So what kinds of characteristics do
we think all kids share? Common
cognitive characteristics come in two
varieties: ( 1);things that the cognitive
system needs to operate effectively, and
( 2);methods that seem to work well to
help most kids meet those needs.
Identifying the former is a bit like speci-
fying the vitamins, minerals, and other
elements of a healthy diet; we’ll call
these must haves. Identifying the latter is
there is something to be learned in the
data. But you can’t be surprised by a
result if you haven’t made a prediction,
and you need domain knowledge to
make a prediction.
The observation that not every student can
do everything the exact same way at the exact
same time should not lead to the overreaction
of hyper-individualizing the curriculum.
like suggesting foods that are high in t
he necessary elements and ways to
incorporate these foods into the diet;
we’ll call these could;dos.
Pointing out cognitive needs (must
haves) does not dictate pedagogical
methods or lesson plans (could dos)—
just as listing protein as essential to
maintain health, for example, does not
prescribe which protein-rich foods to
prepare, much less specific recipes.
Let’s look at a few examples of cog-
nitive characteristics that affect learning.
Factual knowledge. To think critically
about science, or history, or litera-
ture, we need a lot of domain-specific
knowledge (Penner & Klahr, 1996). For
example, one thinking skill in science is
recognizing the importance of anoma-
lous results. A surprising result tells you
coloring). The students note that
the first mixture rapidly separates
into two visible layers, whereas the
water and salt mix does not. But
if the students don’t know that liquids
of different densities should separate,
they will not be especially surprised or
intrigued by the demonstration. Stu-
dents can’t develop thinking skills in
isolation; they need to develop those
skills as they acquire domain knowledge
thinking, musical, athletic, whatever—
without feedback. Sometimes that
feedback is inherent in the performance.
The comedian whose audience stares or
walks out is getting clear feedback about
his act, and the student who is trying
to solve an algebra equation has at least
some notion of whether she’s got the
right answer. But in either case, knowing that things are not going well is not
the same as knowing how to do things
When students are learning a new
skill, such as writing a good paragraph
or analyzing an historical document,
they need someone more knowledgeable to provide feedback. If the feedback
can be immediate, so much the better.