Cognitive scientists find that when teaching young children, there is a trade-off between direct instruction and independent exploration
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Suppose someone showed you a novel gadget and told you, "Here's how it works," while demonstrating a single function, such as pushing a button. What would you do when they handed it to you?
You'd probably push the button. But what if the gadget had other functions? Would it occur to you to search for them, if your teacher hadn't alluded to their existence?
Maybe, maybe not. It turns out that there is a "double-edged sword" to pedagogy: Explicit instruction makes children less likely to engage in spontaneous exploration and discovery. A study by MIT researchers and colleagues compared the behavior of children given a novel toy under four different conditions, finding that children expressly taught one of its functions played with the toy for less time and discovered fewer things to do with it than children in the other three scenarios.
According to Laura Schulz, the Class of 1943 Career Development Associate Professor of Cognitive Science at MIT, this is rational behavior, as teaching is meant to impart skills quickly and efficiently. The danger is leading children to believe that they've learned all there is to know, thereby discouraging independent discovery. "If I teach you this one thing and then I stop, then you may say, 'Well that's probably all there is,'" Schulz says.
Is this something we should do in the larger context of PBL? Is there a place and the time to just give our students "play time" to look at things and see what's there? I found this article intriguing. I welcome your thoughts?
Thank you for sharing the article. I found that it reminded me of another resource about thinking, a video by RSA Animate which takes Sir Ken Robinson's talk on Changing Educational Paradigms and animates it. If you haven't seen the video it's quite interesting. I use this video to introduce creativity to admins and teachers. Animation can be a powerful exercise in representing ideas and information. If you have seen the video, start at 7:46 to review what divergent thinking is and how it relates to thinking and creativity.
Back to your questions about how it relates it to PBL and whether there is a place and time to give students a chance to "play" and explore in school. In my world, project and problem based learning has an element of discovery. In discovering answers children should have a chance to play. It's through imaginating answers in their heads that learning happens. The corresponding proving or disproving process is the process by which they learn. They evaluate, analyze and come up with a hypothesis. This is what makes the discussion about informal and formal learning so interesting as well.
In your work with PBL, is there an element of "play" and how it is typically executed?