Understanding is Remembering in Disguise, writes Dan Willingham at The Core Knowledge Blog.
Data from the last thirty years lead to a conclusion that is not scientifically challengeable: thinking well requires knowing facts, and that’s true not simply because you need something to think about. The very processes that teachers care about most-critical thinking processes such as reasoning and problem solving-are intimately intertwined with factual knowledge that is stored in long-term memory (not just found in the environment).
. . . So, understanding new ideas is mostly a matter of getting the right old ideas into working memory and then rearranging them-making comparisons we hadn’t made before, or thinking about a feature we had previously ignored.
In part 1, Willingham explains that the brain is not designed for thinking. It’s designed to let you think as little as possible.
Part 3 defends practice: Drill doesn’t always kill.
A psychology professor at University of Virginia, Willingham is the author of Why Don’t Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What it Means for the Classroom (Jossey-Bass, 2009).