In recent years there has been a vast increase in the variety of available materials and techniques designed to enhance the learning process. The traditional blackboard, textbook, workbook, and chart are now being supplemented by films, closed-cir- cuit television, recordings, tapes, slides, film strips, games, and teaching machines.Though expanding school enrollments and teacher shortages are often given as the prime motivation for wide-scale use of these aids, an even more important reason lies in the more effective application of the principles of learning—principles such as the use of interesting and dramatic materials to increase motivation, reinforcement through repetition of material in different forms, multisensory stimulation, and greater opportunity for active participation by the student.The development of new learning aids has also been advanced by several other factors: closer collaboration between educational psychologists and technologists such as film producers and electronic experts; the need of the armed forces for quick and efficient instruction; congressional appropriations which enable the schools to acquire new materials; and the growing interest of large companies in this new “industry.”Considerable psychological research has been devoted to the development and assessment of these materials and processes, as exemplified by the following representative studies from the fields of film and television. Though many investigations have shown that carefully chosen films can stimulate learning, it has been found that presentations which elicit active participation and practice are superior to those providing only passive review (May et al., 1947); and when the speaker addresses the viewer directly—as in telling how to tie different kinds of knots —the effectiveness is further enhanced (Zuckerman, 1952). In a study of the effects of different kinds of commentaries (the subject was meteorology) Nelson and Vandermeer (1953) found that technical and numerical data were most successfully learned through a combination of pictures with sound in which the commentator used vivid verbal expressions, repetition, and the device of directing attention to specific aspects of the picture. A study of the effectiveness of animated cartoons as compared to well-written and well-illustrated manuals in conveying information on flexible gunnery has been conducted by the Army Air Force. The results demonstrated that the films taught “fifty percent more facts per person per minute” and were especially effective with the slower learners (Gibson, 1947).Television presentations have a number of general advantages: students are intrigued by the medium; fuller use can be made of the best teachers and teaching techniques; the change from ordinary classroom activities is stimulating; and quality instruction can be brought to deprived areas. Various investigations have shown that when informational presentations are preceded and followed by discussion and individualized instruction, the over-all results are about the same as with ordinary classroom lectures and demonstrations. See TELEVISION EFFECTS.Though television instruction is carried out primarily in city school systems, a few experiments in college teaching have been conducted. In a study performed at Iowa State University a college credit course on psychology was presented, with the viewers divided into five groups: one group watched at home, another came into the studio, a third watched films of the television talks (kinescopes) followed by twenty minutes of informal discussion, and two campus classes (the control groups) covered the same material in the usual classroom manner. The results showed that the kinescope-dis- cussion group profited most, followed by the TV-at-home group, although the kinescope group felt that the presentations were less personal and interesting than the instructor’s live presentation in the classroom. (Husband, 1954)One of the most promising of the newer teaching methods is “computer-assisted instruction,” also called “computer-based learning,” which has been used for research purposes at Stanford University. This technique employs an automated-instruction device in teaching such subjects as mathematics and beginning reading. Quite briefly, it consists of a presentation of programmed material of the “branchingvariety— but the apparatus is far more complicated than the usual teaching machine. Instead of turning a roll or pressing a button to bring the next frame into view, the student sits in front of a cathode-ray tube wearing earphones, and a computer instructs a microfilm device to project an image on the tube while simultaneously playing an auditory message.The student responds to the message, which usually consists of a test question, by pressing the keys of an electric typewriter or by touching the surface of the tube with an electronic pencil. This response is fed back into the computer for evaluation. If it is correct, the computer moves on to the next instructional item; if it is incorrect, it automatically evaluates the type of error made and branches into appropriate remedial material. The computer also records both the student’s progress and his particular difficulties. If he proves to be slow and halting, he is branched back for review; if