A very interesting debate on knowledge and 21st Century Learners

I was reminded of this debate today and is still very relevant:

With endless amounts of information available at the touch of a button or click of a cursor, too many of today’s students are operating with what E.D. Hirsch calls a knowledge deficit. Watch the Debate Chamber at GESF 2017 as the House argues that facts are the building blocks upon which critical thinking and personal development skills are established and the mastery of facts will ensure students are prepared to thrive in the 21st Century. @GESForum #GESF

Mr Nick Ferrari, Broadcaster & Journalist, Global Radio | Mr Nick Gibb, Minister of School Standards, Department for Education | Ms Daisy Christodoulou, Head of Assessment , Ark Schools | Mr Andreas Schleicher, Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills, OECD | Mr Gabriel Sanchez Zinny, Executive Director, Instituto Nacional de Educación Tecnológica Argentina

3 thoughts on “A very interesting debate on knowledge and 21st Century Learners

  1. Thank you Pedro, a very interesting debate and a triumph for Daisy Christodoulou and Nick Gibb. I agree with them that Andreas Schliecher does not pay enough attention to his own PISA data. However, I think the Christodoulou/Gibb position is also incomplete – they do not respond to Schleicher’s important point (in this debate or, as far as I am aware, elsewhere) that it is possible to have large amounts of knowledge but without the ability to apply that knowledge effectively. In Hegelian terms, we have heard the thesis and the greatly superior anti-thesis, but we have not yet heard the synthesis. Crispin.

    1. Hi Crispin, I think you’re correct. I do think that e.g. deliberate practice can help out on this. But there is also the so called Chinese paradox that shows that while putting an emphasis on large amounts of knowledge can lead to e.g. better problem solving.

      1. And I completely agree with that. I think that if there is a paradox in there, it will be resolved by questioning what we mean by knowledge. We tend to visualize propositional knowledge as an aggregation of facts (e.g. items in memory). This tends to be how the knowledge-based curriculum people talk about it. In fact knowledge is an aggregation of associations between symbols: in other words, knowledge consists in the interconnectedness of our representations of the world. This has resonance with Bill Schmidt’s emphasis on curriculum coherence. Combined with Bjork’s New Theory of Disuse, this shows that knowledge is not acquired by being told things or by trying to store more things in our mental attics, but by making associations between the simplest of facts, which is done by applying such facts to a wide variety of problems. My response to Daisy and Nick is not that they are wrong but that they are over-simplifying in a way that might lead people to draw the wrong conclusions from their arguments regarding what constitutes good classroom practice.

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