Monday, January 9, 2012

Aha! Insight into (at least) why we don't try to learn at times

Clip art: Clker
One of the real achievements of recent research in cognitive psychology has been to demonstrate the importance of both "Eureka! moments" and systematic forgetting of moments which are not. What the research by (summarized by from Science Daily) contributes is evidence that children come to understand new words not so much gradually by repeated exposure as they do by insightful events. The precise meaning may be adjusted or expanded by later events and attempts at usage but the basic meaning, once caught in a clear, unambiguous context is well-established.

That is a much closer parallel to how adults learn than once thought and accords very closely with one of the central claims of cognitive phonology, that such insights into the structure of the sound system have great potential payoff. Just as the demand for "Eureka!-like" explanations holds, in our work so does the corresponding requirement for "sticky haptic" and emotionally engaging anchoring in the process of setting up integration of new sounds into spontaneous speech.

Clip art: Clker
In HICP/EHIEP it is critical in the practicing of target sounds that there be as little clutter and "body-less" repetition and drill as possible. However, given this research, it may be that doing a few random activities and meaningless drill isn't all that ultimately distracting or counterproductive anyway. A waste of time, perhaps, but the good news is that the brain appears to be wonderfully designed to ignore what it doesn't need now or yet--and most of the rest of the lesson as well for that matter, just waiting on your next "Aha!" Having a class that loves you and the lesson, has learned to anticipate your little gems and is amazingly patient goes only so far, however. Anchor away, eh!

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