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Presented and produced by Seán Delaney

Theme tune composed by David Vesey

On this week's podcast I speak to cognitive scientist, Professor Daniel T Willingham from the University of Virginia. We discuss learning to read, learning styles, multiple intelligences, education research and more. The full range of topics includes:

  • Applying the science of learning in school and at home
  • Paradigms of cognitive psychology (reasonable assumptions)
  • How cognitive science replaced behaviourism
  • How cognitive science might inform the teaching of different subjects across the curriculum
  • The relationship between basic science and applied science for teachers
  • Why an opportunity exists for teacher organisations to review science and provide periodic updates for teachers to critique ideas (such as say, grit).
  • Initial teacher education should provide a grounding in the science of learning and subsequently teachers’ knowledge needs to be updated as the science evolves (and why the onus for such updating should not be on individual teachers)
  • Among the few reliable publications for teachers he'd recommend are American Educator, and Phi Delta Kappan.
  • Evaluating the relative importance of technical competence (decoding) and motivation in learning to read.
  • The difference between reading a book and listening to an audio book (How prosody helps comprehension in audio books and how regressions help us in comprehending text) and why textbooks are different.
  • Can audiobooks help a child who is having difficulties learning to decode?
  • Criticism of the learning styles theory of the mind – there’s no scientific basis to pedagogies based on learning styles. Why style differs to memory and ability and the importance of meaning in learning. Learning styles may offer a different ways for a teacher to think about topics they’re going to teach.
  • The construct of mental ability and multiple intelligences. Is intelligence one single construct or is it several independent constructs?
  • Can critical thinking be taught? Can being a good critical thinker in one domain help you think critically in other domains? The importance of seeing the same underlying structure in various guises when practising critical thinking.
  • How he evaluates the value or potential contribution of a research article in education.
  • Contradictions in educational research – parallels with COVID-19 research. Why professional organisations need to tease out research implications for teachers.
  • Why he reads very broadly in education.
  • Daniel Willingham’s “2002-style” website. He’s on Facebook and Twitter @dtwillingham. His most recent books are Why don’t students like school (2nd out now) and Outsmart your brain (August 2022).
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