Schools for Thought: A Science of Learning in the Classroom / Edition 1

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Schools for Thought provides a straightforward,general introduction to cognitive research and illustrates its importance for educational change. Using classroom examples, John Bruer shows how applying cognitive research can dramatically improve students' transitions from lower-level rote skills to advanced proficiency in reading, writing, mathematics, and science.

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What People Are Saying

Howard Gardner
John Bruer's Schools for Thought is an excellent book. I found it unfailingly clear and readable. I know of no books that survey a coherent set of educational interventions from the perspective of cognitive studies.
From the Publisher
"John Bruer's Schools for Thought is an excellent book. I found it unfailingly clear and readable. I know of no books that survey a coherent set of educational interventions from the perspective of cognitive studies." Howard Gardner , Graduate School of Education,Harvard University
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262521963
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 8/22/1994
  • Series: Bradford Books Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 581,740
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

John T. Bruer is President of the James S. McDonnell Foundation.

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Table of Contents

1 Applying What We Know in Our Schools: A New Theory of Learning 1
2 The Science of Mind: Analyzing Tasks, Behavior, and Representations 19
3 Intelligent Novices: Knowing How to Learn 51
4 Mathematics: Making it Meaningful 81
5 Science: Inside the Black Box 127
6 Reading: Seeing the Big Picture 173
7 Writing: Transforming Knowledge 215
8 Testing, Trying, and Teaching 257
9 Changing Our Representations: Thinking of Education in New Ways 289
Suggested Reading 299
Notes 301
Bibliography 303
Index 317
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2006

    Bruer Book Review Paper

    It is generally agreed upon that the United States is in dire need of educational reform. The government has acknowledged that something must be done to improve our schools, as evidenced by federal programs such as the No Child Left Behind Act. We regularly hear that American students trail their peers in other industrialized nations in their performance in math and science, and everybody, from politicians to teachers to parents, laments the `sad state of education in this country today¿. Numerous suggestions for how to improve our nation¿s schools have been made over the past decades, and John Bruer offers another proposal in his book, Schools for Thought: A Science of Learning in the Classroom. Bruer¿s argument that we should approach educational reform from a cognitive perspective is persuasive. He focuses on research and data that show how certain programs are undoubtedly effective at increasing student performance, and ignores the social issues and political complications that so often accompany a discussion of educational reform. Bruer focuses right on the heart of the subject ¿ how to teach so that students learn, something that is unquestionably key to improving our schools. At issue is the feasibility of implementing such a reform and bringing the insight of research into the everyday classroom. Bruer stresses that we should approach educational reform from a cognitive perspective, using what we know about how the human mind works to make gains in student achievement and improve critical thinking and problem solving skills. I find it difficult to counter this position, especially as a science teacher. If data supports one instructional method over another for raising the achievement levels of low performing students, it is difficult to imagine anybody arguing in favor of the less effective approach. Additionally, it is painfully obvious to me that we must employ research-based methods in order to improve education. No doctor would ever give a patient a drug that had not undergone rigorous clinical testing and scrupulous trials, so why are teachers routinely using methods that have never been subjected to experimentation? Gains in a field are made by determining what works and why, and building off of prior knowledge to continually improve the practice in question. Unfortunately this does not seem to be the overarching trend in education. Throughout the book Bruer describes the implementation and remarkable success of a range of programs based in cognitive research. Examples include a video that makes word problems more tangible for middle school math students, and a physics curriculum that aims at identifying and correcting students¿ misconceptions rather than throwing formulas at them. If one trusts Bruer¿s data, it seems as if these programs can turn the most struggling student into a star pupil. Even from a cautiously skeptical perspective, it is clear that these programs work at least as well as traditional curriculums, and at a minimum they are successful at grasping the elusive student interest ¿ clearly a necessary first step to teaching content. If these programs have been developed and data exists to support their success, the question is why aren¿t they being used in more classrooms around the nation? As a first year teacher, I am often overwhelmed at the sheer volume of websites and books dedicated to suggesting new ways of teaching. I often use hints and ideas from more experienced educators, and eagerly search for better ways to introduce a specific concept or skill to my students. In my pursuit of information, I have never found a technique or method that comes with authentic supporting research. In fact, the endorsements are mostly accounts of personal experience with a method, ¿This worked really well with my students, and you should try it on yours.¿ Even in my graduate level education courses I have yet to read a scholarly article evaluating various instructional techniques quantitatively.

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