May, 1933




WILL you learn anything from this page?

Not unless I tell you something- m such a way that it gets your attention.

"Learning is a series of concentrations."
There must be a focusing--of some of your faculties upon a thought, in order to make that thought a part of your reproducible experience—your recallable record.

You learn by focusing your attention upon a feature of the subject or upon the object being considered. The time element involved may be astonishingly brief. The details viewed may be so intricate that you cannot recollect them. And yet, the record is built up of these parts which were experienced.
You know perfectly well how your friend's face looks, but you cannot recall the details of fullness, tints, shades, dimensions. Or. to use a better illustration, you pick up a hook and read a paragraph. You gain from this reading a definite thought. But you do not remember how many lines you read, what the first word of the paragraph was, what words were used.

The "series of concentrations" ignores detail and integrates an idea.   This integration must take place, or the picture is chaotic.

Cut a small hole (0.5 in. diameter) in a sheet of paper. Put this paper over a picture, and move it back and forth until you have seen. through the hole, all of the picture—perhaps repeatedly. Can you visualize the picture as a unit? If you can, you can do more than I, for I cannot integrate the parts which I have seen in this way. Yet, when we look at a picture in the usual manner, we focus our vision upon only a small spot of it at a time. and go from spot to spot. But there is a related background which we more or less envisage at the same time.

How different a bit of a jig-saw puzzle looks when you fit it into its little spot in the picture! It is distinctly seen. both before and after placing, but its relation to other parts is not perceived until it is properly located. If you could apprehend this relation by mental effort, you mig-ht undertake to visualize the assembled picture from its confused parts lying on the table before you.

Learning is therefore more than a series of concentrations. It requires that you put these concepts together into a related unit.

To apply these thoughts to our processes of learning, we should—

1st—Get clear, specific views and ideas of the important elements of our subject.
2nd—Correlate these views and ideas, and build them into a working unit.

What would you students think of doing away with all examinations during the semester and at the end of the semester, and (wait a minute before yon vote!) replacing them by periodical comprehensive examinations of a type that would indicate the extent to which you have attained or trained your abilities to do certain desirable tasks— to use the material to which you have been exposed?

The plan is not up for consideration by the faculty of our college, but it is worth thinking about.

Under it we should not ask you for the trigonometric solution of a triangle; the integration of sinh x cos x dx; the field current required to produce a million lines of flux; the definition of entropy ; the distinction between stress and strain, etc. But we should set projects in engineering design and calculations to find if you can apply your knowledge, organize your work to accomplish some definite end, establish a process giving desired results, or effectively attack a problem in research,
The emphasis would be shifted from short-time memory to understanding and practicality.

How would you like it?


Here's one of the best puzzle problems I've seen. Try it. Find the right digit for each dot. It can be done by just cold logical thinking.