Herbert A Simon (1916-2001)
One of the most damaging myths in education is that there is a conflict between memorisation and understanding, when in fact, they go together, and are both essential. This is one of the ideas demolished by Daisy Christodoulou in Seven Myths, under the heading of ‘facts prevent understanding’. The classic piece of research on this by Nobel laureate Herbert Simon involves chess players. Chess grand masters can look briefly at a chess board and then remember the positions of the pieces far better than those not skilled in chess. But they could only do this when the pieces were arranged as they would be in a game scenario. When they were randomly arranged, the chess players performed no better than the average.
The conclusion of this well-replicated finding in cognitive science is that understanding and memorisation are intertwined and depend upon each other. They are not…
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