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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School
Recognizing this fact, some groups who design educational materials pair content area experts with “accomplished novices” whose area of expertise lies elsewhere: their task is to continually challenge the experts until the experts’ ideas for instruction begin to make sense to them (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1997).
The content knowledge necessary for expertise in a discipline needs to be differentiated from the pedagogical content knowledge that underlies effective teaching (Redish, 1996; Shulman, 1986, 1987). The latter includes information about typical difficulties that students encounter as they attempt to learn about a set of topics; typical paths students must traverse in order to achieve understanding; and sets of potential strategies for helping students overcome the difficulties that they encounter. Shulman (1986, 1987) argues that pedagogical content knowledge is not equivalent to knowledge of a content domain plus a generic set of teaching strategies; instead, teaching strategies differ across disciplines. Expert teachers know the kinds of difficulties that students are likely to face; they know how to tap into students’ existing knowledge in order to make new information meaningful; and they know how to assess their students’ progress. Expert teachers have acquired pedagogical content knowledge as well as content knowledge; see Box 2.4. In the absence of pedagogical content knowledge, teachers often rely on textbook publishers for decisions about how to best organize subjects for students. They are therefore forced to rely on the “prescriptions of absentee curriculum developers” (Brophy, 1983), who know nothing about the particular students in each teacher’s classroom. Pedagogical content knowledge is an extremely important part of what teachers need to learn to be more effective. (This topic is discussed more fully in Chapter 7.)
An important question for educators is whether some ways of organizing knowledge are better at helping people remain flexible and adaptive to new situations than others. For example, contrast two types of Japanese sushi experts (Hatano and Inagaki, 1986): one excels at following a fixed recipe; the other has “adaptive expertise” and is able to prepare sushi quite creatively. These appear to be examples of two very different types of expertise, one that is relatively routinized and one that is flexible and more adaptable to external demands: experts have been characterized as being “merely skilled” versus “highly competent” or more colorfully as “artisans” versus “virtuosos” (Miller, 1978). These differences apparently exist across a wide range of jobs.
One analysis looked at these differences in terms of information systems design (Miller, 1978). Information systems designers typically work with clients who specify what they want. The goal of the designer is to construct systems that allow people to efficiently store and access relevant informa