A Theory of Learning

I use a different theory of learning, discovered when I was a psychology professor doing research on learning. You can agree or disagree with the points of my theory. But don't build your teaching around a wrong theory of learning which has no supporting evidence. That would be crazy, right?

The short story

Obviously, people can store information in memory. Memories are one type of knowledge.

My theory is that there are other types of knowledge. These other types of knowledge are learned in their own ways, not like you would learn memories; these other types of knowledge are used in their own ways, not like you would use memories.

For the purposes of education, a very important type of knowledge is what I call "mental models". They correspond to "understanding" something. You can read about types of knowledge in my chapter Types of Knowledge.

Our educational system is ideally suited to teaching (and testing) memories. It is poorly suited to teaching mental models. Memories probably aren't that important by themselves, and ironically they are usually forgotten when they are not embedded in a mental model.

So our educational system is a tragedy. You can read about this in detail in my chapter The Failure of Education: Teaching Memory.

That leaves the question of how to teach mental models. I address this in a general way in my chapters Teaching Mental Models and In Practice: Teaching and Learning Mental Models (not yet available).

The other portions of this website show how to teach mental models in mathematics.

Lao Tzu (paraphrased): "The math that can be explained is not the true math."