Copyright
Daniel Starch.

Educational psychology online

. (page 14 of 41)
Online LibraryDaniel StarchEducational psychology → online text (page 14 of 41)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


stantially as set forth on page 45 {Experiments), namely, that nearly
all persons have all types of images which are combined in different
individuals in varying proportions. Mankind as a whole does not
fall into sharply or even vaguely divided groups of visuals, audiles,
and so on. They are not found except in rare instances.

In the second place, recent inquiries indicate that images of the
class most natural or predominant for a given person may be
aroused by stimuli coming through another sense. For example,
auditory stimuli may arouse visual images as well as, or even more
readily than, auditory images if visual images are more natural to
the individual. Miss Abbott ('09) found in a detailed investiga-



1 68 EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY

tion with four subjects, on the memory consciousness in orthog-
raphy that "irrespective of the method of presentation and the
manner of learning, the typical mode of recall for all observers
was through the visual imagery of the letters" (p. 153). Conse-
quently it does not follow that, even if a person has a strong lean-
ing toward one or another type of imagery, it is necessary or even
advantageous to present the material to be learned through the
sense avenue of the favorite type of imagery.

Colvin and Myers ('09) made an extensive series of tests with
school children to ascertain to what extent visuals retain visual
material best, audiles auditory material, and motiles motor ele-
ments. He concluded that:

"There seems to be a fairly definite relation between the effectiveness
of memory in the case of a particular ideational type and the memory
material which is most suited to that type. In particular the visual type
retains best material with a visual content and the auditory and motor
types, to a less degree, material with an auditory or motor content, as the
case may be."

While this conclusion is probably justified, the differences among
the various types of elements retained by the different groups of
pupils are in most instances small.

In the third place, the most advantageous mode of sensory
presentation for a given person is not necessarily the one that
corresponds to his dominant type of imagery. Much of the experi-
mental evidence that has been accumulated on the problem of
modes of presentation of the learning material is conflicting in
character. It is uncertain whether visual, auditory, motor, audi-
tory-motor, or visual-auditory-motor presentations are most
advantageous. Henmon ('12) has reported an experiment which
has thrown important light upon the problem. He employed four
methods of presentation, visual, auditory, visual-auditory, and
visual-auditory-motor; and used three sorts of material, concrete
nouns, two-place numbers, and nonsense syllables presented to
six subjects with one, two, or three repetitions.

"In the visual presentation the subjects read the stimuli directly from
the rotating drum and immediately wrote down as many members as
could be recalled and in the order presented. The subjects were asked
to repress movements of articulation. In the auditory presentation the
experimenter read the stimuli from the drum, the subject keeping his



THE RATE AND PROGRESS OF LEARNING 1 69

eyes closed and repressing movements of articulation. In the visual-
auditory presentation the subject both saw the stimuli and heard them
read by the experimenter. In the visual-auditory-motor presentation
the subject himself read the lists aloud."

His results are summarized thus:

"i. Auditory presentation is clearly superior to visual presentation in
immediate memory of adults, a result attributable to the greater ease and
freedom of visualization with auditory presentation and the greater
effort of attention required.

"2. This superiority of auditory over visual presentation holds for all
materials (nouns, nonsense-syllables, numbers), for all subjects irrespec-
tive of image type, and for one, two and three presentations. This
result is not in accord with the opinion commonly held that visual pre-
sentation is superior, especially with meaningless material.

"3. Combined visual-auditory presentation is slightly inferior to the
auditory alone and decidedly superior to the visual alone. The advan-
tage of a combined method is very much less than that shown in earlier
investigations.

"4. Visual-auditory-motor presentation is slightly inferior to the
auditory and the visual-auditory presentations and superior to the visual
alone. Articulation or vocalization is of little value for immediate mem-
ory.

"5. The correlations of abilities with different forms of presentation
are positive and very high, superiority with one indicating practically
the same degree of superiority with another." (After Henmon '12.)

A fair general impression of the present status of our knowledge
of imagery in relation to learning would be that distinctions among
types of pupils have been overemphasized and that much of the
endeavor to adjust methods of teaching accordingly has been mis-
directed.

h. Fatigue. As a final important factor in the progress of learn-
ing, we must consider fatigue. Educational and psychological
literature has been replete with discussions regarding the part
which fatigue plays in the reduction of mental efficiency. While
psychological research has provided considerable information
concerning the course of continuous work and concerning the
changes in the efficiency of the worker as measured by cross-
sectional tests at various stages of work, it has not furnished as yet
much definite knowledge concerning the control of the work of the
pupil in school. Pedagogical literature has been generous in
pointing out signs of fatigue and serious consequences of overwork



lyo EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY

and in suggesting remedies for avoiding exhaustion, yet we are
not sure whether the so-called syinptoms are indications of real
fatigue or whether any serious or even mild fatigue effects ever
result from the work as carried out in the great majority of schools.

