|How Children Learn (IAE - IBE - UNESCO, 32 p.)|
Learning is a complex cognitive activity that cannot be rushed. It requires considerable time and periods of practice to start building expertise in area.
Research shows that people must carry out a great deal of practice to acquire expertise in an area. Even small differences in the amount of time during which people are exposed to information can result in large differences in the information they have acquired. Cognitive psychologists Chase & Simon (1973) studied chess experts and found that they had often spent as many as 50,000 hours practising chess. A 35-year-old chess master who has spent 50,000 hours playing chess must have spent four to five hours on the chessboard from the age of 5 every day for thirty years! Less accomplished players have spent considerably less time playing chess.
Research shows that the reading and writing skills of high-school students relate to the hours they have spent on reading and writing. Effective reading and writing requires a lot of practice. Students from disadvantaged environments who have less opportunities to learn and who miss school because of work or illness will not be expected to do as well at school compared to children who had more time to practice and acquire information.
In the classroom
Many educational programmes are designed to increase one's exposure to learning situations preferably at an early age. Here are some recommendations for teachers that can help students spend more time on learning tasks.
· Increase the amount of time students spend on learning in the classroom.
· Give students learning tasks that are consistent with what they already know.
· Do not try to cover too many topics at once. Give students time to understand the new information.
· Help students engage in 'deliberate practice' that includes active thinking and monitoring of their own learning (see sections on self-regulation).
· Give students access to books so that they can practice reading at home.
· Be in contact with parents so that they can learn to provide richer educational experiences for their children.
References: Bransford, 1979; Chase & Simon, 1973; Coles, 1970.