Measuring Learning LO19801

AM de Lange (
Wed, 11 Nov 1998 14:30:27 +0200

Replying to LO19762 --

Dear Organlearners, writes:

>In searching for information for a school project i came
>across a page with a link to this email account. Here
>are some of the questions I'm attempting to answer.
>If you can shed some light or have any thoughts that
>you would like to share your input would be greatly

Hi "Shagrugge",

You have asked some serious "experimentalistic" questions. I will try to
answer them technically. But the cold eyedness of it will probaly shock
most fellow learners.

>1. Is is possible to measure the rate at which we learn?

Yes. The rate of any "thing" is the "change of that that thing" divided
by the "corresponding change in time". Ask any phsyicist or chemist to
explain this part to you.

Measuring changes in time is very easy. Use a stop watch. If you use an
ordinary clock and calender, make a note of the "beginning time" and the
"end time" and substract the former form the latter.

Measuring changes in learning is not so difficult if you know what
learning is. But easy does not imply simple. Measuring learning is a
complex task.

What is learning? It is an activity which makes a person more powerful
when having to react upon signals from the environment. In other words,
learning leads to power, physically and spiritually. I think you have
spiritual power in mind.

What is spiritual power? To command from the spirit something which will
then happen as commanded.

But how can the spirit of one person connect with the spirit of another
person? There are many mediums of which language (spoken and written) is
the most important.

What relationships are there between a language and spiritual power?
There are many. The direct relationship is that in any language its
sentences can be categorised into questions (interrogatives), statements
(decleratives) and commands (imperatives).

The imperatives of learning is well known. They are called missions
(highest order imps), goals (medium order imps) and objectives (lowest
order imps). When a learner has mastered anyone of these, the learner has
the spiritual power to command something specific which will then happen.

To measure a change in learning in some change of time, we have to make
sure which are all the imperatives (commands) which the learner has
mastered in that time interval and then count them.

The rate of learning is equal to the number of learning commands mastered
in a time interval divided by the time interval. Thus, if [com] is the
unit for learning commands and [day] is the unit for time, then [com/day]
is the unit for learning. Obviously, a unit like [com/month] is much more
sensible than [com/second]. There are at least three types of learning
rates we can measure, namely the rate for objective mastering which is
highest, the rate for goal mastering which is intermediate and the rate
for mission mastering which is lowest. Measuring the latter requires
[com/year] of even [com/decade].

There is no sense in measuring learning commands if you count only some of
those which has been mastered. Thus the really complex part is to get hold
of all the objectives, goals and missions involved. This is part of a
discipline called "curriculum design". There are a number of methods to
get hold of all these learning commands covering a course or an entire
curriculum. The best known method is by using a "taxonomy of learning
commands" such as the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives of Bloom and
coworkers, or the one of Gagne.

I myself have dicovered a method which is very powerful, but also very

>2. Can we measure the rate at which anything learns
>i.e.computers, dolphins, chimpanzees?

Well, it depends on how you define learning.

In my definition of learning (to learn is to create) a person will have to
count creational commands mastered.

A computer can do many commands in a second, but it cannot create anything
which it is not commanded. This the dilemma of AI. Which one of us can
say: "Today my computer has mastered this creative act"?

A dolphin is definitely a very creative species. But how will you
recognise the creativity of a dolphin, or a shimpanzee for the same

And what about those very creative plants living in a desert?

Thus, to measure creativity, I have the following definition: creativity
is the result of entropy producion. So, if we know enough about "entropy
production", we will also be able to measure and calculate "creativity".

By now you will probably think "That is impossible!". You are correct is
you think that "entropy production", creativity and learning can in no way
be related. Worst of all, most people have such an aversion to the word
"entropy" that they cannot even begin to think about "entropy production"
which is something quite different.

>3. Could the Hubble constant be a reflection of the
>expansion of knowledge as well as the universe?

No, I do not think so. For me knowledge is something which is inside a
person. Only the products of knowledge can be found outside people. Some
products are languages, music, information and technology.

But I once tempted the learners on this list with the conjecture that the
"Universe is a Learning Organisation". Nothing came of it. In terms of
that conjecture your question does have an answer. But first you will have
to learn much more about "entropy production" and its two outcomes. The
first outcome is an automatical DISSIPATION (dispersion, spreading) of
energy (like what is happening to the physical universe) which invloves
the whole universe. The second outcome is a highly contingent
CONCENTRATION of energy into new structures of higher order which happens
locally (like biological evolution on earth). Unfortunately, few people
even think of any connection between the expanding universe and the living
species in their garden.

>4. What does the IQ test measure and how are
>values assessed?

It measures a person's "intelligence". The person has to perform many
items which is related to the various facets of intelligence. The mode is
mostly by multiple choice. Many attempts have been made to standardise IQ
tests and some progress has been made. However, IQ tests are based on the
"western culture". Consequently IQ tests fail dismally when used to
measure the intelligence of people from other cultures.

IQ tests do not measure a person's "creativity". Consequently CQ tests
have been designed in an attempt to measure creativity. There is far less
correlation between IQ and CQ tests than most people would have expected.

In a certain sense IQ tests measure only people's performance with
multiple choice items. It does not test a person's ability to construct or
destroy something. For example, a person with an IQ of 100 (average) can
compose the most enspiring music or write compelling stories which we can
ever dream of.

As a high school teacher many years ago, I worked with the IQ's of
thousands of pupils. It does give a teacher an idea of the PRESENT
learning potential of a pupil. But I have observed something much more
important -- how uncrupulous teachers or overzealous parents can crush a
pupil with an IQ over 140 into a pitifull person who cannot accomplish
much more than a moron. I have also observed how the love of responsible
teachers and parents can help a pupil with an IQ of lower than 80 into a
responsible, productive citizin which even a president can be proud of.
Love is not concerned with present potential, but with future power.

Best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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