am 25. April 2000
Howard Gardner's book The Unschooled Mind is an excellent source for teachers and administrators alike. It examines the different kinds of learners and how current educational practices are not addressing those learners. By reading this book, teachers and administrators will gain a better sense of cognitive development and can therefore design curriculum to best suit their students' needs. The Unschooled Mind is organized in a very pleasing format. There are three main sections. The first section tells about cognitive, psychological, and educational research, including the theory of multiple intelligences. In the second section, educational norms and institutions are discussed. The third section of the book gives suggestions for solutions and calls for educational reform. I especially enjoyed the format of the book because it sequences theory, practice, and reform. The main question addressed is why students do not master what they should be learning. Gardner states that educators have traditionally accepted rote and ritualistic learning. However, does this show genuine understanding? Even "successful" students often do not possess a deep sense of class material. Teachers need to take into account multiple intelligences and realize that not all students learn, solve problems, or undertake tasks in the same manner. People acquire knowledge in different ways. Studies have shown that children can master complex domains, but not those designed in school curriculums. It was so fascinating for me to read about developmental theorists and, especially, to compare the studies of Darwin and Piaget to modern research about brain development. Since society, education, and culture influence children as they grow, it is important for teachers to create meaningful learning experiences. A quote in the second section of the book completely intrigued me: "By the time the child has reached the age of seven or so, his development has become completely intertwined with the values and goals of the culture. (Gardner, chapter 5) It made me think of how my job as a teacher-in addition to the jobs of administrators, who design school curriculum-is so important. If educators, as experts, design school curriculum, they contribute to the understanding of learners. So how should knowledge be taught so that it provides that deep sense of understanding we seek? Reading the examples of content areas and students' understandings and interpretations of them was very interesting to me because it helped me to see the importance of constructing instructions well. It also helped me to see the great variety of understandings that students have and how to take those different understandings into account for assessment purposes. Education today calls for constructive, activity-centered learning (a la John Dewey). I know that my entire school day does not consist of strictly collaborative learning. Learning basic skills requires some drilling. I just need to find the best balance in my teaching. The Unschooled Mind helped me realize how important parents and teachers are to children's lives and how they need to take great care in creating meaningful learning experiences for their children.