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The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach

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Merging cognitive science with educational agenda, Gardner shows how ill-suited our minds and natural patterns of learning are to current educational materials, practices, and institutions, and makes an eloquent case for restructuring our schools. This reissue includes a new introduction by the author.


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Merging cognitive science with educational agenda, Gardner shows how ill-suited our minds and natural patterns of learning are to current educational materials, practices, and institutions, and makes an eloquent case for restructuring our schools. This reissue includes a new introduction by the author.

30 review for The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach

  1. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    More apprenticeship/exposure for kids to the real world at their earliest school-ages. Standardized testing compartmentalizes unique free beings...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Howard Gardner's idea of teaching students to understand rather then just briefly explaining a subject I do like. Also how he feels we need to form our schools like a museum based study to get the students mentally and physically involved in their learning. I do not particularly care for his ideas of national standard curriculum even then leading to a world-wide one. I feel that schools know their students best and should be able to decide how they teach them. Reading it for an argumentation pie Howard Gardner's idea of teaching students to understand rather then just briefly explaining a subject I do like. Also how he feels we need to form our schools like a museum based study to get the students mentally and physically involved in their learning. I do not particularly care for his ideas of national standard curriculum even then leading to a world-wide one. I feel that schools know their students best and should be able to decide how they teach them. Reading it for an argumentation piece for school was not my best decision. I think having a semester long lecture of this book would be extremely interesting.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Namrata

    In the Unschooled Mind Howard Gardner proposes some progressive reforms to our education system with a focus on "genuine understanding" . It takes a look at how children form theories and beliefs about their world at an early age. These theories have strong foundations. Often times these theories clash with what they learn at school. And because the school education has become rote learning it hampers the proper understanding of subjects. "In this book I contend that even when school appears to In the Unschooled Mind Howard Gardner proposes some progressive reforms to our education system with a focus on "genuine understanding" . It takes a look at how children form theories and beliefs about their world at an early age. These theories have strong foundations. Often times these theories clash with what they learn at school. And because the school education has become rote learning it hampers the proper understanding of subjects. "In this book I contend that even when school appears to be successful, even when it elicits the performance for which it has apparently been designed, it typically fails to achieve its most important purpose.” Which is to establish in every student some ‘genuine understanding’ of what the curriculum offers in its various domains. “We have failed to appreciate that in nearly every student there is a five-year–old ‘unschooled’ mind struggling to get out and express itself.” And that this remains the case after all the scholastic endeavour is done" Some of the interesting take away from the book for me are - three levels of learners- Intuitive ( upto seven years), Traditional (school years) and disciplinary expert -Multiple Intelligences -the schools have taken too much responsibility for the formative years of the children and hence have become overburdened -Gardner suggests a combination of traditional school plus a museum and apprentice type approach for the true understanding of subject matter -He also stresses the need for an assessment system for progressive schools , "Yet it is legitimate to demand evidence that an educational regimen is working. Too often, progressive educators accepted on faith the effectiveness of their methods..." This book has some interesting insights, specially while discussing the early years of cognitive development.I am also quite taken by the suggestion to add the museum and apprenticeship as part of learning. But the book is unnecessarily long and verbose. It could have been half as long and would be twice as impressive.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rory Foster

    The book starts with a nice summary of types of learning and the way that children of different ages learn differently. Discussion of the gap between schooled learning and "understanding" is also interesting, as are some of the author's ideas about harnessing apprenticeships and museum-like environments. However, I thought a lot of the reform discussion was pretty abstracted or over-simplified. Also, although the book is billed as useful for parents (and in many ways, I agree), the main target s The book starts with a nice summary of types of learning and the way that children of different ages learn differently. Discussion of the gap between schooled learning and "understanding" is also interesting, as are some of the author's ideas about harnessing apprenticeships and museum-like environments. However, I thought a lot of the reform discussion was pretty abstracted or over-simplified. Also, although the book is billed as useful for parents (and in many ways, I agree), the main target seems to be academics or others with petty deep exposure to the published body of research in the field. An interesting read, but for me, it could have been 40 or 50 pages, instead of 200+.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I really enjoyed the concepts presented in this book and the conclusions the author reached. However the author overly articulated his point and never gave consideration for homeschooling to be a possible venue to implement his ideas. If he had edited this down to 150 pages, this would have been a much better read. Still worth skimming if you are interested in outside the box ideas and concrete plans on how to bring them about as regards education.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Susan Striepe

