Chunking, schemata and prototypes

By Gordon Rugg and Sue Gerrard

What are chunking, schemata and prototypes, and why should anybody care?

The second question has a short answer. These are three core concepts in how people process and use information, so they’re centrally important to fields as varied as education and customer requirements gathering.

The first question needs a long answer, because although these concepts are all fairly simple in principle, they have a lot of overlap with each other. This has frequently led to them being confused with each other in the popular literature, which has in turn led to widespread conceptual chaos.

This article goes through the key features of these concepts, with particular attention to potential misunderstandings. It takes us through the nature of information processing, and through a range of the usual suspects for spreading needless confusion.

bannerOriginal images from Wikipedia; details at the end of this article

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Teaching the facts

By Gordon Rugg & Sue Gerrard

There’s a lot of debate in education about “teaching the facts”.

There’s also a lot of debate about the definition of “facts” and about the nature of teaching.

However, a couple of things tend to be conspicuous by their absence in these debates.

  • There’s a significant absence of numbers relating to facts, such as how many facts a student should know about a particular topic.
  • There’s also a significant absence of categorisation systems that use more than three categories.

These absences are usually indications that a debate is focused on questions that aren’t going to produce useful answers.

So what happens when you plug in some numbers, and some richer categorisation?

In brief, you get this:

  • students need to learn between one thousand and ten thousand facts
  • there’s an upper limit of learning of about ten facts per hour, and
  • you need to distinguish between about ten to twenty different types of “fact”.

These results have far reaching implications for education. They’re the topic of this article.

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