Relevance, meaning and the myth of the empty vessel

Clio et cetera

We all should now know that Yeats never said that “education is not the filling of a pail”. The sentiment, however, is true. Various ‘constructivist’ theories of learning have argued, time and again, that learning must be a meaningful experience where new knowledge is placed in the context of old. Similarly, ‘cognitive’ theories of learning have argued that learning involves the growth of schema where new ideas are more likely to be remembered if associated with existing knowledge structures. In part this is a self-evident point – the vast majority of what we teach comes via the medium of language, and, to understand the meaning of what is being taught, children need to understood the words being used. Although I am sure there are a few examples that can be found, I do not think that any voice in the great education debates ever claims that children are in fact…

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