I think, therefore...;Letter

24th April 1998 at 01:00
Like L Franchi (TESS, April 17) I read John MacBeath's article "Just think about it", but I came to a very different conclusion.

Certainly I failed to see the claimed dichotomy drawn between thinking skills and the acquisition of knowledge - rather the reverse. Indeed I know that Professor MacBeath himself frequently refers to the work of David Perkins on thinking and learning.

Perkins's contention, backed by a mass of theoretical and practical research, is that knowledge is of little use unless we can effectively use it. Or, as he puts it, we need "knowledge that does not just sit there but functions richly in people's lives to help them understand and deal with the world".

In his recent book Smart Schools Perkins makes the point: "Learning is a consequence of thinking. Retention, understanding and the active use of knowledge can be brought about only by learning experiences in which learners think about and think with what they are learning.

"The conventional pattern of schooling says that first students acquire knowledge. Only then do they think with and about the knowledge they have absorbed. But it's just the opposite: far from thinking coming after knowledge, knowledge comes on the coat tails of thinking. As we think about and with the content that we are learning, we truly learn it. Therefore instead of knowledge-centred schools, we need thinking-centred schools.

"This is no luxury, no utopian vision of an erudite and elitist education. These are hard facts about the way learning works."

Professor Perkins will be the keynote speaker at two major conferences in Scotland in May and no doubt his ideas will be well reported in the TESS as a result.

Colin Weatherley Quality in Learning Consultancy Gullane East Lothian

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