learning with, or without a goal LO28854

From: Terje A. Tonsberg (tatonsberg@hotmail.com)
Date: 07/17/02

Replying to LO28840 --

Hello At and LOers,

At said regarding learning multiple languages:
> Thus i think that "teaching" in your "Teaching more
> than one language slows down..." is responsible for problems, not
> the "learning" itself.

Yes, it makes a big difference on motivation and relevant practice

I said originally:
> >How does one apply the principles of emergent and
> >digestive learning to vocabulary? I think it is a peculiar
> >case, because words are so many and, unlike topics
> >like history, they are hard to connect in a few emergent
> >properties. How does one "devour" vocabulary?

At, what I meant was how does one do it with regards to learning the
vocabulary of a foreign language, not how one derives new words. I think
this is an important example because of the lack of connectivity and the
sheer mass needed (e.g. 30,000.) The temptation to fall back on rote
learning is enormous. I have some idea from my experience, but I would
like to know what your thoughts are, both from a learner and teacher point
of view. I think I would be able to pick up some important cues from your
answer on this special case, because an experience with language learning
is something we both share (unlike the hard sciences.)

As an aside, I have a friend that made (as I see it) an interesting
connect-emerge on this issue. A fellow friend met him in a book exhibition
carrying a pile of old English poetry. He asked him "how do you understand
this archaic language?" he answered "I memorized 5000 lines of its poetry
and that gave me the vocabulary I needed." What he did in my opinion was
to connect his talent for memorizing and his love of poetry to solve the
problem of sufficient vocabulary.

At said:

What is
> the relationship between authentic learning and practising that which
> had been learnt authentically for a better performance. I tried to set
> out this relationship in November last with the essay
> "Learning Curves or Performance Curves.

In which he states:
"Learning involves the practising of many skills rather
than merely one, all to the level of excellence. Learning requires a
knowledge of when to leave the practising of one particular skill so as to
improve on it by practice other skills sustaining it. Learning also
requires the harmonizing of many skills. Learning even requires the
awareness to still unknown skills needed to perfect a particular skill.
Learning is thus the complex matching of the performance curves of many
skills into one compelling symphony."

This is exactly what they try to do in "generative instruction" at
Morningside Academy." They are so successful that they guarantee the
progress of 2 years in one or your money back. At, is there a Skinnerian
in you? (;-)) Actually much of what you say is like reading about
generative instruction and precision teaching, but with a different
paradigm. Theirs is teaching oriented, yours is inner world oriented.
Their main role is to define the component skills in order to make sure
they are adequate for complex skills. Only a very mature learner can do
something like that without a teacher. I like their motto which says "the
learner knows best," i.e. when the learner's performance improvement is
not fast enough, they blame themselves, not their student (note that this
could be due to passion, inadequate fluency in a sub-skill, or any other
reason.) The term apparently comes from an amusing incident at which
Skinner was told by a researcher that a rat that had been taught to make
amazing jumps suddenly stopped responding to reinforcement. It didn't jump
when signalled that reinforcement was available. Apparently Skinner
answered "Well, I guess the rat knows best."

At said:
> I will now refer to the performance curve (Figure 3)
> < http://www.learning-org.com/graphics/LO27588_curveper.gif >

This looks exactly like Skinners cumulative frequency chart. Too bad his
megalomania generated so much "camp" or even cultish thinking and strawman
exchanges. He had many important ideas.

At said::

The stronger the authentic learning (rather
> than rote learning) during the repetitions of a performance, the
> sooner the maximum performance will be reached.

In Precision Teaching, which grew out of Skinner's ideas, they used
reinforcement techniques to keep a steep acceleration of rate (e.g. # of
answers per minute to simple multiplication problems) between drills.

Later they found that when there was a unacceptable deceleration, there
was often a need to practice component skills to a higher rate. Over time
they also found that students became independent in their (goal oriented)
practicing and charting and that little reinforcement was necessary except
some encouragement. The steady improvement of performance on the chart and
telling students why it was important was enough. Of course, the stage
before the charting was to ensure understanding.

> Too many repetitions for a better performance focus only on one
> of the 7Es, namely spareness ("quantity-limit"). In that case only
> a slight wind blow against the grass reed so that it stands almost
> upright. In my opinion increasing the number of repetitions for a
> better performance is the least one can do. But if better quality also
> begins to play a role in the repetitions, the performance is improved
> drastically. The wind is stronger so that the grass reed bends more.

I think the quality requirement is met in Generative Instruction (teaching
component skills to fluency after understanding and then bring them
together into complex skills by little or no instruction) by first
ensuring understanding by keeping drill session short and mixed with
others, and to move quickly into generalization or more complex skills
once certain known targets were reached. In my opinion, what the
measurement of rate does in learning is to bring in greater sureness and
liveness. Measuring accuracy or quantity of repetitions alone leaves out
important information and thus make drills seem meaningless and progress
slow. Rate is very sensitive to improvements.

Also, the fact that the drills are very short (usually no more than 60
seconds) makes them "fun" and allows for otherness (drilling other skills,
generalization on others, understanding of others again etc.)

At said:
> Quality refers to the essentiality otherness ("quality-variety"). It is
> now possible to bring in each of the other five remaining 7Es. The
> effect of this is to let the wind blow stronger and stronger with each
> repetition.