    This book should ideally be read with Piaget and Vygotsky. The three make a complementary trilogy. Gardner also introduces the idea that mental growth and development is not a uniform and regulated process. Although this book was written much later than his "Multiple Intelligences", it can expand one's understanding of multiple intelligences and "Multiple Intelligences" can in turn help explain why mental development is so irregular. This book should ideally be read with Piaget and Vygotsky. The three make a complementary trilogy. Gardner also introduces the idea that mental growth and development is not a uniform and regulated process. Although this book was written much later than his "Multiple Intelligences", it can expand one's understanding of multiple intelligences and "Multiple Intelligences" can in turn help explain why mental development is so irregular.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Diana Marlowe

    While I believe that Howard Gardner has made some insightful contributions to the field of education, this book is not one of them. It is excessively wordy and would benefit from the removal of at least a third of the book. It's poorly edited and redundant, with a lot of self-promotion (instead of letting the ideas speak for themselves) and incomplete ideas. Don't waste your time. While I believe that Howard Gardner has made some insightful contributions to the field of education, this book is not one of them. It is excessively wordy and would benefit from the removal of at least a third of the book. It's poorly edited and redundant, with a lot of self-promotion (instead of letting the ideas speak for themselves) and incomplete ideas. Don't waste your time.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    Nice overview of educational policy and a few new reform ideas!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    The main key in here led my research for my thesis - we need to teach for genuine understanding.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    Howard Gardener. As in: Multiple intelligences, who changed the way education is viewed. Can't wait to read this one. Howard Gardener. As in: Multiple intelligences, who changed the way education is viewed. Can't wait to read this one.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    Gardner makes a solid case for reforming schools by breaking the traditional mold and starting from scratch following an 'unschooled' approach to learning. The problem is that most people don't give education more than a passing glance. Schools haven't really changed in a hundred plus years, and they aren't about to start now. Unfortunate for all the millions of of who pass through the system. P 140 Educational researcher Linda McNeil has helped to elucidate the conflicts engendered by such a sy Gardner makes a solid case for reforming schools by breaking the traditional mold and starting from scratch following an 'unschooled' approach to learning. The problem is that most people don't give education more than a passing glance. Schools haven't really changed in a hundred plus years, and they aren't about to start now. Unfortunate for all the millions of of who pass through the system. P 140 Educational researcher Linda McNeil has helped to elucidate the conflicts engendered by such a system. In the interests of efficiency and accountability, school systems tend to mandate large sets of rules and procedures. Many of these have only questionable relevance to the daily operation of classes and to the learning of students, and yet all teachers and administrators must adhere to them. At the same time, teachers are often encouraged—at least at the rhetorical level— to take the initiative and to be forceful and imaginative in their teaching. In fact, however, they feel caught in a bind, for adhering to the regulations is so time-consuming and exhausting that little time or energy remains for innovation. Risking censure or worse, a few teachers will ignore the regulations in order to pursue a more individualized program of instruction. Most teachers, however, will achieve an uneasy truce, with both their superiors and their students, by adopting "defensive teaching." Adhering to the rules, not making excessive demands on anyone (including themselves), asking students mostly to memorize definitions and lists rather than to tackle challenging problems, they will maintain control over their classrooms, but at the cost of educational inspiration. As McNeil phrases it, "When the school's organization becomes centered on managing and controlling, teachers and students lake school less seriously. They fall into a ritual of teaching and learning that lends toward minimal standards and minimum effort." In terminology on which I elaborate in (he next chapter, schools everywhere have embraced "correct-answer compromises" instead of undertaking "risks for understanding." Nearly all the problems and constraints routinely encountered in schools are exacerbated in the urban American schools of today. Problems are almost always magnified in large bureaucratic settings, where many thousands of teachers, administrators, and students must be "served" and the pressures for uniform treatment of diverse "customers" are profound. Classes are larger and more difficult to control; students are often unmotivated, and they may be frightened, agitated, hungry, or ill as well; regulations proliferate with little rhyme or reason. Teachers feel buffeted about by contradictory messages: Students should learn cooperatively, and yet separate evaluation must be performed each individual student; children with problems should be "mainstreamed," and yet it is important to track the talented students so that they can gain college admission; teachers are expected to act in a professional manner, and yet their every move is scrutinized by various monitoring bodies. The result is a virtual logjam in many of our nation's public schools. P145 First, however, it is important to underscore one point. One cannot begin to evaluate the effectiveness of schools unless one makes clear one's ambitions for the school. In what follows, I highlight a single criterion for effective education—an education that yields greater understanding in students. Whereas short-answer tests and oral responses