Friday, December 31, 2010

Favorite comments of '10: Alex Francis on learning styles

(Is there a left-brain learning style?)

Alex Francis

You've kind of shifted the focus of the discussion, I think. It seems to me that cognitive theorists would have little trouble with the proposal that kids vary in their information processing capacity, although it would be hard to distinguish between predictions of the slow-serial/fast-parallel contrast you are proposing, and a more strictly quantitative contrast between slow/fast serial processing (with sufficiently fast switching masquerading as parallel). At the level of processing I'm familiar with (early perceptual processing of speech), this distinction wouldn't matter, but it would probably be important when trying to extend this to more complex processing, i.e. your history example.

There is definitely individual variation in such basic capacities as working memory/selective attention. I don't know much about research on variation within cognitively "normal" kids (i.e. kids who perform within age-normal criteria on standard tests) but there are definitely studies looking into apparent differences in working memory and sustained attention in specific clinical populations (i.e. a student I worked with found a small but significant difference in sustained attention in children with Specific Language Impairment). Similar studies have looked at working memory capacity, and probably other cognitive mechanisms as well, and I'm sure there are similar studies with kids "on the spectrum", but I don't know if anyone's looked at such variation within kids who are performing adequately in school.

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