adsense code

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Do Our Schools Teach "Cognitive Tools?"

In this age of high-stakes testing, schools focus on telling students WHAT to learn. How well do they teach students HOW to learn? ... not very well in my experience both as a middle-school curriculum developer and as a university science professor. I ran across a review of a new book entitled "The Future of Education. Re-imagining Our Schools from the Ground Up." The book apparently focuses on three goals of education: 1) socialization, 2) mastery of information, and 3) promotion of mental development. The book's author emphasizes a need to re-orient these goals around teaching "cognitive tools." Neuroscience is expected to reveal what those tools are, and it is the job of the school to teach those cognitive tools. Have schools even identified a set of cognitive tools? I know they don't explicitly appear in the national science standards. Communication between neuroscientists and school teachers is limited--they live in two different worlds. Moreover, the educational culture is not amenable to major change, especially one that requires teachers to re-orient their basic approach to teaching.

An example that I have mentioned before is the need to teach students how to memorize more effectively, using for example, the principles in my book. Few teachers teach memorization skills, and many have a prejudice against doing so. Also, it is increasingly clear that teaching students to increase the span of their working memory will raise student IQ and problem-solving skills. Yet I know of no school system or teacher that does that. Memorization skills are not tested on standardized tests and therefore are not taught. Real reform is a long way off. Many politicians and teachers think the solution for school reform is more money. Wrong!

Source: Egan, K. 2008. The Future of Education. Reimagining Our Schools from the Ground Up. Yale University Press. New Have, Ct. 203 p.


  1. No, they don't - at least the German schools do not!

    In school I was intimidated by learning, especially when it came to vocabulary. It was always a big pain to memorize the french and english words just by repeating them.

    Today I can memorize a deck of cards in under two minutes - and it's all because of the right technique. It is the same with vocabulary, names, numbers and even complex coherence.

    Learning to learn should become a school subject itself.

    You have a very interesting Blog Dr. Klemm. I will read your older posts in the next weeks. Keep up the good work.

    Best regards,
    Florian /

  2. Yes, memorization is becoming a lost skill. Of course, there are many ways to improve memory, but it seems like schools just don't think it's important. In the US at least.

  3. Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!

    Technology Dissertation

  4. This kind of information is very limited on internet. Nice to find the post related to my searching criteria. Your updated and informative post will be appreciated by blog loving people.

    MBA Dissertation


Please contribute your ideas. This blog is all about making learning easier for everyone.