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LostInParadise's avatar

What have we learned from science about the nature of learning?

Asked by LostInParadise (17926 points ) November 26th, 2012

It is of course difficult to conduct experiments involving learning, especially over an extended period of time, but there are potentially great benefits to what we can learn. Have there been any controlled studies of different approaches to teaching and learning? For example, Howard Gardner has a multiple intelligences theory. He says that some people are better learning visually and others learn better through listening. Has anybody tested this? Related to this, I once saw someone suggest that students may differ in what works best for them, though this may not necessarily be related to different aptitudes. For example, some may prefer a more open learning environment and some may do better using a more rigid approach. It would be nice to know if this is true. It may be that it is wrong to assume that there is one method that works best for everyone. On the other hand, there may be at least some principles that apply universally.

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8 Answers

marinelife's avatar

There have been many studies of learning styles done There is a summary of the research in this blog article critical of one study pooh-poohing learning styles.

LostInParadise's avatar

If there really are different learning styles, one simple way of taking advantage of it would be to use supplementary learning software that adapts to the style of the student.

whitenoise's avatar

My wife actualy is a scientist who researches and publishes on various ways people learn and can be trained/educated.

She is responsible for a research institute that focuses largely on educational sciences. So… yes I’m quite sure there is tons of research out there.

LostInParadise's avatar

Could you give a specific example of something that she has studied that might have a practical application? I don’t mean to be snarky. It is just that there is so much that I read about that can’t be taken out of the laboratory.

whitenoise's avatar

She would by far be a better person to tell you than I could be.

One of the things that struck me was the difference between leaning a task when the learning material is offered structurally versus the situation in which contextual interference is inroduced. The latter proofed a harder way to learn, but the ‘result’ was better.

She has also been involved in much research into the effectiveness of simulators and what elements of simulators are truly important and what not. (She worked for the military, so much was classified, but it proofed that life-like reality was not the most important element. The brass, however, wanted their toys to be high fidelity and dramatically realistic.).

There was one example of a tank simulator that actually increased the time it took students to learn to drive the real machine. It turned our that the simulator was developped by people that normally made flight sims. In the tank simulator the exact height the student experienced, in relation to the size of terrain markers and the horizon proofed far more important. The students that had learned to drive in the simulator would
drive into walls and other vehicles, because they had acquired a wrong mental representation of their vehicle. Changing certain visual cues and the virtual height of the horizon changed the results around into a positive effect on learning.

All in all quite an interesting field.

kitszu's avatar

In most of my jobs I have been in a position that I was considered a good choice to train new hires. My method is kinetic, visual, verbal. Sometimes I am able to use all three at once and prefer this way of teaching if at all possible. I try to involve as many senses as possible because in my experience, the more sensory aspects of my brain being utilized, the more quickly I learn the lesson. This has also been my experience in training others. Perhaps the way the brain works is always ‘the more sensory input available the better the lesson will be learned and retained’ but an individuals brain maybe wired to favor a single type of imput when only type is presented.

_Whitetigress's avatar

I’ll answer from layman’s perspective because that’s what I think I am. What I understand is that some people are extremely logical thinkers while others are abstract.

this is a really great generalization and break down of understanding right brained dominant and left brained dominant

I feel it’s appropriate to read that source because it’ll give more perspective on how certain people prefer to learn certain ways, and who can adapt to different styles faster or slower but not more or less.

WyCnet's avatar

I think the most important thing about learning is the way to pack information in order that it becomes accessible as intrinsic knowledge, and of course available for use.

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