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Education Bookcast

Jun 27, 2022

A listener of the podcast by the name of Malin Tväråna (senior lecturer at Uppsala University's Department of Education) requested in a review of the podcast that I cover this book, and so here it is!

Ference Marton is a professor of Education at Göteburg University. His big idea is about discernment of important features of a situation (what he calls "critical aspects") being a (the?) key element of learning, and therefore the importance of the nature and quantity of variation in instruction. He explains his ideas in theory at length, after which he provides a number of examples of experiments that provide evidence for his interpretation.

This is one of those cases of a simple and apparently obvious idea being particularly fruitful when thoughtfully applied. Of course we can't learn something if we can't notice it, and of course it's difficult to notice something if it's always the same - hence the classic "fish in water" problem. But this retrospectively obvious principle can be used to make learning more effective, and, among other things, is partly responsible for Chinese students doing so well at mathematics.

The book also brings a few other interesting ideas to light, such as starting a lesson from "discovery learning" with a problem and following up with instruction causing a kind of pre-testing effect (I have elsewhere on the podcast spoken about the danger of the former and the value of the latter); and the bizarre case of "generative learning", where people do better on a delayed test than on an immediate test. Marton uses his own theory in trying to explain these and other anomalies (who could blame him?), even in cases where I would find it more natural to reach for a different kind of explanation, but I'm grateful for hearing about these counterintuitive tidbits regardless.

Thank you again Malin! Were it not for you, I wouldn't have known about this author or this book.

Enjoy the episode.