourne-based boys education expert Zita Pinda says that until middle secondary school, male students respond best to short, sharp bursts of information and activity and need to know that a result will be produced in a given time. At, Marcia Conner explains the physiology of learning: ‘‘[It] is the formation of cell assemblies and phase sequences. Children learn by building these assemblies and sequences. Adults spend more time making new arrangements than forming new sequences.’’ In terms of adult learning, Queensland’s Griffith University provides detailed advice. Its website explains: ‘‘Learning is enhanced in situations where the learner is in control. At university, students have to learn how to become independent learners.’’ It refers to the theory of learning styles (which categorises learners as predominantly visual, auditory, cognitive or kinaesthetic), advising students to discover their style. Also explained is that learning can be improved by: immersion (reading widely), having clear goals, taking responsibility and using skills learned. But the last word goes to Dr Gopnik: ‘‘We are born with the ability to discover the secrets of the universe and of our own minds, and with the drive to explore and experiment until we do.


EALTHY babies and grandparents can learn – along with everyone at all ages in between. However, science tells us there is a difference in how we learn at different ages. University of California, Berkeley, academic Professor Alison Gopnik, asserts the best learners are scientists and children. ‘‘And that means that ordinary adults also have more powerful learning abilities than we might have thought,’’ she writes in her co-authored book The Scientist in the Crib. ‘‘Grown-ups, after all, are all ex-children and potential scientists.’’ There are many theories of learning. But Dr Gopnik neatly divides learning into two ‘‘quite different things’’: The process of discovery and the mastery of what one discovers. This division explains how small children can learn so easily but get to middle primary school and struggle with a reading test. In her writings, Dr Gopnik says children are naturally driven to create a picture of the world with the help of adults to make predictions, formulate explanations, imagine alternatives and design plans. This is ‘‘guided discovery’’. In contrast, what is often expected at school is what Dr Gopnik terms ‘‘routinised learning’’ – something already learned (spelling, times tables) is repeated until it is second nature.

Dux Magazine 2008  

Dux is your guide to education in Melbourne.

Dux Magazine 2008  

Dux is your guide to education in Melbourne.