Curriculum planning for un-learning

  • #1
Stephen Tashi
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Learning mathematics and science at a given stage seems to involve unlearning some of what you learned at an earlier stage. Do experts in "curriculum design" take this into account when they organize materials?

At the moment, I'm thinking of the intuitive, but technically incorrect definition of "center of mass" given at http://dev.physicslab.org/Document.aspx?doctype=3&filename=RotaryMotion_CenterMass.xml , but, of course, there are many other examples of things we learned at one stage of education and have to un-learn later.
 

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  • #2
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Do experts in "curriculum design" take this into account when they organize materials?
A $64,000 question. Impression, based on frequency of "n goes into m a total of l times with a remainder of r" answers to long division problems at high school level, is "No." The kids will even give you the calculator keystrokes to arrive at this result for the introductory use of the "by hand" long division algorithm, and show "n x l + r = m" as a check of their work. They've never unlearned the "remainder" game, and that's the way they're going to do it forever.
Science? I cannot honestly tell you that I've seen evidence that the introductory material that has to be unlearned has actually been taught --- current approaches appear to be built around a "creative investigation," the kids observe and explain any old way they want, and never get steered toward fossilized scientific methods. Hopefully that's not universal, and I've just been unfortunate enough to see only the "novel" methods.
That's part of what got me active again on PF, curiosity regarding what was showing up for OPs, and I'd say what I've seen over the last couple months is consistent with what I've been seeing elsewhere.
 
  • #3
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As all subject matter is presented more or less in a linear sequence, I don't think that unlearning is required. You may not see this sequence when you are "being exposed" to new material but it has to be there for further learning to take place. You can't add when you can't count because counting is inherent in addition. Likewise with any subject matter, there must be building blocks of some sort. So unlearning is not part of the education experience. Relearning is different because you can at times see the structure involved and depending on the approach being used, it will appear as different.
 
  • #4
Stephen Tashi
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So unlearning is not part of the education experience..
I completely disagree. Unlearning may not be part of the theoretical experience of some idealized student that exists in the mind of curriculum planners, but it is a part of every actual student's experience.
 
  • #5
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QM is introduced in HS chemistry with the Bohr atom. Little tiny marbles orbiting another little marble. Getting people to unlearn that model is one giant, never ending headache.
 

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