Promise of Educational Psychology, The, Volume II: Teaching for Meaningful Learning

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9780130964441: Promise of Educational Psychology, The, Volume II: Teaching for Meaningful Learning

This book examines how children learn from different methods of instruction. It profiles methods such as feedback, guided exploration, cognitive apprenticeship, problem-based learning, and teaching of problem-solving strategies that allow learners to take what they have learned and apply it to new situations. Readers are exposed to what research has to say about teaching for meaningful learning and learn how to apply this information to their own teaching. Introduction to Teaching for Meaningful Learning; Teaching by Giving Productive Feedback; Teaching by Providing Concreteness, Activity, and Familiarity; Teaching by Explaining Examples; Teaching by Guiding Cognitive Processing During Learning; Teaching by Fostering Learning Strategies; Teaching by Fostering Problem-Solving Strategies; Teaching by Creating Cognitive Apprenticeship in Classrooms; Teaching by Priming Students' Motivation to Learn.

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About the Author:

Richard E. Mayer is Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He served as president of the Division of Educational Psychology for the American Psychological Association (APA) and as vice president of the Learning and Instruction Division for the American Educational Research Association (AERA). He has received many awards, including APA's E. L. Thorndike Award for career achievement in educational psychology and AERA's Sylvia Scribner Award. He has authored more than 400 publications, including 25 books, such as Applying the Science of Learning; Multimedia Learning, 2nd edition; Learning and Instruction, 2nd edition; and e-Learning and the Science of Instruction, 3rd edition (with R. Clark).

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Consider the following situation: Dorothy studies hard for her geometry test on finding the area of a circle. She reads the textbook chapter carefully. She memorizes the formula A = πr2 and recites it as "Area equals pi times radius squared." She successfully applies the formula to exercise problems in the textbook. On the classroom test, she performs well; she remembers the appropriate formula and applies it to the problems.

From her excellent test performance, you might say that Dorothy has learned well. Yet I wonder how much Dorothy really understands. Can she use what she has learned in new situations? Later that week, she goes to the pizza shop with friends. They need to figure out which is a better buy—two 10-inch pizzas for $9.99 or one 14-inch pizza for $9.99. One friend says the two smaller pizzas are a better buy because 20 is greater than 14. Another says the one larger pizza is a better buy because it is usually better to buy the larger size. Confused, Dorothy raises her hands in disgust and says, "We never learned about this in school, so I don't know what to get. Let's just go home."

Before they leave, one of her classmates, Sarah, says, "Hey wait. We did learn about this. The radius of each small pizza is 5, so the area is 25π, and with two of them, the total area is 50. The radius of the larger pizza is 7, so the area is 49π. I guess they are both about the same!" No longer confused, the group makes it purchase and enjoys the snack.

In this example, Dorothy demonstrates what can be called inert knowledge (Whitehead, 1929)–she knows the formula for finding the area of a circle but does not realize that she should use it. In contrast, Sarah demonstrates what is called meaningful learning.

My goal in this book is to figure out how to help students to learn in ways that allow them to take what they have learned and apply it in new situations—that is, I am interested in exploring teaching methods that will help people think like Sarah rather than like Dorothy. In short, in this book I investigate how to teach for meaningful learning. Teaching for meaningful learning means helping students to learn in ways that will allow them to be able to apply (or transfer) what they have learned to new situations.

The search for transfer has a long history in education and psychology. For example, in the 1930s, the great Gestalt psychologist Max Wertheimer asked:

Why is it that some people, when they are faced with problems, get clever ideas, make
inventions and discoveries? . . . What can be done to help people to be creative when they
are faced with problems? (Luchins & Luchins, 1970, p. 1)

At the time there were no clear answers to Wertheimer's provocative questions because the behaviorist theories that dominated psychology and education were not aimed at understanding how to teach for transfer. Today, fortified with decades of educationally relevant research on instructional methods, we can return to Wertheimer's deceptively simple questions. My goal in this book is to figure out "what can be done to help people to be creative when they are faced with problems." In short, I want to see what we have learned about instructional methods that promote meaningful learning.

The discovery of instructional methods that lead to meaningful learning is, perhaps, one of the greatest achievements of educational psychology in recent years. If you are interested in understanding what research leas to say about teaching for meaningful learning, this book is for you. I do not assume that you have any previous background in education or psychology. I do assume that you prefer to focus on research about teaching for meaningful learning rather than opinions and unsubstantiated claims. This book is appropriate for undergraduate or graduate courses in education or psychology that focus on instructional methods. It can be used on its own or in conjunction with other books. This book is intended to complement The Promise of Educational Psychology: Learning in the Content Areas, and together they represent a revision and extension of my earlier book, Educational Psychology: A Cognitive Approach.

My writing of this book is based on several fundamental values that I have developed over the years as an author and a teacher. First, in each chapter I prefer to focus clearly on a few big ideas rather than to mention everything there is to say on a topic. If you somehow miss the big ideas, I summarize them at the end of each chapter. I would prefer for you to understand a few exemplary ideas deeply than to learn about a list of topics superficially. My approach is focused rather than encyclopedic. Second, I prefer to base my conclusions on scientific research rather than on the opinion of experts. When I present an exemplary research study, I try to give enough detail so you can see what was done (method), what was found (results), and what it all means (conclusion). I prefer for you to be able to see how educational practice can be informed by research rather than ask you to "trust me." My approach values solid research over well-intentioned opinions. Third, I prefer to convey an understanding of what is known about how to help people learn rather than to give you a list of specific prescriptions for immediate classroom practice. My approach values understanding the learning/teaching process rather than memorizing a set of classroom procedures. When I present instructional implications, I try to help you see how they follow from "research and theory. Fourth, because I value clear organization, I provide a chapter outline that is keyed to the headings I use throughout the chapter. Fifth, because I value active learning, I try to engage you in tasks that are directly relevant to the theme of a chapter or section, and I write in a conversational style in which I address you directly. Sixth, because I value meaningful learning, I try to provide clear definitions and concrete examples of key concepts. Overall, rather than simply present information, I use an approach that values conciseness, research-based conclusions, theory-based recommendations, clear structure, empathy, and concreteness.

Preparing this book has reminded me of the exciting progress researchers have made in understanding how to promote meaningful learning. I hope that you enjoy reading this book as much as I have enjoyed writing it. If it conveys this sense of progress and if it makes sense to you, I will consider the book a success. Please feel free to contact me with any comments or suggestions at mayer@psych.ucsb.edu.

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