Thursday, March 26, 2009

Memory Thinking & Experience

The Architecture of Learning Instructional Design Model recognizes four cognitively-distinct processes: experience, comprehension, elaboration, application. These four represent learning’s core processes—processes that optimize each other’s contribution to learning. (A fifth process, intention, involves responding to current, “real-world” circumstances with previously learned content and/or skills.)

While reading Teaching for Wisdom, Intelligence, Creativity, and Success (Sternberg, Jarvin, & Grigorenko, 2009), I discovered intriguing parallels between Architecture of Learning’s core processes and the authors’ identification of “four types of different thinking skills: memory, analytical skills, creative skills, and practical skills” (p. 19). While not a perfect match, the similarities are worth exploring.

Sternberg, Jarvin, and Grigorenko begin with memory because “if you have no information or skills to draw upon, there is nothing to analyze, create, or apply” (p. 19). Memory thinking involves gaining the information needed for analysis, creativity, or application, and storing that data with little or no additional processing.
For example, I can recite the freezing points on both the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales but not explain their significance. I can state the capital of New York State but not describe its significance. I have data, nothing more.Some verbs associated with this type of thinking include get, take in, obtain, and seek.

This description fits nicely with Architecture of Learning’s explanation of experience. During experience, the brain receives data from the senses—data that provides the raw material for additional processing and deepened learning.

What does this parallel reveal? First, a growing consensus suggests that merely obtaining data represents shallow learning. Encoding a fact simply provides data for beneficial thinking, and that thinking is what drives deeper learning.

Second, a growing consensus suggests that learning is a process—a cognitive process that requires different types of thinking at differing stages. Architecture of Learning, with its core processes and strands, represents teaching based on this view of learning. By equipping teachers with such instructional design tools, we can tailor instruction to the cognitive processes that empower learning.

The parallels do not end with Sternberg, Jarvin, and Grigorenko’s memory type of thinking and Architecture of Learning’s core process of experience. In the next posting we’ll explore the connections between analytical skills and comprehension. The links to critical thinking are especially interesting!

By the way, if you are on Twitter and would like to follow my “tweets,” I can be found @kdwashburn.

Sternberg, R. J, Jarvin, L. & Grigorenko, E. L. (2009). Teaching for wisdom, intelligence,creativity, and success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

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