in classes can provide clues to student understanding, it is generally necessary to look more deeply if one desires firm evidence that understandings of significance have been obtained. For these purposes, new and unfamiliar problems, followed by open-ended clinical interviews or careful observations, provide the best way of establishing the degree of understanding that students have attained. P211 The fundamental idea of whole-language programs is to immerse children as early as possible in the world of text and to allow them to become meaningful apprentices to competent literate individuals. From the first days of school, students see the elders around them read and write and are drawn into that milieu as expeditiously as possible. They tell stories and have others write them down; they make their own storybooks out of a combination of pictures, invented spelling, and dictated correct spelling; they "read" their stories to others and listen to, comment critically upon, or even "read" the stories written by others; they may type out their own narratives on a computer keyboard. The atmosphere more closely resembles a newspaper or magazine editorial center than an old-fashioned teacher-dominated classroom. Such a program can work only il teachers embody these approaches and these values in their own lives. It is heartening to report, therefore, that classes filled with student writing and "prewriting" exemplify what is probably the major change in American elementary education over the past quarter century. A whole-language emphasis is far from being a universal practice, but it is being used in many places where it was not seen a decade or two ago. P221 Collaborative procedures like reciprocal teaching have also proved beneficial in other domains of literacy. As early as the first grade, Japanese students arc posed arithmetical problems of some complexity and allowed up to a week to solve the problems. They are encouraged to work together, to criticize one another's approaches, and to try out different roles vis-à-vis the problem. Teachers deliberately avoid serving as a source of answers, although they may coach, direct, or probe in various ways. Not only do students come to appreciate early on that mathematics is an active process—what James Grceno calls a "conversation"—but they discover the advantages that can be derived from interacting with their peers, each of whom may have a distinctive contribution to make to the problem-solving process. One of the most ambitious recent attempts to bolster mathematical understanding at the middle school level has been undertaken by teacher-researcher Magdalene Lampert. Working for a year with fifth-graders in an ordinary American public school, Lampert has sought to transform the students' entire approach to mathematics from a subject where students look for rules, right answers, and teacher approval to a discipline where together they learn to raise questions, put forth hypotheses about underlying principles, and explore the whole arena of mathematical meaning. The teacher's role is to alter the social discourse in the class by initiating and supporting interactions that exemplify mathematical argumentation of the sort carried out by mathematicians and others who use mathematics in their everyday lives. In terms used earlier, a transition occurs from the pursuit of the correct-answer compromise to the undertaking of risks for understanding. P251 in the previous chapters, proceeding from preschool through secondary school and surveying the sciences as well as the arts and humanities, I have introduced several programmatic approaches that appear to work. When properly implemented, programs embodying these approaches should excite teachers, engage students, and effect precisely those connections between intuitive and formal knowledge that hold the best promise of dissolving misconceptions, countering stereotypical thinking, and yielding a deep and lasting understanding. Individual programs show that an effective education can be achieved. But if one wants to remake education, it is crucial to create environments in which the formation of links between forms of knowing is the governing principle, rather than an accidental occurrence or the product o! a well-funded (but impractical to replicate) experiment. In classical apprenticeships, a person can routinely discern the connections among his activities, the ends toward which they are being directed, and the kinds of tools that can aid in the achievement of an effective product. In hands-on museums, youngsters have the opportunity to explore rich environments and to play out their emerging understandings in meaningful contexts. On-the-job training, mentoring relations, and the involvement of professionals in the schools are all mechanisms for reducing the gap between the "agenda of school" and the "agenda for life." And introduction into the classroom of meaningful projects, cooperative forms of interaction, and process-folios that document student progress can all sensitize students to their own thought processes and to the ways in which their conceptions mesh or collide with disciplinary knowledge. One challenge lacing educators is how best to fuse institutions— how to inject the apprentice method in to schools, to introduce schools into community work settings, and to find ways to bridge the geographic and psychological distances between the school and the museum. Another challenge is to prepare a cadre of educators, be they termed masters, teachers, brokers, or curators, who feel comfortable in exhibiting the links among different forms of knowing and in drawing children and families into a fuller approach to learning and understanding. If we are to achieve a milieu in which understanding is prized, it is necessary for us all to be humble about what we know and to move away from our present, invariably inadequate perspectives. Even under ideal circumstances, an education rooted in understanding takes time and effort to attain. We all suffer from misconceptions and stereotypes and risk wallowing in them unless we remain vigilant. It is necessary both to respect the conceptions that students of all ages bring to the schools and to be aware of our own predilections toward strongly held but unfounded beliefs. www.veggierunner.com

