There’s been big discussions recently about education and the role facts play in children’s learning. Now, I strongly support critical thinking processes, learning through experience and using games to support learning. However, I just don’t personally see how it’s possible to deliver a quality, balanced curriculum without learning facts. Maybe not who every monarch of England was, to that extent, I don’t know that, but I think facts are needed.
Barton (2008) stated that whilst children in upper elementary ashes and beyond could identify changes in History (using example of European settlement of North America), they could not attribute those changes to the people involved. Now yes, this is research from North America but I think could be applicable in the UK (the Industrial Revolution springs to mind as an example that children may know of the event but not people involved.
I had this deficit illustrated to me just last night. My wife and I were sat in the hospital late on front of a wall with about 10 inspirational woman illustrated on it. There was another couple, about our age, sat a bit further away. We were the only ones there so it was easy to hear ;). They commented on the wall saying ‘I don’t know who any of these people are… Except Jessica Ennis.’ ‘The Queen’s there too… She looks a lot younger though’ etc.
Who were the other women on the wall? Only, Mother Teresa, Anne Frank, Princess Diana, Florence Nightingale, Indira Gandhi…to name a few. Now this wasn’t a case of poor drawing – these woman had their name labeled next to them – but yet these people didn’t even recognise the names!
Now of course, this is probably an extreme and rare example. However, surely a curriculum that will prepare children has to have a foundation of fact, with space for them to explore the world around them also? There is the argument we can receive information, or Google facts, at the click of a button, and I feel that’s why it’s necessary that facts don’t play maybe as big a role as they have in the past. However, learning facts is a cognitive process of learning.
And that’s a fact!
(OK, I haven’t empirically grounded that but couldn’t resist the phrase!)
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/duncan/9261879/”>duncan</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>
Barton, K. C. (2008) ‘Research on students’ ideas about history.’ In Levstik, L. S. and Tyson, C. A. (eds.) Handbook of Research in Social Studies Education. Oxon: Routledge.