Lecture 10 - Review Lecture

In this lecture we covered 4 questions that we asked in the very first lecture. I hoped that you guys might be able to work with the questions a bit better having a psychological background from this course. The results in class suggest that maybe you're not used to thinking about the topics in a slightly broader range of situations. OK here we go:

Q1: Should we give corporal punishment as a way of helping them to learn?

Aside from any conventions about 'human rights', the answer from a psychological point of view is that this is part of a behaviouristic paradigm using negative reinforcement (operant conditioning). The answer is 'no you shouldn't unless:

  • You can consistently 'catch' the behaviour that needs the negative reinforcement? (almost 100% reinforcement schedule)
  • You can consistently apply an appropriate scaled reinforcement (which has to be relatively severe - a weak wrist slap done out of sight of others probably doesn't cut it).
  • It has to be relatively immediate ('wait till your father gets home doesn't cut it according to this theory).

The research also says that for the effort, you get far stronger learning results from using positive reinforcement.

Q2: Do todays students need to learn about Microsoft Windows?

OK, this was a bit of a mean question. It should perhaps have been written, 'is there any psychological theory that suggests that children today should learn about Microsoft Windows?'. OK, the point is that if you're learning how to use a technological tool to do the same old stuff (instead of writing you're typing), then the answer is 'no'! Modern ICTs however, 'may' hold the promise of doing a radically different way of conceiving about education, namely through participating in activities and learning processes. Modern 'Web 2.0'. Technology may do that.

Q3: Should children with special needs be 'mainstreamed'?

The answer is that there is good evidence to suggest that children with special needs that are either mainstreamed, or placed in special schools may receive great teaching/learning environments if they are adequately resourced. That means that there is sufficient teaching resources there, and that the educators have sufficient training. There has been no comparative study with enough experimental rigour to say that either approach is necessarily  better than the other. The reason it's not been done is for ethical reasons.

Q4: If you are a good student is this 'inbuilt' or something that is 'learnt'? 

This was (correctly) identified as being the 'nature/nurture' debate. The answer is that EVERYTHING is learned. What is confusing is that some children may have inbuilt dispositions that allow them to learn so fast that teachers or educators often talk about them as 'naturals'. We spoke about idiot savants, who are able to do incredible things but only in a very limited sphere. 

A film that achieved critical acclaim for portraying an idiot savant is called 'Rain Man'. There's a clip in it where some items were spilt on the floor and the idiot savant was able to quickly count all the items. Here's a clip showing this:


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