A fascinating article in the New York Times last week discussed the intersecton of preschool and amateur science. Its conclusion? That kids learn more when they can explore on their own.
Based on the research of Alison Gopnik at Berkeley, the study in question observed young children as they experimented on, and ultimately deciphered, various toys. As it turns out, showing kids the “correct” way to use something was a good way to ensure that they never discovered further uses. Conversely, leaving children with minimal direction encouraged far more creative discovery and mastery:
Other studies have found that when children are simply taught, they don’t explore and test multiple hypotheses, Dr. Gopnik said, adding:
“There’s a lot of pressure from parents and policy makers to make preschools more and more like schools. This research suggests the opposite.”
Chalk this one up as another point in the “freedom” column in the Great Debate over what kind of education is most likely to produce effective and self-reliant people. Once again, we witness the beauty and simplicity of a simple truth: that more than drilling, recitation, heavy instruction and lectures, often the best pedagogical approach is the one with the lightest touch. Our kids are hardwired to learn already; all we have to do is love them, and get out of the way.