In discussions of fatigue it is important to bear in mind two
distinctions in the meaning of the term, namely, fatigue in the
sense of decrease in the capacity to do work, and fatigue in the
sense of decrease in interest in, or willingness to, work. The two
are plainly different and do not necessarily go together. The one
is actual loss in efficiency; the other is a feeling of ennui or weari-
ness. Much of our thinking about the problem has been confused
by a failure to distinguish between these two meanings. Fatigue
in the former sense probably has been greatly exaggerated as an
educational problem. Perhaps only in exceptional individuals is
there injurious overstrain due to mental work. The discussion of
this topic will, therefore, be abbreviated.

The experimental methods by which the phenomena of fatigue
have been investigated will first be mentioned briefly. They may
be divided into two classes: (i) Indirect methods, and (2) Direct
methods.

(i) Indirect methods. The principle, upon which the indirect
methods have proceeded, has been to measure some physiological
or psychological functions at different points during the course of
work in order to compare the efficiency of those functions on the
assumption that the difference in them would be indicative of
efficiency in general. One of the first methods was that employed
by Griesbach, who determined the two-point threshold upon various
parts of the skin at various times of the day on the belief that a
decrease in sensitiveness or a widening of the threshold indicated'
a reduction of general mental efficiency. He made extensive com-
parisons among school children for the purpose of determining
the amounts of fatigue produced by various types of school work,
and formulated an elaborate series of conclusions with regard to
them. For example, specific fatigue values were assigned by him
and his followers to the different school subjects. Vanned states
that mathematics, Latin, and Greek produce most fatigue, and that
French and geography produce least. The difficulty, however,
with results of this type is that while the two-point discrimination
upon the skin varies under different mental and physical conditions,
it is a rather unsafe basis upon which to make sweeping generaliza-
tions concerning the general mental efficiency of a person. In



THE RATE AND PROGRESS OF LEARNING 171

fact, the closeness of the agreement of the size of the two-point
threshold with the actual amount of fatigue is too uncertain to use
this function as a symptom of general mental or physical fatigue.
A number of other indirect methods have been employed, such as
the rate of tapping with a stylus, the variation in blood pressure,
in pulse, in respiration, the range of visual accommodation, sensi-
tiveness to pain, and so on. The same criticism applies to these as
to the two-point discrimination. These functions may have con-
comitant variations within rough approximations, but they are too
distant to be precise indications of mental efficiency.

The use of the ergograph as developed by Mosso and his co-
workers has probably been the most successful and useful method
for studying problems of fatigue. As such it is, however, a direct
method for investigating muscular work and fatigue and only a very
indirect and doubtful method for investigating mental fatigue.

Other indirect methods of a more distinct psychological char-
acter have also been employed. These have consisted of the meas-
urement of certain mental functions at various intervals in order
to determine how much variation there may be in these functions
and to regard them as indications of mental efficiency in general.
Such tests have been made upon memory, various types of associa-
tion processes, perception as measured by cancellation tests, and the
like. These tests have a certain superiority over those mentioned
in the preceding paragraph since they deal at least with psychologi-
cal functions, but they likewise do not directly measure the course
of work as it actually occurs. They have, however, been useful
in comparing efficiency in the same mental capacities at various
points during the course of a day.

A consideral)le number of researches by means of cross-sectional
test methods have been carried out upon school children as well
as adults. Thus, for example, Sikorski ('19) tested pupils before
and after school in writing from dictation, and compared the
number of errors made. Bolton ('02) measured the memory span
for digits during the early and the later part of the school day.
Laser ( '94) made a test with pupils in addition and multiplication
at hourly intervals. Friedrich ('97) tested 51 pupils in addition,
multiplication, and in dictation exercise at hourly periods. Eb-
binghaus ('97), with the aid of the teachers, gave tests at hourly
intervals in immediate memory of numbers, in addition and multi-
plication, and in supplying words and syllables omitted from sen-
tences. Ritter (1900) used tests in dictations of words^ numbers,



172



EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY



and sentences, and tests in cancelling letters and words. Thorndike
(1900, '11 and '12) used, early and late in the school day, tests
in adding, multiplying, cancelling certain words in a printed text,
and memorizing numbers, letters, and geometrical forms. Heck
('13) measured the performances of pupils in adding, subtracting,
multiplying and dividing at four points during the school day.
Miss King ^ used tests at five points during the school day in adding
and multiplying and in answering questions of a general informa-
tional character.

