LEARNING INFLUENCES, How prior experience & interest influence learning I) LINKS BETWEEN PAST EXPERIENCE, STUDENT INTEREST, AND PRESENT LEARNING

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1 LEARNING INFLUENCES, How prior experience & interest influence learning ANDRËA CHRYSANTHÈ THOMAS-OSTROWSKI, X.T. JANUARY, 2013 CONTENTS: I) LINKS BETWEEN PAST EXPERIENCE, STUDENT INTEREST, AND PRESENT LEARNING II) PRINCIPLES OF LEARNING A) IMPORTANCE OF MEANINGFUL LEARNING B) LEVELS OF PROCESSING C) DEVELOPMENT OF NEURAL NETWORK D) RELEVANCE E) ACTIVATION OF PRIOR KNOWLEDGE/KNOWLEDGE BACKGROUND III) LESSON PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS REFERENCES I) LINKS BETWEEN PAST EXPERIENCE, STUDENT INTEREST, AND PRESENT LEARNING

2 This essay considers the links between past experiences, student interest in material, and instruction (present learning). There are many cognitive development theories (many not listed in this work) that have implications that will be explored here. Interest and attention of the student to instruction is arguably linked to prior knowledge, and categorization of knowledge. Knowing how new knowledge is acquired by students forms the foundation for the following principles of learning. II) PRINCIPLES OF LEARNING A) IMPORTANCE OF MEANINGFUL LEARNING We might ask ourselves;"what is meaningful learning?" Meaningful learning is when assimilation of new information into our current mental set of assumptions and beliefs occurs. Moreover, this implies that the information can be accessed by the learner more easily because it deepens understanding of known information. As the great Sherlock Holmes explained to Dr. Watson on his ignorance in the nature of the Copernican theory of the solar system in "A Study in Scarlet" (by Arthur Conan Doyle, 1887): "You see," he explained, "I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it, there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones." (Chapter 2) While his ignorance of the solar system was to preserve more mental acuity toward the purpose of being a master at deductive logic and detection, Sherlock Holmes brings up an interesting point; relevant and well

3 organized knowledge is a tremendous benefit over haphazardly acquired and organized knowledge. Meaningful learning is learning that helps the student develop a meaningful set of mental skills. B) LEVELS OF PROCESSING The LaBergre-Samuels Model of Automatic Information Processing shows that there is a maximum operating level of the brain called limited capacity. It states that there is a limit to the processing level of the mind based on decoding and integration, where if one is focused solely on decoding information they cannot integrate or comprehend information as efficiently. When this processes of decoding and conjuring up the relevant memories is achieved with a low degree of attention, it is called automaticity. (Gipe, 2013,pg 2) C) DEVELOPMENT OF NEURAL NETWORK The development of mental abilities stems from many theorists such as Piaget, Vygotsky, and Thelen. Piaget believed that abilities change based on the child's interaction with the environment, and that the child develops sign systems (or recognition of objects or symbols) at certain stages. Vygotsky believed sign systems to be independent of stages; he believed learning is a composite social network called scaffolding in which the child has "zones of proximity" wherein the core zone of the child involves what they can do themselves, the next zone is what they can do with assistance from others, and a final zone is outside their capability to do, or learn. Thelen believed that by exploration of the sensorimotor functions, the child stumbles upon learning. Thelen showed in her experiments that a child moves randomly, and learns the effects of their actions by interaction. (Ostrowski, 2011) D) RELEVANCE Students must be able to use new knowledge, or apply it to what they already know. The LaBergre- Samuels Model of Automatic Information Processing "emphasizes internal aspects of attention as crucial to comprehension." (Gipe 2013, pg. 2) The model further defines that 'alertness' (in readers) is based on the activity of relating word meanings, and their context to knowledge elements that already exist, called schemata. Schemata, or "units of knowledge", are the mechanism assumed by the theory of how we compile information.

4 E) ACTIVATION OF PRIOR KNOWLEDGE/KNOWLEDGE BACKGROUND How prior knowledge is stored is sometimes known as schema theory to psychologists and psycholinguists. Activation of prior knowledge during instruction helps avoid (what was coined by Alfred Whitehead in 1929) as inert knowledge. Inert knowledge that is learned but applied in the wrong situation (context error). When prior knowledge is accessed by explicitly referencing known concepts, this is less likely to occur. Probing students to gain a consensus of students' prior knowledge is tantamount to success. Other methods include tailoring instruction to prior experience, or relaying appropriate analogies. (University of Memphis Department of Psychology, 2008) III) LESSON PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS When planning a lesson for learning, it is important to appeal to the students' varied methods of learning. This involves understanding that the schemata is going to vary from student to student, and trying to assess where the majority of students need to begin their learning. Pretests and post tests are often used to assess prior knowledge and acquisition of that knowledge. A pretest that is explained to students to be an evaluation of knowledge can not only diffuse testing tension for the student, but also mobilize in the student their prior knowledge. (Thompson & Zamboanga, 2003) Various conceptual approaches can be taken into consideration during lesson planning including (from Trigwell, Prosser & Waterhouse, 1999, pg.58): "A teacher-focused strategy with the intention of transmitting information to students (i.e., lectures); A teacher-focused strategy with the intention that students acquire the concepts of the discipline (i.e., scaffolding, teacher guided activities and inquiries); A teacher-student interaction strategy with the intention that students acquire the concepts of the discipline (i.e., student projects with teacher guidance);

5 A student-focused strategy aimed at students developing their conceptions (i.e., homework involving inquiry or experiments); A student-focused strategy aimed at students changing their conceptions (i.e., students challenging themselves to debate a position on an ethical matter)." Lastly, understanding the limited capacity of students to be able to decode and assimilate new knowledge can be considered in lesson planning by simplifying topics, splitting material into multiple lessons, and providing multimedia (graphics, video, audio, etc.) demonstrations to help students connect instruction to prior knowledge and create a framework for automaticity. REFERENCES Doyle, A. C. (2003). A study in scarlet and the sign of the four. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications. University of Memphis Department of Psychology. (2008, July 10). New information learned depends heavily upon prior knowledge and experience. Retrieved from Gipe, J. (2013). Schema theory. Retrieved from Thomas-Ostrowski,A.C.. (2011). Cognitive development theories. Thompson, R., & Zamboanga, B. (2003). Prior knowledge and its relevance to student achievement in introduction to psychology. Retrieved from Trigwell, K., Prosser, M., & Waterhouse, F. (1999). Relations between teachers' approaches to teaching and students' approaching to learning. In Higher education (37 ed., pp ). Retrieved from relations between teachers' approaches to teaching and students' approaches to learning.pdf

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