Learning and testing

Cognitive Daily

Category archives for Learning and testing

I was a member of my high school debate team, and I did fairly well, but my partner, Glenn, always got better marks from the judges. Most often, they praised his hand gestures, which were proclaimed to be “expressive” and “informative.” One year our topic was arms control, and our opponents were arguing that “NATO…

There’s been a ton of research on the impact of working memory: its importance in learning, its effect on math skills, and its relationship to other mental abilities. Yesterday’s entry on The Wild Side discusses working memory’s relationship with IQ. It’s been shown that adults can improve working memory with training, and training has even…

One of my most vivid memories from middle school was in English class. The class wasn’t paying attention to the teacher — we were chattering during “work time” and she wanted us to stop and return to a full-class lesson. So she shouted “SEX!” We all shut up immediately and stared at her in disbelief.…

Baby sign language is all the rage these days. Upscale day-care centers and nanny services promote it as a better way of understanding what babies want. Babies have been known to reliably produce signs as young as 5.5 months, and studies have shown that they reliably produce signs significantly earlier than spoken words. As we’ve…

One of things I was taught over and over again when I was in education school was the importance of getting parents involved in kids’ learning. If you get the parents on your side, my professors insisted, then you’re going to be much more able to get through to the students. I didn’t last long…

[This article was originally published in December, 2006] Take a look at these two images. Do they belong in the same category or different categories? You say the same? Wrong — they’re different! The one on the right is a little blurrier. What about these two? These are in the same category. Sure, the one…

Freud meets cognitive psychology

My first introduction to psychology was in a required social science class in college over 20 years ago, reading Sigmund Freud’s Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. The experience made me think I’d better be careful if I ever had kids: I didn’t want them telling their psychoanalysts how my misadventures in early parenting had scarred them.…

You’re trapped inside a rectangular room with four doors, one in each corner. You try the first door. It’s locked. You try the second and the third door — locked again. Finally the fourth door opens. You make a point of remembering which corner of the room it’s in, which turns out to be useful,…

The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis — stated in its strongest form — claims that language determines thoughts: if a language doesn’t have a means of expressing a particular idea, then people speaking that language can’t even conceive of that idea. This strong form has long since been rejected: There are plenty of thoughts we can have without…

Does test-taking help students learn?

During my brief tenure as a high school teacher, one common suggestion I got from supportive colleagues was to “make your tests teaching tools.” “That’s often the only time you’ve really got your students’ attention,” they suggested, “so don’t neglect the opportunity to teach them something.” What they meant is that you shouldn’t use misleading…