Over the last fifty years, much of the learning research has shifted from what to teach to how we learn. It is now generally recognized that the learning process is divided into three general categories: figural, semantic, and symbolic. Each of these learning processes starts as simple stimulation and becomes progressively more complex as we continuously build upon the foundation of previously learned information. Figural learning is the ability to see, identify an object and place it in memory. Simple on the surface, it becomes more complex such as recognizing different faces, identifying landmarks as one drives, or putting a computer together after disassembling the parts. Have you never been stumped putting a name and face together at a high school reunion? Semantic learning is the association of sound with meaning. Your earliest use is the association of the sound “ma” with the face that provides you with food. As we continue to learn, sounds take on abstract meanings that we call language. Early exposure to different languages and continued stimulation will allow the development of multilingual skills. Symbolic learning is the latest skill to develop usually beginning to be utilized in the Fourth Grade. It is the ability to take seemingly unrelated symbols and assign meaning and value to them. In the simplest form, 2 + a = 5. While most of us recognize “a” is 3, there is nothing inherent which gives “a” the specific value. It is a symbol that can be interpreted depending upon the situation in which it is placed. Although long division is mathematically real, it has no intrinsic sense to most students. What does 12,376 divided by 364 really mean? Without the properly developed neuropathways to perform abstract logic, students find it hard to process symbolic learning. It is not surprising that about 30% of students fall behind 1/3 of a grade in mathematics for every year they advance in school. There is little in our educational system or structured play that allows children to develop abstract reasoning in their earliest years.
- Pressuring children not to fail may impede learning development (foryourintelligence.com)
- Learning in the Semantic Web (hollymccracken.wordpress.com)