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Education Bookcast

Dec 13, 2021

I picked up The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences hoping for a longer term project of enrichment from a volume published by one of the most prestigious universities in the world. However, it only took reading the introduction by editor R. Keith Sawyer to see that this book is suffused with ideological stances commonly supported and even dogmatically preached in educational circles, whose major tenets have been shown wanting time and again by empirical evidence from cognitive science - not to mention the practical experience of teachers.

The whole thing is made all the more facepalm-worthy for the extent to which the author emphasises that his ideas apparently are based on "cognitive science" ideas of "deep learning". In practice he has paid attention to some important facets of the cognitive science of learning (mainly the value of the novice vs. expert axis of comparison), but draws from this ludicrous conclusions which are not, in fact, supported by the science at all.

Ultimately, I decided that this book is a good opportunity to discuss widely circulated claims which are invalid or misleading. Among these are the denigrating of "instructionism" (read: common sense teaching) by use of a combination of straw men and false dichotomies; the suggestion that learning should be "authentic" (i.e. inefficient); motte-and-bailey arguments concerning the (un)importance of factual knowledge; and the fallacy of gaining expertise by direct mimicking of experts' day-to-day activities (even though that isn't the way those experts themselves became experts).

Enjoy the episode.