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tuan Anh Le

    Got recommended from a friend when asked about what to read if I want to think about how to improve education. Below is the summary. The book is pretty long and it wasn't clear what the take away is.... Maybe read the last paragraph of my summary for what I thought it could be. --- Children are developmentally constrained and we must take this into consideration when teaching them. They start from a set of core knowledge from which they build the rest of their knowledge. This core knowledge is abo Got recommended from a friend when asked about what to read if I want to think about how to improve education. Below is the summary. The book is pretty long and it wasn't clear what the take away is.... Maybe read the last paragraph of my summary for what I thought it could be. --- Children are developmentally constrained and we must take this into consideration when teaching them. They start from a set of core knowledge from which they build the rest of their knowledge. This core knowledge is about physics and psychology which we can think of as intuitive. Short story, children are not born with a blank slate. Through symbols and language, children develop these core competencies further, either through formal schooling or through interactions with parents, friends, and other people. Children also have “multiple intelligences” -- multiple ways in which they understand things. For example, evolution can be explained through stories: a story of how a primitive animals became humans, logically: reasoning about how different genotypes exist in different parts of the world, foundationally: what does it mean to evolve? [or something similar] aesthetically: [forgot the example] experientially: actually make flies of different evolutionary periods and observe them. The idea is that teachers should try to explain ideas in as many ways to make sure as many students understand as possible. The biggest problem of current educational systems is that they are disconnected from real life. Whatever students learn in the realm of school doesn’t transfer into the real world. Even physics undergraduates in top schools fail to flexibly use their physics knowledge and revert to their gut physics. For instance, asked about the path of a ball going in a spiral tube, students will say that it will continue going in a circular motion. In art, only pleasant pictures are deemed good. In literature, only poems that rhyme are deemed good. In history, there are clear good guys and clear bad guys. Similar misconceptions exist in other subjects. The author suggests apprenticeships and museums in order to bring school learning closer to real life. Museums here are of the kind where children can see first hand what it means to actually do a profession. For example, they can watch a bike fixer fix a bike, or a painter paint a picture, or a software engineer write a program (haven’t actually been to these kinds of museums myself). These should be done in early school years. The rationale is that students come to appreciate the end result first hand. Apprenticeships come after and allow the students to work side by side with experts. The idea is that the knowledge they learn is directly relevant and the feedback is nuanced and personalized. Finally, in late teens, they should be exposed to “Christopherian” encounters -- experiences that directly conflict with their intuitive understandings. This is apparently more effective than textbook teaching, but not foolproof. For humanities, the substitute is trying to expose children to multiple views. Overall, I found the general ideas to be good but the practical suggestions to be impractical. The only practical takeaway for a curriculum designer or a teacher is perhaps only to keep in mind that children come with their pretty well-developed, and likely wrong, knowledge, and that they have multiple ways of understanding. Not very convinced about apprenticeships and museums. What even are these museums?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    I think there are more accessible summaries of cognitive development: Brain Rules for Baby, A Thousand Days of Wonder I think there are more accessible summaries of cognitive development: Brain Rules for Baby, A Thousand Days of Wonder