I think what you are referring to here is what others call generalization,
which involves bringing in more an more non-essential attributes into a
problem so that they look different but are actually the same. Math word
problems are a simple example, another would be reading a word in a story
instead of on a flashcard. Beyond generalization comes dealing with
problems that involve modifying the skills already learned. The important
thing is to not go to difficult word problems before a sufficient rate
(not just accuracy) has been reached because it may discourage the

I think the 7Es gives a rich picture of what to do here at this stage. The
7Es put generalization and beyond on steroids. (;-))

At said:
> If the essentiality liveness ("becoming-being") had been neglected in
> the repitions, then a block to subsequent emergences will most
> probably exist. (Technically, i call this block a "free energy barrier".
> (See the essays on firtness and other landscapes.) However, when
> all 7Es have been employed, but the maximum performance had not
> yet been reached because of too few repetitions, there is no block,
> but rather a lengthening (dilation) of the time needed for the
> emergence to happen.

You mean by liveness here e.g. the specific goal in rate such as 60
correct answers per minute?

I said previously:
> >Suddenly, in between drill sessions, or during one, I
> >effortlessly realized that the formula was basically the
> >formula of standard deviation written 3 times, which
> >again lead to other emergences. After all this, I'll be
> >careful to dismiss the utility of such drill sessions as long
> >as they are individually purposeful, measured and short.

At said:
> What had happened here in my opinion, is that the wind of authentic
> learning began to blow stronger upon the grass reed of performance.
> From your description it looks to me that the essentialities sureness
> ("identity-context") and fruitfulness ("connect-beget) played the
> crucial role in your emergence to a new level of understanding.
> But it is for you to say what actually happened. I would be very glad
> to read how you see it.

Thanks for asking. I agree that it was a case of sureness and
fruitfulness, but the strange thing was that it was not planned. As my
speed grew in practicing both formulas, it suddenly popped into my mind
that they were related even though I had firmly made up my mind to
memorize them and get it over with. This highlights to me the importance
of fluency as a variable that has a holistic effect almost whether you
like it or not (but is not enough of course.)

True, if I had consciously applied the 7Es here, I could have detected the
relation earlier, but the point is that fluency seems to have a direct
effect on emergences. I mean, the emergence happened here without any
conscious analysis/synthesis/logic.... It just popped into my mind. It
felt strange, especially because I had never practiced, except doing some
callisthenics, using a fluency aim before. The difference between this and
regular drills is that they are short (usually 60 seconds), and that you
are competing with yourself. They don't feel tiring.

Perhaps what happens is that the free energy needed to do the repetitions
is reduced as one gains fluency, so that other processing takes place at a
less conscious level regarding the task one is performing? What I feel
sure about is that fluency facilitates understanding and it facilitates
applying the 7Es.

At said:
> I am not arguing against fluency completely. But i wonder whether
> the passion is derived from the fluency or the actual understanding.

I think that both are important, but fluency is not an aim in itself. The
fluency issue is a short term or periodic intervention to get the fluency
that is needed for the understanding that maintains, or helps one reach,
the source of lasting passion. It is a surgical operation to remove blocks
to passion. It is particularly effective with children who have fallen
behind in reading and math, but can be used to build skills rapidly in
other areas as well. It is done until an empirically established adequate
rate has been reached. Actually, the stress that teachers/trainers that
use fluency drills make, is that there should be a goal and that there
should be a high (almost daily) rate of improvement towards those. If the
acceleration is inadequate, then the teacher needs to help individual
students get it back up. The solution could be all sorts of things. This
is where the art comes into it. Actually, those who practice this call
themselves Precision Teachers, and they have a large network of
practitioners who share experiences on such matters. They share charts on
students and experiences. The students themselves do the charting of rate
and errors made.

The improvement based on rate measures works as a reinforcement because it
is fun to make measurable improvements day after day. These improvement
will eventually be insignificant, and thus boring, at the ceiling.
Moreover, they can't be kept going without the natural reinforcement of
understanding. Fluency practice is done exactly to get to the point were
it no longer hampers understanding, but in a very efficient manner,
because the rate measure is very sensitive compared to accuracy alone. It
is a like critical surgery. I think this points to an important point were
behavioral techniques are put in the wrong light. Fluency is not an aim in
itself, one strives to reach fluency to reach some higher goal and a
schedule of natural reinforcement (e.g. enjoying reading, or do one's job

At said:
> I made last December an in depth study of Beethoven (pianist and
> componist). His playing was superior to most others, but he still
> made errors in fluency (pressing wrong keys or keeping them
> pressed for the wrong duration of time). There were others much
> better than him in this fluency of performance. However, where he
> outclassed them all, is in his brilliant rendering of the feelings which
> the composer originally intended. Last Sundy my dear wife and i
> listened once again to several of his works. And we concluded
> once again -- it is not the technical performance which creates the
> passion within us, but the emergence of feelings by way of superior
> renderings which did the job.

But Beethoven didn't become the best pianist.... Moreover, there is a
minimum level of fluency that was required by Beethoven in order to do
what he did. He didn't have to be the best pianist to be the best
composer, but he had to be good enough. This is the point of fluency
drills. It minimizes the pain in achieving the gain (the function of the
fluency or the function of the function etc.) by making it very focused
and meaningful in terms of sensitive and frequent measurement.

Thank you for your continued support to my learning,



"Terje A. Tonsberg" <tatonsberg@hotmail.com>

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