PCT and Learning: Predictability

96.03.21 0715

Continuing the discussions of learning & PCT started by Bruce Gregory on 15
Mar 96:

Your concern was in teaching science. It seems important for students of
all ages and levels to be aware of the origins of science as a quest for
greater predictability that is no different than that which governs most of
the actions which consume our days from birth on. I also think the link
between predictability and control is easy for students of all ages to grasp.

In exploring predictability, the contrast between aspects of the physical
world and the biological become apparent at elementary levels and
fascinating at more advanced levels. Then, there is predictability as a
"pure" concept and predictability for humans: singly or as members of a
community of scientists (with all its competing sub-communities) or members
of an ethnic or national community. All of which brings in the role of
language and the degree to which the brain can be understood as a great
categorizer/classifier of environment/experience.

Control as control of perception a la PCT is a mind-blowing concept for
students. I'm assuming all students are just like I was when I first
encountered Power's book, Behavior: the Control of Perception. However, the
relationship between error reduction and predictability seems easy to grasp.
But then we get into the imprecision of language where the approach of
George Lakoff's book "Women, Fire and Dangerous Things" complicates it all,
especially the superficial knowledge of science as an absolute which we have
so often propagated for in schools. However, the sooner children learn to
accept and manage ambiguity and personal meanings the better.

Legitimazing personal meanings also is highly supportive of a learning
community/collaborative learning approach where personal meanings can be
slowly derived from group discussions and data and concept explorations.
For young scientists, the elementary school students, I'm a great believer
in the kitchen school of laboratory science. There is almost nothing of
importance that can't be experienced in the kitchen! Since most of us are
in the kitchen quite frequently, old learning is constantly reinforced and
new learning constantly taking place. Years ago, for a Unesco-sponsored
project I ran, we developed a whole integrated studies programme around
salmon, an obvious choice for the Pacific Northwest.

Bruce, with Harvard being the home-base of Gardner's Project Spectrum, I
think I may be going on and on about stuff where you already have all the
personal meanings you need.

David Wolsk
Victoria, B.C. Canada