Those who believe that education needs a foundation in the modem science of cognitive psychology sometimes feel that they are jousting with windmills. Virtually every educational movement, whatever its merits, claims to have a scientific basis. However, this is often not the case.
Unfortunately, a science of human learning has never had a large influence upon the practice of education. Until recently, such a science has not been sufficiently mature to offer much help to educational practitioners and policymakers. However, in recent decades, a body of theory and knowledge within cognitive psychology has been created that offers important opportunities for improving education. On the whole, education does not give the findings of cognitive science a large role but continues instead to struggle between two prescientific views on learning that date to philosophies of centuries past.
These two prescientific views can be characterized, at the risk of slight caricature, as follows:
The associationist philosophy holds that learning is just a matter of forming associations. Therefore, nothing problematic arises about education. All one needs to do is to teach students the associations they need to learn.
The rationalist philosophy maintains that knowledge is to be found by looking within one’s self. Therefore, nothing problematic arises about education. All one needs to do is to allow students to discover what they need to learn.
[…] Education has failed to show steady progress because it has shifted back and forth among simplistic positions such as the associationist and rationalist philosophies. Modem cognitive psychology provides a basis for genuine progress by careful scientific analysis that identifies those aspects of theoretical positions that contribute to student learning and those that do not. Radical constructivism serves as the current exemplar of simplistic extremism, and certain of its devotees exhibit an antiscience bias that, should it prevail, would destroy any hope for progress in education.John R. Anderson, Lynne M. Reder, Herbert A. Simon
Bibliographic EntryAnderson, J. R., Reder, L. M. & Simon, H. (1998). Radical constructivism and cognitive psychology. In D. Ravitch (Ed.) Brookings papers on education policy 1998. Washington, DC: Brookings Institute Press.
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The Herbert Simon Collection comprises 80 cu. ft. of papers arranged in 10 topical series.
The collection includes: scientific papers by Simon and others; project reports and research proposals; lecture materials, book and paper drafts, publications and journal article reprints; personal papers and awards; and external correspondence, Carnegie Mellon interoffice memoranda, and e-mail.
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