Predicting can Lead to Learning

Source: MindShift, Feb 2012

 A new study published by two Michigan psychologists reports that middle-school students asked to anticipate how linear and exponential factors work—before this information was taught—became more curious about the content of the lessons they then proceeded to learn. Even more importantly, the act of venturing predictions prompted them to understand the material more deeply as they engaged in reasoning and sense-making about math instead of mere memorization.

Making predictions, Kasmer and Kim explain, helps prime the learning process in several ways. In the act of venturing a guess, we discover what we know and don’t yet know about the subject. We activate our prior knowledge on the topic, readying ourselves to make connections to newknowledge. We create a hypothesis that can then be tested, generating curiosity and motivation to find out the answer. Most of all, making predictions leads us to think deeply, to “explore the ‘why’ that underlies challenging problems,” in Kasmer and Kim’s words.

Students who view mathematics as only memorizing facts and procedures, they note, are often unsure of when or how to apply what they have learned. Making predictions requires students to actively grapple with new concepts instead of passively receiving them.

The authors suggest that teachers—and parents and learners themselves—make generating predictions “a habit of mind” that they engage in each time they approach a new learning situation. My prediction: doing so will make learning more effective, not to mention more fun.

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