he learns rapidly, he is branched ahead at a fast pace or is branched out to special enrichment materials designed to maintain his interest. The result is a flexible system which automatically adjusts itself to the needs of the individual child (Suppes, 1966; Atkinson and Hansen, 1966). See PROGRAMMED LEARNING.A second automated-instruction device is the Edison Responsive Environment (ERE) System, a computer-con- trolled “talking typewriter” developed by Omar K. Moore and The Thomas A. Edison Research Laboratory. The machine teaches reading by presenting letters, symbols, words, sentences, or pictures on a screen in front of the child, and at the same time pronounces, spells, and explains them. As he sees a particular letter, the child presses the corresponding key symbol on thetypewriter (all other keys are automatically blocked) in order to see it typed and hear it spoken. This multi- sensory activity method has proved effective in the preschool and early school years, as well as with retarded children and youngsters from underprivileged environments.In a significant test conducted in the Freeport, New York, public schools, an experimental group of twenty five- year-old kindergarten children were carefully matched in intelligence, sex, race, socioeconomic status, and other characteristics with twenty other children who served as a control group. After five months and an average exposure to the instrument of less than thirty hours per child, the self-taught experimental group far outstripped the control group, even though the latter group was taught by exceptionally well- equipped teachers in enriched classrooms. The mean difference between the two groups was 1.7 months at the end of the period. Moreover, children with more limited intelligence advanced at the same relative rate as the brighter children, and the scores of the children from underprivileged environments were indistinguishable from those of the remainder of the group. Other tests have shown that the ERE may be of considerable value in teaching handicapped children, particularly the cerebral-palsied, the hard of hearing, and the autistic.Finally, a number of special courses and teaching devices have been developed for improving the reading skills of older students and adults. Among them are the Speed Reading Institute Home Study Course devised by Allan Sack and Jack Yourman, the SRA (Science Research Associates) material for school use, and the Rutgers Univer- sity-Book-of-the-Month Club Reading Skills Program for home study. These courses are aimed at improving reading rate and reading comprehension at the same time, and unlike some highly publicized courses, do far more than increase the student’s ability to skim. The average adult reading rate is a hopelessly inadequate 200 to 250 words per minute, little more than the rate of an eighth- grader—but this rate can usually be doubled or even tripled through the practice provided by sound courses. Studies show that even individuals who start at a fairly rapid rate, such as 450 w.p.m., can frequently double their rate—and contrary to popular opinion, these rapid readers usually show greater comprehension than the slow, plodding type.A comprehensive approach is employed in these courses, involving exercises and self-tests in vocabulary, grasping the main idea and its relation to supporting facts, reading thoughts rather than words, rapid scanning, and spotting specific data. Some use a pacing device which moves a bar down the page at a regulated speed; others find this unnecessary. A major feature of these courses is training in flexibility, the ability to adjust the reading process to different kinds of material and different purposes. Such training helps the student overcome the habit of reading novels or newspapers at the same rate as scientific articles and memos. A second feature is the self-diagnosis of the more common reading defects, such as backtracking and mouthing words, and the use of special exercises designed to alter these habit patterns.A word must be said about the extravagant claims being made in this field. One course promises the student a reading speed of 2000 to over 6000 words per minute, with complete understanding, based on practice in reading “vertically” rather than “horizontally.” A report by Spache (1962), past president of the International Reading Association, cites scientific evidence against this claim. He shows that it is “impossible to read faster than 800 to 900 words per minute,” in view of the fact that we can read only when the eye is fixated, the maximum number of words the eye can see at one fixation (2.5 to 3 words), and the total time taken by these fixations plus the sweep or “saccade” to the next fixation and the return sweep to the next line. Studies carried out by Spache have indicated that students trained in so- called vertical reading showed a small average gain but did not achieve exceptional speeds. They averaged 400 to 600 w.p.m., with a maximum of 900 w.p.m.—and when they skimmed at higher rates, their comprehension fell to 50 per cent.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "LEARNING ADDS," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/learning-adds/ (accessed August 17, 2022).


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