Learning by doing
From editor's introduction:
The chief business of the child and of the youth in American life today is to master some portion of the knowledge and the skill which our ancestors have found of service in their experiences in the art of living, and it follows that the chief problems of the parent and the teacher have to do with helping the young to acquire this knowledge and skill in an economical and effective manner. No one in our time, who is at all familiar with the matter, can doubt that both the child and his instructor, whether he is a parent or teacher, have to deal with a very complicated situation in the present-day home and school.
There is a constantly increasing body of material to be learned, and the period for learning it is not being extended so that it is becoming ever more imperative for those who instruct the young to adopt methods of procedure that will enable the novice to master what he must learn without waste of time or energy. This is, of course, an ideal which has not yet been attained in any of our educational work, as every student of education and every intelligent parent and teacher knows very well. But we are certainly making progress.
We are discovering from time to time how to guide the child so that he will appropriate the more readily and competently what we believe we ought to teach him.
Doubtless, most of those who will read these lines have witnessed marked changes in the teach- ing of practically every subject in the curriculum of the elementary and the high school; and probably these changes have all been in the direction of attaining greater economy and efficiency in educational work. But the end is not yet; it is probable, indeed, that the principal work of improvement in teaching processes is still ahead of us. Surely there has never been a time, in any age or place, when educational curricula and methods have been studied by such precise methods as are being employed right now, both at home and abroad. It is becoming clearer every day that the whole business of teaching is so complex that the practical teacher can not solve the problems of the schoolroom because his time and energy must be expended in doing the best he can according to the prevailing and generally accepted views of instruction.
The practitioner needs the assistance of the investigator, who will delve deeply into one or another of the problems arising out of the necessity of leading the young to master a great many things in such a way that they can make use of them in bettering their adjustment to the world of people and of things environing them. For a number of years, Professor Edgar James Swift has been conducting experiments for the purpose of gaining some accurate data pertaining to the more subtle phases of the processes of acquiring certain kinds of knowledge and mastering certain manual activities.
In this work, he has had a practical end in view, so that his researches have related more or less directly to the problems which the teacher encounters in giving her pupils instruction in any school subject. As a result of his investigations, Professor Swift has apparently shown that a pupil does not pursue a regular, unbroken and uniform course in the mastery of any study, but instead he seems to proceed rapidly at one period of his learning, and slowly or not at all at another period.
In the present volume, Professor Swift describes his own experiments and those of other investigators, and he points out how the result of these inquiries may explain some of the phenomena of the classroom that are often perplexing to the teacher. He also makes suggestions respecting the teaching of the various school studies which should be of assistance to all who instruct the young, in enabling them particularly to help pupils over the periods of retardation in their learning, — the "plateau periods," as they are coming to be styled in present-day psychological literature. Professor Swift's book is wholly constructive.
It is also appreciative. He gives evidence in every chapter of his volume that he is aware of the difficulties under which the parent and teacher work, and his purpose is, first, to assist them to understand the child whom they must instruct, in respect to certain of his interests and tendencies and intellectual traits, and, second, to show what relation the learner must assume toward the things he is required to learn in order that he may gain them with as little resistance and as great efficiency as possible. All the matters treated are presented in a simple and direct, but lively style, and in non-technical language, and it may be hoped that the book will find its way into the hands of many parents and teachers, who can hardly fail to be interested in and profit by reading it.
The book details :
Author: Edgar James Swift
Publication date: 1914
Company: Indianapolis : Bobbs-Merrill