  14. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    I like his theory on bring back apprenticeships - beginning in late elementary school and middle school. I would love to see this implemented in a formal setting (as opposed to homeschooling and setting it up yourself). Not too keen on his favorable opinion of forgoing phonics for whole language, but we all make mistakes.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ietrio

    I was expecting something else. Something well done. Yet this book is written like one of those nuts that generate bad logic to explain their medieval fears against the vaccines. Also, lots of "notorious" people have worked with the author to produce this unstructured list of remarks. I was expecting something else. Something well done. Yet this book is written like one of those nuts that generate bad logic to explain their medieval fears against the vaccines. Also, lots of "notorious" people have worked with the author to produce this unstructured list of remarks.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    It is what it is... and because the class I read it for I would only give one star, I fear that upon its completion I am sadly left only as a traditional learner of Gardner's great work and can only give it 3 stars. It is what it is... and because the class I read it for I would only give one star, I fear that upon its completion I am sadly left only as a traditional learner of Gardner's great work and can only give it 3 stars.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ullagummans Läsgodis

    Intressant bok.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Crystal Milliken

    This book was short and simple. I don't agree with everything he says but presents a lot of good observations and ideas to think about. This book was short and simple. I don't agree with everything he says but presents a lot of good observations and ideas to think about.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mike Murray

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. long notes on paper

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    This was a pretty dry read. The beginning was very slow, but there were a couple of take-aways later on.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    I don't think this book is about what I thought it was about... I don't think this book is about what I thought it was about...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mark Melendez

    great book for teachers or parents

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    I can't get into this one right now. I have found myself having to reread parts and I am still like "what?" Maybe once I put my "school" brain back in since it is currently in summertime mode. I can't get into this one right now. I have found myself having to reread parts and I am still like "what?" Maybe once I put my "school" brain back in since it is currently in summertime mode.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    I've been reading this book and had to return it to the library - but it was really interesting - at some point I'm going to check it out again. I've been reading this book and had to return it to the library - but it was really interesting - at some point I'm going to check it out again.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    Classic educational theory.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pablo María Fernández

