Posts Tagged ‘Individual’

See also Differences in Learning Styles — Symbols and Modes of Thinking.

I was consulting with a college teacher in a beginning psychology class.  She was troubled by a particular student who was engaged, participated in class with enthusiasm but was failing all the tests.  After deconstructing how the class was taught, I had a theory about what was wrong.  The instructor’s tests formed the greater part of the grade.  The tests were taken almost exclusively from the textbook while the lectures and discussions were considered as supplementary enrichment. I suggested that the student, who was successful in other college classes might highly prefer to acquire auditory information  like in lectures and discussions as opposed to visual input like reading.  An interview confirmed that in classes where tests were dependent on lecture material, the student did well.  When tests were primarily taken from reading material, the student had more difficulty.  The student did know how to read.  I suggested the student get a tape recorder and as he read the textbook, he record it aloud and then replay it and listen to it.  He tried this.  It worked.  He raised his overall grade from failing to a B.

I had a similar experience with a High School student.  The student came to me from another school with an incomplete in algebra.  The former teacher reported the student had no self discipline, no motivation.  That seemed to contradict their participation in sports and cheer leading.  In a discussion, the student offered to come in every day during their free period to clear up this incomplete.  I asked how the incomplete class was taught.  She reported that the teacher was doing individualized teaching.  He gave the students the assignment, the students were to read the math text book description and then work the assigned exercises.  She constantly needed the teacher to explain the lesson, one on one but there were too many students so that she did not get enough time with the teacher.  Again, I theorized this was a strong preference for auditory learning, that she had difficulty with written instructions.  I found a set of lessons on tape she could use.  She came in every day during her free period, listened to the tapes and then worked the exercises successfully.  It was not a lack of motivation or self discipline.  It was a poorly constructed individualized program that was dependent on students being able to acquire their math through visual (reading) means.  Since she could not get enough time feeding her strong preference for auditory learning, she could not succeed.

If you have read my series on Brain Efficiency you understand my view on how our brains are model builders.   That process develops from birth as the newborn’s brain attempts to make sense out of the world into which it was born.  I don’t know whether the differences in physical wiring in the brain or environmental influences are responsible, but we all develop certain preferences for acquiring information.  For some, it is visual stimulation that is preferred.  For others, it is auditory stimulation that is preferred.  For a lucky few, there is balance so that either or both are preferred depending on the situation or information.  What is your preference?  Would you rather go to a lecture or read the text of the lecture?  If you would prefer to hear the lecture and would never be interested in reading the text of it, you probably prefer auditory over visual input.  In contrast, if you would just as soon read the text as hear the lecture, you may have a preference for visual stimuli.

For some people, strong kinesthetic learning is powerful in learning.  Before a child learns the formal rules of mathematics, it is helpful for many to have kenesthetic experiences first, so there are manipulatives that allow learners to carry out physical activities, work with counting items and arrays of unit cubes, etc.  Notice that children frequently learn counting using their fingers.

The point seems to be that a teacher who is focused on learning pays attention to preferences, notes who has what kinds of preferences for acquiring information and helps them learn.  In addition, at an early age, where there is a strong negative preference for visual or auditory learning, attempts to help develop the missing skill.  A good teacher realizes that in a class, there are likely some students that are effectively blind and some effectively deaf and that has to be taken in consideration in planning and preparing learning experiences.

I read a recent report on Finland’s education success.  It reinforced my own beliefs about how to improve public education.  Finland’s emphasis is not on excellence, but equity.  Yet  this emphasis on equity has rendered them one of the most outstanding educational systems in the world today.  You see, Finland has NO PRIVATE SCHOOLS.

If we outlawed private schools, there would be a sudden national interest in making our public schools excellent.  It is just a simple application of what some call “Market Forces” that all the people who show interest in education, sending their kids to private schools to get a superior education would suddenly be interested in making our public schools excellent and that would include spending a lot more money on education — just like those who are willing to pay big bucks for private schools know needs to be done.

In the public school settings, funds frequently run short.  When that happens, decision makers THINK they are making wise use of funds by cutting programs like chorus, band, and physical education.  What they accomplish is cutting the programs that emphasize cooperative behavior.  That is not learned in the classroom where each student is graded as an individual in competition with other students.  Then, when people enter the working world, they can become individual greedy people, not caring about society as a whole,  because they have not learned the importance of cooperation and fairness.

I was once a manager of a computer center in a small college.  I had a lot of student aides that helped other students in the computer lab.  I also had some students who were working on computer programming problems.  Once, I had a student come to me that had scored a perfect score on the SAT test, said he was good at math and computer programming.  I asked him if he had ever been assigned a task that he could not accomplish.  He said no.  So I assigned him one.  He had to develop a computer program as team leader of a group of other students and he was not allowed to write or suggest a single line of code to address the assigned problem.  He failed.  He had never learned the skill of cooperative behavior, working with a team, being a supportive person.  It may have been the only failure he ever experiences, but demonstrated to him that he could not be successful unless he learned more about cooperation.  Our proponents of private schools also need to learn more about cooperative behavior and societal responsibility.

So, I say, do away with PRIVATE SCHOOLS and let the “market forces” of all those who are using them help us make ALL schools become examples of excellence for all children and youth and help us emphasize the importance of equity in making our society a better place to live.

Body Building (wink)

Posted: January 30, 2012 in Science
Tags: ,

Body Building (wink)

O.K., it is a play on words. I am not really going to talk about how to build up your muscles so you can lift weights or exude a fabulous physique. I am thinking about bodies of people. O.K., that is not clear either. I am thinking about groups of people, a body of people. But there are analogies to the human body, so that is where the word play comes in.

In the last decade, there has been a growing interest in the “foreign” bodies that make up the body we as individuals live in. In the December, 2010 Science magazine, Elizabeth Pennisi points out that these “foreign” cellular bodies out number the cells that carry our unique DNA 9 to 1. That is, for every cell in our body that we can identify as us, there are 9 cells carrying DNA distinct from our own. They exist in our mouths, esophagus, skin, stomach, colon, etc. We tend to think that bacteria all belong to a class of harmful foreign bodies. However, research is discovering that the large majority of these “foreign” bodies contribute to our well being. I realized, reading this brief article that I had been seeing references to this in several places recently.

Personal experience tells me that the collection of bacteria in my gut and not the same ones that my wife has in her gut. We have both observed that food can affect us differently. A food that causes flatulence in one of us does not necessarily do the same for the other. It seems obvious that our guts are operating differently. The implication is that these gut “bugs” contribute or at least alter the digestive process in different ways. There is speculation that this significant colony of “foreign” bodies, existing in great variety among humans and most likely other animals as well, could explain a lot about how and why certain diseases affect some people but not others.

But, as I was reading this article, it occurred to me it was an example of community organizing. It takes a rather large collection of rather diverse cells to make a “me.” In fact, it is questionable whether or not a self reference ought to be “we” instead of “I”. We are a collection of many parts, not just organs, but organisms all working in relative harmony to make an “us” as opposed to a “me.” It seems to me that the “we” is a demonstrative example of an organized effort.

I/we would imagine that in the years to come, this study will become more robust and our perception of who “we” are will shift so that we see how we are each individual societies, living cooperatively, symbiotically, to create the unique individuals that we are. And, it might become an example of the importance of organized efforts of groups/bodies of people and a reduction in the idea that the individual is so valuable in isolation from other individuals in so far as making the society in which we live healthy. Only time will tell. I doubt I will live long enough to see the result.