œThe broader pattern in American education, says Bruce Price, founder of Improve-Education.org, œis to devise ever more alibis for teaching less information, and for teaching it more slowly.
œThe newest example of this pattern is a theory called Prior Knowledge. The basic claim is this: when it comes to learning something new, the crucial thing is what a student learned in the past.
In practice, teachers must waste time inventorying what their students already know. Teachers are then supposed to base their lesson plans on what each child learned last year or the year before. Everything stands still.
œIn short, Price explains, œteachers have a recipe for wallowing in place. The smarter approach is to tell the students what they need to know, and build on that. If students do possess information that can be used to move them forward, then prior knowledge is a great asset. But Prior Knowledge, the theory, takes perverse pleasure in supposing that all prior information is flawed and long-lasting.
Prior Knowledge is based on the obvious fact that many children (or adults) might have lots of mixed-up information in their heads. The theory claims that this mixed-up information will always be there, obstructing the acquisition of new information.
œThis is just silly, Price insists. œThe whole point of talking to someone, or listening to a lecture, or reading a book, is to take new information into your brain. The new information, if it is deemed trustworthy, quickly replaces the old information. But not according to this new fad.
Here is an example of the so-called research supporting this fad: œInterest in prior knowledge began with the careful documentation of common errors made by students in solving physics and mathematics problems. Analysis of interviews with these students reveals that the errors are not random slips, but rather derive from underlying concepts.
This expert seems to believe that the underlying concepts are permanent. On the contrary, if there is any possibility of misinformation obstructing a student's progress, the teacher should deal with this the first day.
However, in most situations, it's a waste of time to refer to the prior knowledge. Simply tell the students, here are the facts.
For example, the military teaches millions of young people to fire weapons without ever inquiring about their past experience with weapons. Instructors tell the students: this is how you do it.
The Education Establishment is basically saying to the children: œDo you feel ready to move forward and learn a lot of new stuff? Wrong! Prior Knowledge says you will stay mired in the past.
For more information, please see new article titled œ62: Prior Knowledge -- A Strange New Religion on Improve-Education.org. (This site specializes in deconstructing theories and methods often found in public schools.)