Current Topic Three, ED 650

Chapter 6

Indeed, for a moment the bedlam of “learning styles” chatter caught my attention. However, I did struggle with the exclusiveness of some of the categorizations. Also, that I am not a teacher allowed me some distance from the theorizing. I find our author’s suspicion and criticism of learning styles to be refreshing. “Moreover, their review shows that it is more important that the mode of instruction matches the nature of the subject being taught, visual instruction for geometry and geography, verbal for poetry, and so on. When instructional style matches the nature of the content, all learn better regardless of their differing preferences for how the material is taught (146).” I think this is what I was intuitively resonating within the “learning style” discussion; I recalled my struggle as a learner in school being taught with mismatched instructional methods. Mismatched instruction is different from learners having different styles of learning necessarily.

I resonated with the turn to “intelligence” and particularly Stenberg’s analytical, practical, and creative model (150). Interestingly, our cultural moment has the IQ test to capture analytical ability, but not an equivalent for estimating practical and creative intelligence we kind of fly by the seat of our pants when estimating these, and perhaps with 20/20 hindsight. Warren Buffet we surmise could score well with practical intelligence, and “the artist formerly known as Prince” on creative intelligence. I also resonated with the examples of practical intelligence, Kenyan herbal medicine, as being suggestive of some of the phenomena we see in rural Alaska. Many young men do better with snow machines, four-wheelers, hunting, and fishing than the classroom. Conversely, many young women do better with computers, writing, and the work of the office comparatively displaying a higher analytic ability. As our authors mention, the family situation may explain children of different families excelling in different areas. But, in Alaska, we need the same family situation to interpret the various gender expressions. Schools seem to reinforce these by passing women through and preventing men. But, is this cast in concrete?

Dynamic testing is a tool to identify which intelligence(s) are lagging strikes me as a far more valuable diagnostic than learning that I am in the 95 percentile for verbal and written skills or 75th for math and analytics. Alas, what is unclear to me is that we have well-developed techniques for developing practical or creative intelligence? School just does not seem the place to remedy shortcomings in those intelligences, at least not as we have it configured currently.

Structure Building

Indeed, this is a strategy that I engage in as I map out mental models of known content. I try to find that fine line where I have stripped away everything but the essential elements versus the moment where I have torn away one feature too much, and the model falls apart. I learned the core elements of the piece stripped away, and I discovered the function in the model. I have as well learned to test my models in different situations this also reveals when I have stripped away too much or a flaw in the knowledge itself and then I engage in the creative process of grafting on an element, sometimes this is elegant more often a kludge until I find something better. Moreover, this is the third aspect of my structure building, the provisional quality of the builds.

Rule Learner

I tend as well to be a “rule learner” though again my rules are provisional and modifiable as I encounter exceptions. Trying to hold in memory all of the possible examples or counterexamples has felt too cumbersome to me. The efficiency of structures and rules has informed my learning.

Chapter 7

I have to say that this section was positively inspirational and I rarely enthuse like that. The chapter is lengthy and offers many examples. However, I like the pithy conclusion.

  • effortful learning changes the brain
  • growth mindset
  • self-discipline
  • grit
  • persistence
  • conscious mnemonic devices

Chapter 8

Is a summary of the entire book as such it works as a handy annotated table of contents. Also, they offer case studies of leaning and the importance of learning beyond school, business, professions, and so on with applications of their concepts. This book has an extensive bibliography and a useful index. Yes, it is written by scholars, but for a popular audience, so the style is accessible while still being credible and rigorous.

This graduate degree has been a long haul for me. Unfortunately here at the end, it has collided with job changes and relocation. So a lot of the shine has worn off for me. However, this book is quite inspirational. I have always prided myself on being a life-long learner and have been pretty good at it. However, I see in this text ways to become better and a bit of a prompt to do so and follow through. I am intrigued as well as I achieve late-middle age with practicing the memory techniques. Neuroplasticity and neurogenerativity are intriguing concepts to an old-dog wanting too learn new tricks.

I recall as a college student feeling cross as I learned some of these techniques the hard way and wishing that someone would just teach them in K-12. As a graduate student and teaching assistant, I recall trying to work some of that into the sections of English 101; I was teaching. As my life took turns away from being a teacher, I thought less about these topics as they applied to others and mostly focused on my learning for my purposes. My learning to learn was jump-started when my son started taking karate and jujitsu Dad joined in to support kid-grit and keep him engaged with activities rather than starting and quitting. And as well since I had to drive it gave me something to do rather than just sit and wait. There are physical mnemonics that martial arts create for memorizing patterns of movements and techniques. As well, there is a similarity between forms that create efficiencies in learning. As well interleaving, effortful learning, and a growth mindset are all regular parts of martial arts practice. I hadn’t made the full-circle connection and brought those techniques back to other types of learning, and in this our text is brilliant.

I had a fascinating conversation with a LEAN Process Engineer working creating standard work for Hospital Operating Rooms. She described how washing the room had been standardized so that when a second person entered the room, they could tell at a glance where the cleaning was at and could pick up and get to work. Likewise standardizing the room setup and equipment needs with “pick cards.” The thing that was impressive for me was the insight that our book was about individual learning/recall, the LEAN engineer was about group learning/recall. Much of the techniques in our text are about making our learning standard work, making systematic and methodical. My learning, however, is an internal process and self-referential, standard work in a workplace necessarily needs communication whether it is the location of a cleaner in a room, or, the same “pick card” for the same procedure. Again the exponential challenge of group learning and recall and at times the profound urgency of getting it right, surgery or space launch.


Brown, P. C., H.L. Roediger, and M.A. McDaniel (2014). Make it stick: the science of successful learning. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press

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