Saturday, June 28, 2014

How People Learn

Curious about what psychologists and educators have learned about learning?
How People Learn cover

The National Academy of Sciences assembled a group* to pull together the best information about learning. It's all in a book that you can download as a PDF (free!): How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (expanded edition, 2000)

This popular trade book, originally released in hardcover in the Spring of 1999, has been newly expanded to show how the theories and insights from the original book can translate into actions and practice, now making a real connection between classroom activities and learning behavior. This paperback edition includes far-reaching suggestions for research that could increase the impact that classroom teaching has on actual learning.
Like the original hardcover edition, this book offers exciting new research about the mind and the brain that provides answers to a number of compelling questions. When do infants begin to learn? How do experts learn and how is this different from non-experts? What can teachers and schools do-with curricula, classroom settings, and teaching methods--to help children learn most effectively? New evidence from many branches of science has significantly added to our understanding of what it means to know, from the neural processes that occur during learning to the influence of culture on what people see and absorb.
How People Learn examines these findings and their implications for what we teach, how we teach it, and how we assess what our children learn. The book uses exemplary teaching to illustrate how approaches based on what we now know result in in-depth learning. This new knowledge calls into question concepts and practices firmly entrenched in our current education system.
Topics include:
  • How learning actually changes the physical structure of the brain.
  • How existing knowledge affects what people notice and how they learn.
  • What the thought processes of experts tell us about how to teach.
  • The amazing learning potential of infants.
  • The relationship of classroom learning and everyday settings of community and workplace.
  • Learning needs and opportunities for teachers.
  • A realistic look at the role of technology in education.

* Committee on Developments in the Science of Learning with additional material from the Committee on Learning Research and Educational Practice, National Research Council

People of Color Missing from Kids' Books

Shockingly few children's books published in the United States are by or about people of color.

The Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin's School of Education has been counting since 1985. The Center studied 3200 children's books published in the U.S. in 2013. Only 253 were about people of color. That's, um, just under 8%. Let's combine those numbers with this data from the Census Bureau about the population in 2010.

Children's Books in 2013
Africans or African Americans American IndiansAsian Pacifics or Asian Pacific AmericansLatinos
Children's books about someone from this group 93 346957
Percent of the total books studied (3200)2.9%1.5%2.2%1.8%
Children's books written by or illustrated by someone from this group68189048
Percent of the total books studied (3200)2.1%0.6%2.8%1.5%

Population in 2010
Black or African AmericanAmerican Indian or Alaska NativeAsian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific IslanderTwo or more races or another race other than white)Hispanic or Latino (of any race)
Percent of total population12.6%0.9%5.0%9.1%16.3%

It's not quite as bad as the numbers look. Some of the books that are not about people of color are not about white people either: they're about dinosaurs or trucks or trains or penguins or something else. Not all children's books are about people at all. Still, the imbalance in the numbers is disturbing.

The Cooperative Children's Book Center offers Multicultural Literature lists to help people find some of the good children's books that are about people of color.