Monday, January 24, 2011

Maybe We Can Know the Source of Pseudocontext After All

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post asking if we could know the sources of pseudocontext.  I came to the conclusion that there are too many people involved in writing a textbook to point a finger.  I am currently reading Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, written by Angeline Stoll Lillard and published by Oxford University Press in 2005.  I may finally have someone to point at for pseudocontext, Edward Lee Thorndike.

Edward Lee Thorndike was  a Professor of Psychology at Columbia University's Teachers College.  He started at Teachers College in 1899, when our modern educational system was forming. 

According to Lillard (p. 11):
Thorndikes's textbooks are classic illustrations of the decontextualized material common in American textbooks today.  For example, one Thorndike textbook problem is: "Tom had six cents in his bank and put in three cents more.  How many cents were in the bank then?"  (Thorndike, 1917, p. 18)  The reader knows nothing about Tom or his bank, and so must process disembodied information.  In contrast, the problems one regularly encounters outside of school tend to have a meaningful context.
 Lillard then starts the next paragraph with:
Thorndike believed that children could not transfer learning from one context to another unless elements of the situation were identical, so supplying context was useless.
I was so excited by locating someone else calling out pseudocontext, although not by name, that I couldn't finish reading until I got back to my computer.  I can't wait to dig up more information soon.