The Common Core Method

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Charlotte Thomson IserbytFree or Not Free? That is the question!

Note the Skin­ner­ian lan­guage inher­ent in this book’s title:PROGRAMMED LEARNING: EVOLVING PRINCIPLES AND INDUSTRIAL APPLICATIONS (Foun­da­tion for Research on Human Behav­ior: Ann Arbor, Mich., 1961) edit­ed by Jerome P. Lysaught (see blog post ear­li­er on this topic).

From a chap­ter authored by Robert Glaser apt­ly titled “Prin­ci­ples of Programming”:

Putting the Stu­dent on His Own
The next point is called “fad­ing or van­ish­ing.” Thus far it has been indi­cat­ed that pro­gram­ming tech­niques uti­lize the prin­ci­ple of rein­force­ment, the prin­ci­ple of prompt­ing. The next one we come to is the prin­ci­ple of fad­ing or van­ish­ing. This prin­ci­ple involves the grad­ual removal of prompts or cues, so that by the time the stu­dent has com­plet­ed the les­son, he is respond­ing only to the stim­u­lus mate­r­i­al which he will actu­al­ly have avail­able when he per­forms the “real task.” He is on his own, so to speak, and learn­ing crutch­es have been elim­i­nat­ed. Fad­ing can then be defined as the grad­ual with­draw­al of stim­u­lus sup­port. The sys­tem­at­ic pro­gres­sion of pro­grammed learn­ing is well set up to accom­plish this.

It is always to be kept in mind that these prin­ci­ples are quite in con­trast to “rote learn­ing” or drill.

  • In rote learn­ing, many wrong respons­es are per­mit­ted to occur, and the stu­dent even­tu­al­ly learns to devel­op his own prompts often to a rel­a­tive­ly unre­lat­ed series of stimuli.
  • Pro­grammed learn­ing, on the oth­er hand, is designed to take advan­tage of the inher­ent orga­ni­za­tion of the sub­ject mat­ter or of the behav­ior of the sub­ject in rela­tion to the sub­ject mat­ter in shap­ing up the student’s learn­ing. [empha­sis and refor­mat­ting for blog usage, see page A‑16 in my book for original]

Glaser is very clear regard­ing rote learn­ing allow­ing the stu­dent to make a mis­take, inten­tion­al­ly or not.

With rote learn­ing the stu­dent still has free will and is not under the con­trol of the Skin­ner­ian pro­gram­ming to bring him/her to the “cor­rect” answer.

With rote learn­ing the stu­dent is free to make an error and in some cas­es the stu­dent may pur­pose­ly make an error due to his/her dis­agree­ment with the so-called “correct/desired” response.

The dif­fer­ence between rote learn­ing and pro­grammed instruc­tion is that sim­ple. Free­dom.