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robertogreco : howchildrenlearn   5

The Joy and Sorrow of Rereading Holt’s "How Children Learn" | Psychology Today
[Also here: https://medium.com/the-mission/the-joy-and-sorrow-of-rereading-holts-how-children-learn-ffb4f46485e9 ]

"Holt was an astute and brilliant observer of children. If he had studied some species of animal, instead of human children, we would call him a naturalist. He observed children in their natural, free, might I even say wild condition, where they were not being controlled by a teacher in a classroom or an experimenter in a laboratory. This is something that far too few developmental psychologists or educational researchers have done. He became close to and observed the children of his relatives and friends when they were playing and exploring, and he observed children in schools during breaks in their formal lessons. Through such observations, he came to certain profound conclusions about children's learning. Here is a summary of them, which I extracted from the pages of How Children Learn.

• Children don’t choose to learn in order to do things in the future. They choose to do right now what others in their world do, and through doing they learn.

Schools try to teach children skills and knowledge that may benefit them at some unknown time in the future. But children are interested in now, not the future. They want to do real things now. By doing what they want to do they also prepare themselves wonderfully for the future, but that is a side effect. This, I think, is the main insight of the book; most of the other ideas are more or less corollaries.

Children are brilliant learners because they don’t think of themselves as learning; they think of themselves as doing. They want to engage in whole, meaningful activities, like the activities they see around them, and they aren’t afraid to try. They want to walk, like other people do, but at first they aren’t good at it. So they keep trying, day after day, and their walking keeps getting better. They want to talk, like other people do, but at first they don’t know about the relationships of sounds to meanings. Their sentences come across to us as babbled nonsense, but in the child’s mind he or she is talking (as Holt suggests, on p 75). Improvement comes because the child attends to others’ talking, gradually picks up some of the repeated sounds and their meanings, and works them into his or her own utterances in increasingly appropriate ways.

As children grow older they continue to attend to others' activities around them and, in unpredictable ways at unpredictable times, choose those that they want to do and start doing them. Children start reading, because they see that others read, and if they are read to they discover that reading is a route to the enjoyment of stories. Children don’t become readers by first learning to read; they start right off by reading. They may read signs, which they recognize. They may recite, verbatim, the words in a memorized little book, as they turn the pages; or they may turn the pages of an unfamiliar book and say whatever comes to mind. We may not call that reading, but to the child it is reading. Over time, the child begins to recognize certain words, even in new contexts, and begins to infer the relationships between letters and sounds. In this way, the child’s reading improves.

Walking, talking, and reading are skills that pretty much everyone picks up in our culture because they are so prevalent. Other skills are picked up more selectively, by those who somehow become fascinated by them. Holt gives an example of a six-year-old girl who became interested in typing, with an electric typewriter (this was the 1960s). She would type fast, like the adults in her family, but without attention to the fact that the letters on the page were random. She would produce whole documents this way. Over time she began to realize that her documents differed from those of adults in that they were not readable, and then she began to pay attention to which keys she would strike and to the effect this had on the sheet of paper. She began to type very carefully rather than fast. Before long she was typing out readable statements.

You and I might say that the child is learning to walk, talk, read, or type; but from the child’s view that would be wrong. The child is walking with the very first step, talking with the first cooed or babbled utterance, reading with the first recognition of “stop” on a sign, and typing with the first striking of keys. The child isn’t learning to do these; he or she is doing them, right from the beginning, and in the process is getting better at them.

My colleague Kerry McDonald made this point very well recently in an essay about her young unschooled daughter who loves to bake (here). In Kerry’s words, “When people ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she responds breezily, ‘A baker, but I already am one.”

• Children go from whole to parts in their learning, not from parts to whole.

This clearly is a corollary of the point that children learn because they are motivated to do the things they see others do. They are, of course, motivated to do whole things, not pieces abstracted out of the whole. They are motivated to speak meaningful sentences, not phonemes. Nobody speaks phonemes. They are motivated to read interesting stories, not memorize grapheme-phoneme relationships or be drilled on sight words. As Holt points out repeatedly, one of our biggest mistakes in schools is to break tasks down into components and try to get children to practice the components isolated from the whole. In doing so we turn what would be meaningful and exciting into something meaningless and boring. Children pick up the components (e.g. grapheme-phoneme relationships) naturally, incidentally, as they go along in their exciting work of doing things that are real, meaningful, and whole.

• Children learn by making mistakes and then noticing and correcting their own mistakes.

