Quote of the Day
“Until recently, creativity and talent were thought of as innate or accidental, but…[we now understand that] great accomplishments are the result of opportunity and continuous, concentrated effort for at least a decade. For example, when Isaac Newton was asked how he had managed to surpass the discoveries of his predecessors, he replied, “By always thinking about them.”
The same fundamental thought processes appear to be required in both elementary and advanced study. The acquisition of information and problem solving by beginners differ in degree rather than in kind from the mental activities of experts. The scarce resources are time and concentration rather than the available information or the processing capacity of the mind. Both of these, for practical purposes, seem unlimited….Aside from motivation and opportunity, the constraints on the acquisition of knowledge are the few items of information, perhaps 2-7, that humans can hold in conscious memory, and the time required—5-10 seconds—to store an item in long term memory….
The greatest advantage of the expert and, conversely, the biggest problem for the novice attempting to learn cognitively demanding material is “chunking”—the representation of abstract groups of items as linked clusters that can be efficiently processed as an ensemble….Among experts items of information are more thoroughly indexed and can be rapidly brought to conscious memory….The highest achievements in various disciplines may require a memory store of about one million chunks….Yet, only a small fraction of that total is required for impressive achievement. Only an extra hour or two a day [of concentrated effort] may enable beginners to attain results far beyond unpracticed adults in many fields. Youth of normal intelligence possess the requisite talent for respectable attainments…and this can be raised considerably.
—Herbert J. Walberg, “Productive Time and Subject Matter Learning,” Improving the Curriculum: the Principal’s Challenge, National Association of Secondary School Principals, 1988.