Applying Cognitive Science to Education: Thinking and Learning in Scientific and Other Complex Domains

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Overview

Many students find it difficult to learn the kind of knowledge and thinking required by college or high school courses in mathematics, science, or other complex domains. Thus they often emerge with significant misconceptions, fragmented knowledge, and inadequate problem-solving skills.

Most instructors or textbook authors approach their teaching efforts with a good knowledge of their field of expertise but little awareness of the underlying thought processes and kinds of knowledge required for learning in scientific domains. In this book, Frederick Reif presents an accessible coherent introduction to some of the cognitive issues important for thinking and learning in scientific or other complex domains (such as mathematics, science, physics, chemistry, biology,engineering, or expository writing). Reif, whose experience teaching physics at the University ofCalifornia led him to explore the relevance of cognitive science to education, examines with some care the kinds of knowledge and thought processes needed for good performance; discusses the difficulties faced by students trying to deal with unfamiliar scientific domains; describes some explicit teaching methods that can help students learn the requisite knowledge and thinking skills;and indicates how such methods can be implemented by instructors or textbook authors. Writing from a practically applied rather than predominantly theoretical perspective, Reif shows how findings from recent research in cognitive science can be applied to education. He discusses cognitive issues related to the kind of knowledge and thinking skills that are needed for science or mathematics courses in high school or colleges and that are essential prerequisites for more advanced intellectual performance. In particular, he argues that a better understanding of the underlying cognitive mechanisms should help to achieve a more scientific approach to science education.Frederick Reif is Emeritus Professor of Physics and Education at Carnegie MellonUniversity and the University of California, Berkeley.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Challenging. Illuminating. Rewarding. A masterpiece of organization and clarity… a privilege to read."

- Joe R. Clopton,American Biology Teacher

"An excellent example of the contributions that scientists, provided they are willing to cross some disciplinary boundaries, can make to solving important real-life problems.... a veritable gold mine for all those who teach physics or mathematics at high-school or college level.

They will find introductory questions for activating students' prior knowledge about standard curricular content as well as stimulating ideas for engaging students in meaningful activities,e.g., through reciprocal teaching or written self-explanations. However, the book's merits go far beyond practical advice. A broad range of academics will find Applying Cognitive Science toEducation intellectually stimulating." Elsbeth Stern Science

"In this book, Frederick Reif has created a rich and practical synthesis of knowledge about thinking, with fascinating examples and implications for teaching. Like much of his earlier work, this is a "must read" both for serious educational scholars and for anyone interested in learning how to teach science and math more effectively."Edward F. (Joe) Redish ,University of Maryland

"This book offers a comprehensive framework for reasoning systematically about the complex issues of thinking, learning, and teaching. Through thought-provoking examples, Reif illustrates how this framework can be applied in science and math education, in engineering education, in reading, and even in everyday performance. This is a significant contribution toward bridging the gap between learning and teaching, a problem that challenges educators all over the world."Bat-Sheva Eylon , Department of Science Teaching, Weizmann Institute ofScience

"This book provides a wonderful overview and introduction to the important role that cognitive science can play in improving science education generally and physics education specifically. It would be extremely useful for all physics professors and teachers and could be used as a text for physics education research courses for physics graduate students."Alan VanHeuvelen , Department of Physics and Astronomy, Rutgers University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262515146
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 8/13/2010
  • Series: Bradford Books Series
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Frederick Reif is Emeritus Professor of Physics and Education at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, Berkeley.

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Table of Contents

I Basic Issues 1

1 Performance, Learning, and Teaching 3

2 Intellectual Performance 11

II Good Performance 27

II-A Usability 29

3 Important Kinds of Knowledge 31

4 Specifying and Interpreting Concepts 43

5 Interpreting Scientific Concepts 61

6 Managing Memory 85

II-B Effectiveness 101

7 Methods and Inferences 103

8 Describing Knowledge 119

9 Organizing Knowledge 137

II-C Flexibility 163

10 Making Decisions 165

11 Introduction to Problem Solving 189

12 Systematic Problem Solving 201

13 Dealing with Complex Problems 229

II-D Efficiency 255

14 Efficiency and Compiled Knowledge 257

II-E Reliability 271

15 Quality Assurance 273

III Prior Knowledge 287

16 Unfamiliar Knowledge Domains 289

17 Naive Scientific Knowledge 311

IV Learning and Teaching 333

18 Developing Instruction 335

19 Designing the Learning Process: Goals 343

20 Designing the Learning Process: Means 357

21 Producing Instruction to Foster Learning 377

V Implementing Practical Instruction 401

22 Traditional Instructional Methods 403

23 Innovative Instructional Methods 417

24 Some Educational Challenges 439

References 451

Index 465

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