Children are motivated not just to do what they see others do, but to do those things well. They are not afraid to do what they cannot yet do well, but they are not blind to the mismatches between their own performance and that of the experts they see around them. So, they start right off doing, but then, as they repeat what they did, they work at improving. In Holt’s words (p 34), “Very young children seem to have what could be called an instinct of Workmanship. We tend not to see it, because they are unskillful and their materials are crude. But watch the loving care with which a little child smooths off a sand cake or pats and shapes a mud pie.” And later (p 198), “When they are not bribed or bullied, they want to do whatever they are doing better than they did it before.”

We adult have a strong tendency to correct children, to point out their mistakes, in the belief that we are helping them learn. But when we do this, according to Holt, we are in effect belittling the child, telling the child that he or she isn't doing it right and we can do it better. We are causing the child to feel judged, and therefore anxious, thereby taking away some of his or her fearlessness about trying this or any other new activity. We may be causing the child to turn away from the very activity that we wanted to support. When a child first starts an activity, the child can’t worry about mistakes, because to do so would make it impossible to start. Only the child knows when he or she is ready to attend to mistakes and make corrections.

Holt points out that we don’t need to correct children, because they are very good at correcting themselves. They are continually trying to improve what they do, on their own schedules, in their own ways. As illustration, Holt described his observation of a little girl misreading certain words as she read a story aloud, but then she corrected her own mistakes in subsequent re-readings, as she figured out what made sense and what didn’t. In Holt’s words (p 140), “Left alone, not hurried, not made anxious, she was able to find and correct most of the mistakes herself.”

• Children may learn better by watching older children than by watching adults.

Holt points out that young children are well aware of the ways that they are not as competent as the adults around them, and this can be a source of shame and anxiety, even if the adults don't rub it in. He writes (p 123), “Parents who do everything well may not always be good examples for their children; sometimes such children feel, since they can never hope to be as good as their parents, there is no use in even trying.” This, he says, is why children may learn better by watching somewhat older children than by watching adults. As one example, he describes (p 182) how young boys naturally and efficiently improved their softball skills by observing somewhat older and more experienced boys, who were better than they but not so much better as to be out of reach. This observation fits very well with findings from my research on the value of age-mixed play (see here and here).

• Fantasy provides children the means to do and learn from activities that they can’t yet do in reality.

A number of psychologists, I included, have written about the cognitive value of fantasy, how it underlies the highest form of human thinking, hypothetical reasoning (e.g. here). But Holt brings us another insight about fantasy; it provides a means of “doing” what the child cannot do in reality. In his discussion of fantasy, Holt criticizes the view, held by Maria Montessori and some of her followers, that fantasy should be discouraged in children because it is escape from reality. Holt, in contrast, writes (p 228), “Children use fantasy not to get out of, but to get into, the real world.”

A little child can’t really drive a truck, but in fantasy he can be a truck driver. Through such fantasy he can learn a lot about trucks and even something about driving one as he makes his toy truck imitate what real trucks do. Holt points out that children playing fantasy … [more]
childhood  learning  parenting  play  sfsh  johnholt  petergray  unschooling  deschooling  education  howwelearn  control  children  motivation  intrinsicmotivation  schools  schooling  future  homeschool  present  presence  lcproject  openstudioproject  reading  skills  keerymcdonald  doing  tcsnmy  workmanship  correction  mistakes  howchildrenlearn  hurry  rush  schooliness  fantasy  mariamontessori  imagination  piaget  jeanpiaget 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Austin Kleon — John Holt, How Children Learn Children do not...
"After I re-read that section, I was reminded of Laurence Weschler writing about David Hockney, and how “interest-ing” for Hockney is a verb: it is the continual projection of interest. (The more you look at something, the more interesting it gets.) This was certainly the case with me after I started reading this book, and Holt in general: I, who felt like a somewhat enlightened parent, started noting all the ways I wasn’t paying attention to them, and over time, they have become more interesting to me, not because I’m doting on them more, or even spending more time with them, but because I am looking at them like little scientists, or just little people, who are worthy of interest. (It sounds so stupid: of course a parent should find their kids interesting, but think about how many parents and teachers and adults you know — maybe including yourself — who, secretly, probably don’t.)

