cheesemonkey wonders

cheesemonkey wonders

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Primacy-Recency Effect: a conversation with Jennifer Carnes Wilson (episode 1)

Dear Jennifer,

Thanks for engaging with me on David A. Sousa's  The Primacy-Recency Effect article. I too like to reread it and think about it around once a year, so your tweet was most timely for me.

There is a Freudian slip-style of typo in his very first sentence that has always struck me as encapsulating the entire debate he has provoked:
When an individual is processing new information, the amount of information retained depends, among other things on what it is presented during the learning episode. (emphasis mine)
Clearly he means to say "when" rather than "what," but for me, that question of "when" versus "what" lies at the very heart of the debate about student discovery of new ideas. Is it more important when students encounter a new idea or how they encounter it? If I have students tinker and investigate for too long at the beginning of the class period, I risk missing their window of greatest receptivity and retention.

On the other hand, if I start right away by framing the big idea, I harness their optimal moment of receptivity and retention, but am I doing so at the risk of their autonomy?


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