Learning through Observation Instead of Imitation

How do babies learn and assimilate new material? In this article, Alison Gopnik explains different studies she has conducted to better understand the way in which children learn. She finds that the kind of traditional teaching often used in parenting can be limiting, in the sense that it encourages imitation instead of innovation. In the context of learning languages, babies were more likely to recognize a foreign language simply through careful observation and problem solving than through being explicitly told what was right or wrong. Under the traditional model of teaching, “[…] if a teacher shows one particular way to do something, that must be the right technique, and there’s no point in trying something new.” Gopnik argues that in our current information economy, we must strive to develop teaching practices that recognize the importance of “more innovation and less imitation, more creativity and less conformity.”


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