A Lot to Learn

09/11/2013

The Science of Learning Institute discovers we know little about how we learn. The institute’s creation could be regarded as formal recognition of a paradox. Many life forms learn. Some of them learn well. But they do not approach the ability of humans to learn.


Excerpt from Johns Hopkins Magazine: The institute's creation could be regarded as formal recognition of a paradox. Many life forms learn. Some of them learn well. But they do not approach the ability of humans to learn. For all that ability, though, after millennia of study and research and thought, we still do not have a complete understanding of how we learn. One could go deeper and say that we are in the process of learning how to learn about learning. Were you to imagine a pile of everything known about cognition, memory, reasoning, brain chemistry, and all the other ways the brain works, it would be a large pile. We do know a lot. But do we understand how one day a child learns that the string of letters on a page of her favorite book means "Hop on Pop"? Do we know what happens in the brain when someone learns that depressing the right set of keys on a piano produces an E major chord, or a law student memorizes enough law to pass the bar exam, or a stroke victim learns to speak again? Do we know how best to teach whatever needs to be learned by schoolchildren and college students and adult workers in need of retraining for a new economy? No. Most of our answers to these and similar questions are partial, at best.

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