Holt’s work has really shaken me up, blown my mind, and given me a different way of thinking about my kids. Some of my favorite bits, below."
johnholt  howchildrenlearn  education  learning  children  trust  austinkleon  lawrencewescheler  davidhockney  art  interestedness  interested  interesting  attention  payingattention  noticing  parenting  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  librarians  teachers  purpose  belonging  work  community  conversation  cv  pacing  meaningmaking  unschooling  deschooling  departmentalization  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  control  independence  anxiety  howchildrenfail  testing  assessment  reggioemilia  punk  games  play  standardizedtesting  love  2016  listening 
july 2016 by robertogreco
SpeEdChange: Paul Tough v. Peter Høeg - or - the Advantages and Limits of "Research"
[Part 2 now here: http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2014/01/grit-part-2-is-slack-what-kids-need.html ]
[And from Josie Holford: http://www.josieholford.com/grit-hits-the-fan/ ]
[Huge discussion with Paul Tough: http://learningpond.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/does-grit-need-deeper-discussion/ ]
[Part 3: http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2014/01/grit-part-3-is-it-abundance-of.html ]
[And more: http://atthechalkface.com/2014/01/29/an-open-apology-with-explanations-math-behaviorism-and-grit/
Part 4: http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2014/02/grit-part-4-abundance-authenticity-and.html
Paul Gow: http://notyourfathersschool.blogspot.com/2014/02/in-which-i-confess-to-lacking-grit.html
Laura Deisley http://growinggoodschools.blogspot.com/2014/01/grit-or-slack-are-we-asking-right.html?showComment=1391262821367#c343857328100931918
Mike Rose: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/02/06/the-misguided-effort-to-teach-character/
"Summarizing Grit: The Abundance Narratives" (Ira includes a collection of links to additional posts, including mant of those above): http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2014/02/summarizing-grit-abundance-narratives.html ]

"Mostly, it's an important book because Tough has written a book which might begin to persuade his The New York Times social class, the wealthy, powerful people who set national and international agendas, that their education agenda of the past 30 years has been wrong. I cannot do that, and my writing cannot do that, because "evidence" of a single specific form is the only thing which this group responds to. And Paul Tough has assembled that form of information admirably, largely repudiating all that he has - and much of what has - written about education before. That really matters.

But it is a dangerous book because Tough continues to look for simple answers which will make life comfortable for his social class. It is a dangerous book because it never really asks the tough questions. It is a dangerous book because it holds out those old New England Calvinist ideals - grit and hard work - as the "by your own bootstraps" way to the top - as the path for the poor without ever really acknowledging that the rich need none of that.

Principally it is a dangerous book because, through the use of only stories selected by the researchers Tough fawns over, it implies a series of essential untruths about those who grow up along America's socio-economic, learning, and behavioral borderlines. It is not a dangerous book, however, for the reasons suggested by "the usual suspects" - E.D. Hirsch, Daniel Willingham, and Peter Meyer. "Yet it is hard to argue from recent reform efforts that the aim has been to increase the “information we can stuff into her brain in the first few years," Hirsch laughably pronounces, proving once again that he has actually never seen a public school. The danger in the book is not Tough's correct demolition of the "cognitive hypothesis" - the idea that schools have been focusing on Googlable information instead of life long learning competencies - but his lack of art in understanding children born differently from himself.

But that missing art, that missing empathy, that missing doubt, where do we go to reach for that? And why is that important?"



"That fact: that quantifiable research can only tell you about what you already know, is a critical problem for people of Paul Tough's class, people with Data Over Acceptance Disorder. And its a disaster in education - block real change from ever being considered "What Works" by those in power. And so we get someone like David Coleman, "architect of the Common Core," making this ridiculous - if entertainingly profane - statement:
"Do you know the two most popular forms of writing in the American high school today?…It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with these two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people don’t really give a sh** about what you feel or think. What they instead care about is can you make an argument with evidence, is there something verifiable behind what you’re saying or what you think or feel that you can demonstrate to me. It is a rare working environment that someone says, “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood."

Coleman, a life spent fully immersed in nothing but prior knowledge, cannot understand the power of either personal experience or the imagination. He believes that the best storytelling is that which is endlessly repeated until it is "normed." But the best storytelling is not what Paul Tough writes, or what David Coleman tests - rather - it begins with the art of seeing what few others can.

