Re: Milk Bottles & Animal IQ

Bruce Howlett (
Thu, 18 Dec 1997 10:14:39 +0000

Date: Thu, 18 Dec 1997 10:14:39 +0000
From: Bruce Howlett <>
Subject: Re: Milk Bottles & Animal IQ

Ton Maas wrote:

> This phenomenon - otherwise
> known as "learning to learn" - plays a highly important but terribly
> underrated role in education (as you obviously know from personal
> experience).

I think most teachers try to achieve a "critical mass" in a student,
that is when the student has a "realisation" that learning is a
self-rewarding experience and begins to make an effort to acquire
learning experiences without prompting.

> If you can read Dutch, I could send you some material from my book on
> natural learning - "Ideale fouten & foute idealen" (Ideal Mistakes &
> Mistaken Ideals) - which formally elaborates this difference along the
> lines of "feedback" (involving the execution of instructions) versus
> "calibration" (where repetitive practice plays a central role). Recognizing
> patterns is obviously a skill which requires repetitive practice, leading
> to a condition of being able to perceive certain patterns "spontaneously"
> (because a skill is emobodied rather than conscious knowledge).

Sorry, my language skills are limited to English. I expect there will
be a translation of your work at some point in the future? Spontaneous
pattern recognition sounds like the ideal outcome of a learning
experience. I am constantly in awe of the discovery process and the way
all the disciplines are interdependent. My interest in memetics stems
from the research I am doing for a thesis on change management which led
me to the realisation that effective implementation of change was only
possible if the organizational culture supported the change. I am
hoping that memetic theory might give me some clues on how culture

> >Having said that, I have always made a distinction between "skills
> >training" and "teaching" which I define as leading the student to the
> >discovery of concepts and the cognitive manipulation of concepts by
> >duplicating the processes that enable comprehension.
> Would you be willing to elaborate on this? I have a suspicion we don't see
> eye to eye here, but there might be some terminological confusion involved.
> According to me both "feedback" (F) and "calibration" (C) are necessarily
> present in any real-world learning activity (being the two fundamental
> means of correction), so the problem is one of balancing or proportion. It
> seems to me that educators (and especially those involved in education
> management) are one-sidedly propagating F-type learning, since it is ideal
> from the perspective of testing, control, management and administration.
> C-type learning is frowned upon, because it requires the making of repeated
> mistakes (which is considered "inefficient"). But in real life, they often
> are alternating phases.

I agree that the educational institutions are very one sided and a lot
of what the system perpetuates is in fact detrimental to a students
education, one reason that I am an EX-teacher. But to elaborate on my
"duplicating the processes" theory, I have long been aware of the
process I execute when learning something. This is probably because I
am one of a small group of people who do not think in language. Hence I
am aware of the translation process which is an advantage when
identifying the source of an experience which led to a comprehension or
understanding of a concept, knowledge object or skill. I then
discovered that a most effective way of teaching a concept, knowledge
object or skill, was to duplicate the process that I had experienced for
the student. This is basically what I call "discovery learning" but
with some carefully arranged clues and directional advice. I'm not sure
how this fits with your feedback and calibration concepts.


Bruce Howlett :-)

This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)