[ Music ]>>Now, the research on this part of

learning about knowledge organization, knowledge structures has

interesting takeaway points. This is the good part. When we are able to give students a structure,

in this case a hierarchical structure, this will aid retention and recall. In this particular study. Where students were given less minerals to

memorize, two groups of students were given. One group was given the structure

from minerals to metals and stones and subcategories evolving from there. And the other group was just

given a random list of minerals. And then they were tested on their recall. The group that was given the structure, the hierarchical structure did

way better than the other group. The average number of items recalled

was more than three times higher than the average number recalled by

students in the random list group. So that’s the part where we

know that there’s value to this, to helping students not just memorize things but add some organization to

that memorization as they go. The bad part of this research was that

experts also wanted to figure out the kinds of structures that would be there in

the brain without any kind of help. And so to do that, they went into a

physic course at the end of the semester, intro physics, and gave the students a stack

of problems that they had to sort into groups of problems that were similar to each other. They were not interested in the

solutions, just in looking at the kinds of piles the students would make. Hoping that the organization on the table

would reveal the organization in their brain. And what they found was that students had a lot

of heterogeneity in how they did their sorting. Many groupings did not look similar

to other students’ groupings. But they did find patterns also. In particular, they found

those two problems on the left for which you see the three

body diagrams but not the text. They found that those problems

were often put together. And when they asked students to explain why

those two went together, students talked about, well, its problems about inclined plains. There’s objects moving planes at an angle. Those were the kinds of explanations given. Then they gave the same stack of problems to

the experts and asked them to do the same tax. And what they found there was that

the experts had much less variability in terms of how they did the task. And, in particular, they never put together

that inclined plain problem with the other one. Instead, it went with a pulley problem. And when they had to explain why, they

talked about conservation of energy as being the underlying principal

behind both problems. Now, experts obviously can see that the

two problems on the left look similar in that three body diagram looks similar. Because it involves inclined plains and angles. But they did not think that that was

a significant feature of the problem that warranted putting those problems together. Because knowing that those two problems

are similar doesn’t tell you anything about how to solve the problem. And, in fact, some students

might have a misconception that all inclined problems are solved in the

same way which will be very counterproductive. Instead, experts know that once they’ve

realized that it’s conservation of energy, just apply the formula for conservation

of energy and you’re already halfway or most of the way to the solution. So the takeaway from this

research is that students left to their own devices will form

organizations in their head. But those organizations are not

going to be helpful, necessarily. And they might actually hinder further learning. Now, this is not something

that just students do. I’m going to give you an example. This is the ugly [phonetic] out of this research

to show that we are all prone to this idea in terms of forming bad organizations. I’m going to read a paragraph

to you from a book. The man was worried. His car came to a halt, and he was all alone. It was extremely dark and cold. The man took off his overcoat,

rolled down the window, and got out of his car as quickly as possible. Then, he used all his strength

to move as fast as he could. He was relieved when he finally saw the lights

of the city, even though they were far away. Let’s think about the text that I just read. Here’s some questions for you. Can you estimate the time and

the day this event took place. This could be a fairly easy question. It says it was dark, so it’s

probably in the evening. Estimate the month of the

year this event took place. An overcoat was mentioned, so it’s

probably one of the winter months. But then the questions become

more difficult to think about. Describe the location where the

car probably came to a halt. Also, why do you think the

man rolled down the window? And why do you think the

man removed his overcoat? It’s hard to come up with an

explanation for why that happened. Even though everything that I’ve

read about that event is true. The thing that I haven’t

mentioned yet is the title. So the title of that paragraph

is The Submerged Car. Now, it all makes sense. Now we understand why the man had to roll

down the window instead of opening the door. And why he had to take off his overcoat

in order to be able to swim more freely. And why he was so worried and why

he was relieved to see the lights of the city even though they were far away. Because it meant he made it to the surface. The idea here is that there’s a key element

that’s missing that forces us to not be able to organize the events in the story in

the way they’re meant to be organized. If we had to picture an organization for this

story, it would probably be a hub and spoke kind of model with the submerged car being the hub on which every other element

of the story hangs upon. If you remove that, I’m left

with all disconnected elements. And that’s why it’s hard to recall. That’s why it’s hard to make sense of the event. That’s why it’s hard to draw inferences. And, in fact, I would be forced to organize

it in whatever other ways make sense to me and maybe I forgot about the overcoat

because the model that I superimposed on the story didn’t take that into account. And then I get to the day of the exam and

there’s a question about the overcoat. And now I feel cheated. And it’s only because I didn’t have

the right organization for this. So providing context to the students,

even with just three words in this case, can help comprehension and

learning a great deal. In terms of practices, what

can we actually do to provide that kind of overarching organization? At the course level, some people advocate

providing students with a graphic syllabus that is not just the list of topics

you’re going to cover in the course. But it actually shows the

organization of those topics. So in this case, this is my personal

graphic syllabus for a graduate course in [inaudible] statistics that

I taught a few semesters back. And it shows on top that there is a progression

in the topics, in the big chunks of topics that we traverse in the semester. But then we drill down deeper and deeper as

we go into the semester in each one of them. And how they’re connected to each other and how

they branch off what the hierarchy of that is. In this particular case, I’m also providing

students with danger signs to show things that will take longer than

they might anticipate. Or things that are counter intuitive. You think this is going to be a certain

way, it’s actually going to be the opposite. And so this can be good sign

pass for navigating the course. [ Music ]

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