Why You Should Want Your Kid to Be a Slow Learner

Posted on September 13, 2014

We tend to assume that learning things easily is the same as learning them well. In school, teachers are pleased when children grasp a concept or a skill in one lesson, and so, of course, are children. The trouble is, when learning is too easy, we may not actually be learning much at all.

We know Abraham Lincoln, for example, as an autodidact who made himself erudite in literature, history, and the law. But if you had been at school with him, you probably wouldn't have marked him out as a future lawyer, let alone a future president. A cousin remembers him as "somewhat dull ... not a brilliant boy, but worked his way by toil." Lincoln himself remarked that "I am slow to learn and slow to forget that which I have learned. My mind is like a piece of steel, very hard to scratch anything on it but almost impossible after you get it there to rub it out."

Lincoln’s phrase - "slow to learn and slow to forget" - actually describes a universal truth about the way our brains absorb information. In the early 1990s, a cognitive scientist at the University of California named Robert Bjork landed upon an insight that changed the way psychologists think about learning. In its simplest form, it is this: We learn better when we find learning difficult.

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Category(s):Child Development, Learning Difficulties

Source material from New York Times


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