Parallel Changes in Thinking about the Brain and about Education

Phase One:

The brain/student is regarded as a "tabula rasa" or blank slate, on which experiences/teaching act to "sculpt" a functional brain/educated person. The educational need is for clear, organized, and appropriate "input".

Phase Two:

It is recognized that the brain/student has, when they enter any given classroom, substantial pre-existing internal organization. Brains/students are different from one another internally, with distinctive abilities, expectations, and perspectives. The educational need is to create different forms of "clear, organized, and appropriate input", as needed for each student.

Phase Three:

It is recognized that the brain/student has autonomous exploratory inclinations/capabilities. Outputs, along with expectations of resulting input, are internally generated; learning occurs as a result of comparisons between the expected and the actually experienced inputs. The educational need is to create environments within which brains/students can effectively and productively explore, with learning as the result.

What's next ... beyond phase three? Learning more about the balance of freedom and structure which optimizes effective and productive exploration? Recognizing that the balance may be different for different students? For different educational tasks/environments?

Paul Grobstein, December, 2000

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