Background Knowledge

Learning across boundaries:how parents and teachers are bridging children’s interests

Lori Takeuchi, Sarah Vaala, and June Ahn. Learning across boundaries:how parents and teachers are bridging children’s interests. Spring 2019. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Worksop. New York: New York.

When a young person discovers something that sparks an interest, opportunities to unlock even deeper levels of learning emerge as she becomes motivated to master her knowledge about a particular subject. This report presents findings from separate surveys of 1,550 U.S. parents and 600 pre-K–8 teachers on whether, to what extent, and how U.S. children ages 3–12 are linking their learning experiences across home, school, and community settings. The inquiry paid particular attention to the ways in which caregivers and teachers support and, in some cases, impede the development of young children’s interests and the learning associated with pursuing these interests. Focusing on differences across demographics, the developed environment, and socio-economic status while taking an equity perspective, findings highlight areas of weakness and strength in this ecosystem of connected learning, suggesting what we need to pay attention to if we are intent on facilitating seamless learning across boundaries.

Knowledge and Practice: The Real Keys to Critical Thinking

Willingham, D. (May 2016). Knowledge and Practice: The Real Keys to Critical Thinking. Knowledge Matters, Issue Brief #1.

A strong body of evidence shows that analysis requires deep knowledge of the topic, and therefore critical thinking can’t be reduced to a set of skills and strategies. In short, to “think like a scientist,” a student must know the facts, concepts, and procedures that a scientist knows. Background knowledge is absolutely integral to effectively deploying important cognitive processes. What this means for teachers: (1) facts should be meaningful; (2) knowledge acquisition can be incidental; and (3) knowledge learning should start early.

"A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket." — Chinese Proverb