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Reading Critique: How People Learn - Chapter 4

This chapter captivated my attention rather quickly as it illustrated how we can understand a lot more about children’s mental development by observing them with the assistance of others, as opposed to on their own. The understanding of every age range and the different mental and physical understandings of the world that we develop as we grow seemed to be somewhat excessive, and to be honest got a little scary at one point, given how much we know and can predict about our development. The understanding of this in depth growth in general understanding was complemented by an attempt to actually understand the differences between children and adults, and what mechanisms we go through to learn differently. Although some arguments have been made to state that our understanding increases due to our increased capacity to retain information, and/or our increased speed through which we can process information, the counter arguments provide interesting findings. A lot of children outdid adults in memorizing simple numbers by learning about strategies, mainly, chunking. It seems that what separates adults from children is not necessarily their capacity, but rather their experience and ability to develop better strategies in retaining information. However, this is still rather vague. How would you define the ability to develop better strategies? It seems that this ability comes directly from prior experiences, which are something which children can only gain with age. This is a claim that I felt the chapter should have made more vehemently. Experiences give us a greater ability to understand different scenarios, and learn newer strategies that allow us to deal with the present.

It was then that the chapter shocked me by stating the different ways that children learn given their understanding of intelligence (namely entity or incremental theories). This scared me because frankly, reviewing knowledge about children makes it incredibly frightening to have children and not constantly think about your every action affecting their development, because studies seem to show that it does. Other societies raise their children differently, as we saw through the apprenticeship model of the Pueblo Indian children. My concern kept rising throughout the chapter and it truly reached its high point when the role of questioning was discussed. It is somewhat of a controversial topic, as some societies encourage questioning whilst others heavily discourage it. This adds insurmountable amounts of pressure to how you decide to raise your children and what effect you will have on them. The chapter finishes off with stating two things, which lead my emotions in opposite directions. The first was that “early knowledge may impede later learning”. I shivered, as the first thought that came to my mind was that if you mess up, your child might not learn properly. But then, it stated that “they can learn practically anything by sheer will and effort”. I breathed out as the words of famous psychologist John Watson came into my mind, in his concepts of making a baby anything he desired through classical conditioning. It’s creepy to think that your actions will define the future of a human being, but then you realize that in your everyday life, you have an impact on the people around you, and you should always try to be that positive impact, because you can have an effect on everyone’s emotions, through every little thing that you do. Keep that in mind, and you will be a better human being.


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