    Después de leerlo citado o glosado tantas veces, pude finalmente leer sin intermediarios al autor. Hoy soy un poco más escéptico de los gurúes en todos los ámbitos: descreo por ejemplo que se pueda aplicar un marco diseñado por un académico de Harvard -como Gardner- en una escuela pública porteña sin desafiar supuestos y sesgos para adaptarlo y hacerlo viable. El libro tiene tres partes: la crianza del niño, las instituciones educativas y las propuestas del autor -para las que se para sobre los h Después de leerlo citado o glosado tantas veces, pude finalmente leer sin intermediarios al autor. Hoy soy un poco más escéptico de los gurúes en todos los ámbitos: descreo por ejemplo que se pueda aplicar un marco diseñado por un académico de Harvard -como Gardner- en una escuela pública porteña sin desafiar supuestos y sesgos para adaptarlo y hacerlo viable. El libro tiene tres partes: la crianza del niño, las instituciones educativas y las propuestas del autor -para las que se para sobre los hombros del enfoque cognitivo de Jerome Bruner y de la pedagogía de la comprensión de Lawrence Cremin-. Muchos de los conceptos son tal vez ya parte del statu-quo en la bibliografía de capacitación docente: enseñanza constructivista a partir del conocimiento previo, ir de la memorización a la comprensión, abandonar la evaluación simplista como el multiple choice para determinar el conocimiento de un tema. Cuando hice unos módulos para docente universitario en 2010 nos instruían bajo esos mismos conceptos, aunque la vieja escuela sigue muy presente en todos los niveles educativos. Me gusta que hable de intensidad de inteligencias y que las poseemos en distinto grado. Que sean siete es arbitrario (creo que se sumó una octava hace unos años) pero es enriquecedor sumar lo interpersonal, lo intrapersonal, lo lingüístico, lo espacial y lo corporal a lo lógico-matemático. De alguna forma más que una innovación es recuperar lo perdido (volver a las fuentes de la La Academia de Platón y de tantas escuelas clásicas mucho más armónicas en sus contenidos que las actuales). Me gusta el recorrido que hace en los niños y de cómo Darwin se da cuenta que no son adultos en miniatura. Piaget y Chomsky atraviesan toda la primera parte. En la segunda divide entre la educación basada en competencias -habilidades para la vida-, enciclopedista -memoria- o comprensión, la que recomienda Gardner. Y la tercera parte ya es un bastante más etérea con grandes proyectos que suelen ser más utopias que aplicaciones concretas en escala. Cuenta cómo en el siglo XIX a las disciplinas tradicionales se sumaron las ciencias (química y física), las ciencias sociales (historia y geografía) y las lenguas modernas. ¿Qué aportó el siglo XX? ¿Y el XXI? En los últimos años se viene impulsando la programación y la robótica como solución a todos los males de la educación y de la empleabilidad. Harían mejor repensando los contenidos, la formación y la selección de docentes en base a estudios y aportes como el de Gardner. Más sobre esta reseña y otras en: https://pablomariafernandez.substack....

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nathan De

    Some very good questions and reflections on what education should be to achieve genuine understanding among students and how education should try to harness the intrinsic motivation to learn naturally that is inherent to all humans from an early age. Crazy to think that the first print of this book is over 30 years old! With genuine understanding Gardner refers to students that are able to think like an expert with domain knowledge that can be applied to any situation, problem or question. Also Some very good questions and reflections on what education should be to achieve genuine understanding among students and how education should try to harness the intrinsic motivation to learn naturally that is inherent to all humans from an early age. Crazy to think that the first print of this book is over 30 years old! With genuine understanding Gardner refers to students that are able to think like an expert with domain knowledge that can be applied to any situation, problem or question. Also if that problem is counterintuitive and has never been encountered before. This should indeed be the goal! Not a one-size-fits-all approach and a more flexible and diverse system is needed. Or dropping the system altogether, if you ask me. Suggestions from the book to better achieve this are taking into account different learning styles, different forms of intelligence and strengths of students; organizing individual and group activities to develop social and technical skills; arranging projects in an apprenticeship model with masters that co-create relevant outputs in a meaningful real-world context; mixed classes with different ages, etc. The only major downside of this book is that its age is also reflected in the theoretical and archaic writing style.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    This was a required text for a course. I read a fair chunk of it and found it biased. I may return to it, as it is sitting on the shelf and I have another similar course from the same instructor in the fall. However, for now, it is best to put this one back on the shelf until I can dedicate the proper energy to process it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    jennifer conner

    Informative Interesting and informative reading. Although not an easy read. Helpful to understanding the benefits of thinking outside the box when it comes to education.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

    Took notes

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