David Geary, the cognitive developmental and evolutionary psychologist, writes in his essay Folk Knowledge and Academic Learning that ‘academic learning [is] effortful because it requires sustained attentional control and working memory resources.’ The act of reading a GCSE literary text provides a reasonable illustration of this: effortful determination is required to overcome the linguistic and cultural barriers of, say, a chapter of Jekyll and Hyde or a scene from Romeo and Juliet.
Geary argues that students have a natural disposition to favour activities that are largely social in nature. This in itself is not particularly problematic: done well, group work activities can be productive (as I’ve written about it in a previous post). However, Geary’s words – once again – are worth keeping in mind:
‘Children’s inherent motivational dispositions and activity preferences are likely to be at odds with the need to engage in the activities, such as…
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