ON READING MAYER’S LEARNING AND INSTRUCTION CHAPTER 8 (2008)

Chapter 8: Teaching by Providing Concreteness, Activity, and Familiarity

Learning by rote versus learning by understanding. Meaningful methods are concrete, discovery, and inductive methods. “Each represents a form of guided exploration in which a learner is asked to solve a problem and is given some support along the way-including relating the problem to concrete objects (concrete methods), giving hints to keep the learner on track (discovery-oriented methods), and relating the task to something the learner already knows (inductive methods)” (p. 295).

“According to Wertheimer, the children who learned by understanding are able to solve transfer problems, whereas the children who learned by rote say, “We haven’t had that yet.” Thus, the payoff for meaningful methods of instruction is not in exact retention of the taught material but rather in creative transfer to new situations” (p. 294).

Concrete methods

Concrete manipulatives—images and visuals that help make a problem concrete. Bruner (1964)—order of modes of representing info: enactive (action), iconic (visualizations), symbolic (language+symbols). The development of understanding, he said, can be fostered by following this exact order. Montessori materials (beads), Dienes blocks. “Other manipulatives include attribute blocks, Cuisenaire rods, and geoboards” (p. 300). These materials explain underlying structures, help with transfer. Drills may still be good later to ensure increased efficiency.

Dienes blocks

“When it comes to meaningful learning, it appears that being able to build situation models using pictures of objects is a general skill that can enable transfer” (p. 304).

“However, not all computer games are useful instructional tools. What makes a “good” game? The foregoing examples suggest that good games are based on appropriate design principles, are presented at a level that is appropriate for students, and focus on teaching generalizable skills that are fundamental pans of the academic program. Clearly, encouraging students to interact with, think about, and talk about concrete representations of otherwise abstract ideas provides a potentially useful path to meaningful learning” (p. 304).

Also, think of cognitive load, overloading working memory. For low skilled learners concrete manipulatives may interfere with learning. Prerequisite knowledge plays a huge role.

Discovery methods

Pure discovery (no hints) vs. guided discovery (scaffolding) vs. expository (answers in the end). “[S]ome learners simply may not be able to discover the appropriate concepts and rules without some direction from the teacher” (p. 308). Guided discovery is better for retention, retrieval, and transfer than the other two forms. “Apparently, guided discovery both encourages learners to search actively for how to apply rules and makes sure that the learner comes into contact with the rule to be learned” (p. 310). The more prior knowledge, the less guidance needed. “Guided discovery is helpful because it helps students reflect on their learning so they are more likely to build general principles and strategies that enable transfer” (p. 313).

Inductive methods

“In inductive methods of instruction, learners are exposed to long periods of mental searching before they can verbalize the rule, or what Hendrix (1947, 1961) called “nonverbalized awareness.” This period of mental searching helps activate more of the learner’s prior knowledge and enables the learner to actively encode the strategy or concept to be learned into a wider or more meaningful context. In contrast, deductive methods of instruction do not encourage this search and predispose the learner toward encoding an isolated series of mechanical steps” (p. 319).

“Research on sequencing of instruction suggests that deductive methods lead to superior performance in cases of one single rule to learn or a limited number of problems to be solved. Explicit instruction and practice in applying a specific rule is most effective when the goal of instruction is limited to behaviors that are similar or identical to those being taught. In contrast, the foregoing research demonstrates that inductive methods of instruction are useful when the goal of instruction is the ability to learn how to form rules (rather than learning of a specific rule) or how to transfer to new situations. By being encouraged to think actively about how to solve problems during instruction, the learner develops problem-solving strategies that can be applied in many situations” (p. 321).

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