Thus, in Tough's chapters 11 and 12, his researchers search their known world among children they do not know at all - and that is a problem for the story Tough wants to tell. First, he tells us that kids in a Chicago juvenile detention facility have much smaller vocabularies than other students, but we have no way of knowing whether that is true or not. The vocabularies of the jailed teens was not measured, instead they were asked about white middle class vocabulary. I could easily devise a test based on South Side Chicago street vocabulary that middle class AP students would fail, but there just isn't any validity in either assessment. Then Tough writes about how children with less "attentive" mothers were more likely to engage in disruptive activities in classrooms - but again - we do not have any idea what "disruption" means in this context. We might guess the behavior standard being sought is that used by KIPP, sitting still, staring straight ahead, and shutting up. But if I looked at St. Ann's School in Brooklyn Heights, I might find that the wealthy children of highly attentive parents would be acting a lot like Tough's troubled kids - a great deal of movement, distraction, talking out of turn, leaving the classroom, staring out the window... In fact, later in the book, Tough himself acknowledges as much, but that pesky Data Over Acceptance Disorder prevents him from understanding his own experience, he's stuck in David Coleman's world of non-imagination."



"There is this scene in Borderliners, in it the young narrator Peter describes exactly what he needs. He

tells the story of the orphanage he was in, and how you only got 30 seconds of hot water in the shower, and then had to move to the cold. But his friend Oscar Humlum stays under the cold for minutes, stopping the line, leaving Peter in the comfort of the hot water stream. Humlum says nothing then, needs to say nothing, offers neither praise nor sympathy. Rather, he just gives a moment of peace, and for Peter, this is mythic.

Because that is what "we" need, Mr. Tough. That is what we've always needed. Acceptance, belief, a few moments of peace, and maybe - evidence that "we" are worth sacrificing for. Not the kind of "work sacrifice" KIPP expects from their teachers, not the paid sacrifice of social workers, not even the charity sacrifice of volunteers, but the kind of deep personal sacrifice which suggests real care.

It is that which will give "us" both a chance to breath and believe in ourselves. And in that pause we may find a path."

[Grateful for this after seeing these:
http://blog.coreknowledge.org/2012/09/26/e-d-hirsch-on-paul-toughs-how-children-succeed/
http://www.danielwillingham.com/1/post/2013/10/how-children-succeed.html
http://educationnext.org/paul-tough%E2%80%99s-grit-hypothesis-doesn%E2%80%99t-help-poor-kids/ ]
irasocol  grit  paultough  children  learning  education  poverty  allostaticload  stress  kipp  davelevin  borderliners  technology  quantification  questionframing  edhirsch  danielwillingham  petermeyer  2013  measurement  science  elitism  disconnect  cognitivetheory  cleocherryholmes  howchildrenlearn  howwelearn  peterhøeg  josieholford  slack  petergow  lauradeisley  relationships  shrequest1 
december 2013 by robertogreco
leading and learning: Let's celebrate those few creative teachers -and even fewer creative schools. They are the future.
"If teachers have in their minds the need to develop their class as a learning community of scientists and artists then during the year, as skills develop, greater responsibility can be passed over to students…

The success of any class will depend on the expectations, attitudes and skills the students bring with them ; what they are able to do with minimal assistance.

If the school has a clear vision of the attributes they would like their students to achieve then there will be a continual growth  of  independent learning  competencies from year to year.   Schools that achieve such growth in quality learning usually have spent considerable time developing a set of shared teaching and learning beliefs  that all teachers agree with and see purpose in. Underpinning such beliefs are assumptions about how students learn and the need to create the conditions for every learner to grow towards their innate potential."
tcsnmy  teaching  leadership  administration  toshare  schools  schoolculture  newzealand  progressive  art  science  learning  emergentcurriculum  relationships  growth  unschooling  deschooling  sharedvalues  sharedbeliefs  howchildrenlearn  discussion  management  whatmatters  customization  control  bestpractices 
august 2011 by robertogreco
How Children Learn: classic of human, kid-centered learning - Boing Boing [Cory Doctorow discovers John Holt, Mark Frauenfelder mentions new book project in the comments which are worth reading too.]
"As I worked my way through the book, I found myself scowling, nodding, smiling, even laughing aloud at the wonderful inventiveness of the kids in Holt's life, including supposedly incorrigible or dumb kids -- kids who learned so much on their own, taking the grownups along for the ride, but firmly steering the course of their learning from the earliest ages. I was struck by three passages in particular (reproduced below). I think I'll stick them on the fridge to remind me of how to be a great dad and a great partner in adventure."
johnholt  unschooling  boingboing  corydoctorow  children  teaching  homeschool  education  learning  parenting  deschooling  society  schools  lcproject  books  howchildrenlearn 
september 2008 by robertogreco

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