It’s not always what we thought….

Chapter Five was a little ambiguous for me as it relates to teaching and learning but I’ll give it a shot.  The beginning of the chapter talked in-depth about how what we think we know is not always reality based and could be distorted.  I guess you could liken it to that double back flip that I think I did in high school that was probably more like a cart-wheel 🙂   It makes sense that we impose other influences on our memories to fill in the gaps or even make up for missing pieces (I can attest to the fact that forgetting comes with age!)

The two types of “knowing” described include the reactions based on instinct and intuition (System 1 or the automatic system) as opposed to when we make thought out decisions and choices (System 2 – the controlled system).   The example used in the book tells about a pilot who allowed his intuition (System 1 thinking) to override what he was seeing on his gauges (System 2) – an almost fatal mistake for all.

The authors explain that each of us has a different “narrative” and we attempt to fit life events into that narrative.   The local news and social media is inundated lately with comments either supporting or condemning recent verdicts – evidencing the authors point that we make comments based on personal experiences that have influenced our “narrative.”

This “narrative” is most definitely influenced by memory and/or illusions and memory distortions.  Sitting around the Thanksgiving table with many of the same friends and relatives frequently turns in to retelling of the same stories.   Interestingly enough – from year to year and depending on who is telling the story – details morph a bit.  (I’ve been around long enough to have heard numerous renditions!)   Each person remembers the story just a bit differently and then fills in the blanks with what they have convinced themselves is the truth.  Trying to call these people out would most definitely be the end of the dinner conversation – at least the polite conversation :-).

Brown, Roediger and McDonnell talk about imagination inflation, suggestion and interference as other types of memory illusions.  Our memories are also subject to social influence and the false consensus effect.  I think I have personally experienced fluency illusions as I have read and reread this chapter believing that I “got it” yet not so sure how I would perform on an assessment!  I actually put to use the art of “interleaving” and spaced practice with this chapter – I think it’s working 🙂

I do like the reference to many industries that employ the apprenticeship model as well as the team concept to enhance judgement and learning.  That is something the teaching profession does not do as a general rule.  We are lucky here at RHS to have an upper administration that believes strongly in things like new teacher academies and instructional coaching.  But teaching in general is a semester as a student teacher and then if you get a job you’re given 100+ students and a curriculum and told to get to it and be sure kids learn!  NO where near what other professions go through to learn their crafts.

The authors offer some summary points to both teachers and learners that I will quote below:

-“…make frequent use of testing and retrieval practice to verify what you really do know versus what you think you know.”

-“…cumulative quizzing is especially powerful for consolidating learning and knitting the concepts from one stage of a course into new material encountered later.”

-“Don’t make the mistake of dropping material from your testing regime once you’ve gotten it correct a couple of times.”

-“Sometimes the most powerful feedback for calibrating your sense of what you do and don’t know are the mistakes you make in the field, assuming you survive them and are receptive to the lesson.”


The authors make mention of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink – certainly an interesting read – preview below:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s