In Order To Learn, We Need To Be Taught
The Smithsonian National Zoo's Think Tank looks closely at orangutans, examining how these remarkable apes organize memory and make decisions.
|The National Zoo's full grown orangutan male named Kiko|
Human beings apparently are not so different from these primates. Daniel Willingham writes in a recent blog article, "Children need to be taught":
You often hear the phrase that small children are sponges, that they constantly learn. This sentiment is sometimes expressed in a way that makes it sound like the particulars don’t matter that much; as long as there is a lot to be learned in the environment, the child will learn it. A new study shows that for one core type of learning, it’s more complicated. Kids don’t learn important information that’s right in front of them, unless an adult is actively teaching them.The study Willingham is talking about on his blog is the following:
The core type of learning is categorization. Understanding that objects can be categorized is essential for kids’ thinking. Kids constantly encounter novel objects; for example, each apple they see is an apple they’ve never encountered before. The child cannot experiment with each new object to figure out its properties; she must benefit from her prior experience with other apples, so that she can know, for example, that this object, since it’s an apple, must be edible.
Lucas P. Butler, Ellen M. Markman.Preschoolers use pedagogical cues to guide radical reorganization of category knowledge. Cognition. Volume 130, Issue 1, January 2014, Pages 116–127
To understand how the above data are obtained, here is the authors' description:
And after the above, various objects were placed in front of the child. The child is then asked to categorize which ones are "spoodles" (characterized by magnetic behavior). As the graph above indicates only those who were taught directly what a spoodle is knew what makes a spoodle a spoodle.
Yes, we do live in the age of the internet where everything can be "googled". Yet, the truth remains: We are primates just like the orangutans. We need to be taught....