Practically all of the investigations here mentioned that were
carried out reliably, agree, when interpreted fairly, in showing that
ejHiciency in the various functions examined is changed very slightly
or unappreciably during the course of a school day. Not all of
the investigators, however, interpret their results in this manner.
Thorndike has pointed out a very important misconception in the
interpretation put by some of the experimenters upon their data,
namely, that of counting simply the number of errors made at
different times of the day instead of expressing efficiency in terms
of both amount and accuracy of work done. This point may be
illustrated in the case of Friedrich's results presented in Table 44.



TABLE 44. After Friedrich

The results obtained by Friedrich concerning the accuracy of school work at
different periods of the day



Time of Test



Letters, etc.. Writ-
ten IN Dictations



Pep Cent PerCent
Right Wrong



Figures of Sums and
Products in Com-
putations



Per Cent Per Cent
Right Wrong



Morning Session:

Before ist hour

After ist hour

After 2nd hour and 8 min. rest

After 2nd hour

After 3rd hour and two 15 min. rests .

After 3rd hour and 15 min. rest

After 3rd hour

Afternoon Session:

Before ist hour

After ist hour

After 2nd hour and 15 min. rest

After 2nd hour



99.8
99.2

99-4
98.9



I . I
1.6
2.0
2.0
1.9
2.2

2-3

1.9

2. 1
2.1
2.4



^ An unpublished study reported by Thorndike. ('14, III, p. 93).



THE RATE AND PROGRESS OF LEARNING



173



If in this table we compare simply the percentage of errors the
efficiency of the pupils was over five times as great at the beginning
of the school day as at the end in the dictation test, and over two
times as great in the computation tests. If, on the other hand, we
consider the column giving percentage right we find that the ef-
ficiency changed but very little.

To point out further how inconsiderably the performance of
pupils changes in the course of a day we may note the following re-
sults from Heck:





TABLE 45. After Heck ('i


3)




Time of Test


Units of Work Done


Per Cent Correct


9:10 a. m.

11:05 a. m.

1:10 p. m.

2:30 p. m.


140.37
142-57
142.67
143.68


87-40
86.08
86.17
85.46



The amount of work increased slightly while the accuracy de-
creased slightly from the first test to the last.

(2) Direct methods. The most fruitful direct methods of measur-
ing continuous mental work have been the va,rious types of mental
calculations, particularly addition and multiplication. These
methods have been used by Krapelin, Thorndike and Aral, Starch
and Ash, and others. As an illustration of one type of mental
addition, the writer has used a method consisting in the mental
addition of 6, 7, 8, and 9 in rotation by beginning with a given
number and adding each of these numbers in turn to the answer
last obtained, as described in Chapter XVI, Experiments ('17).
The advantage of this form of calculation is that it affords suf-
ficient difficulty and thus fully taxes the efforts of the individual
and makes possible a minute record of the amount and accuracy of
work done during succeeding short intervals of time. Figure 52
shows a curve obtained by this method, covering a period of con-
tinuous work of two hours.

As an illustration of mental multiplication, we may cite the
experiment carried out by Miss Aral under the direction of Thorn-
dike. She used the method of multiplying mentally four place
numbers by four place numbers, as 4,962 times 7,584. She trained
herself for a considerable period of time in this type of mental mul-
tiplication in order to reach an approximate limit of practice. Then
she did the following experiment:



174



EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY



"On March 3, 4, 5, and 6, that subject did the mental muUipHcation
from II A. M. to 11 P. M. without any pauses except the two or three
seconds between the examples for recording time. But the subject had
taken a heavier breakfast than usual at 10 A. M. and a light supper
after 11 P. M. Her health was in good condition and she slept soundly at
night. The contents of her consciousness during the experiments were
very simple, all desires being completely subjected to the one desire to
get true fatigue curves." (Arai, '12, p. 37.)

The remarkable result of all experiments with purely mental
functions has been that mental efficiency is reduced only very
slightly even after two or more hours of very difficult, uninterrupted




Fig. 52. — Mental work curve. Upper curve shows number of additions
made per half-minute period. Lower curve shows number of errors made.
Work was continued for two hours. After Starch and Ash ('17).



work. Thus in the curve, Figure 52, the reduction in the number of
additions made per thirty seconds, was only from 14.0 down to
13.4, or a loss of only 4.3%. Arai found even in the course of 12
hours of such difficult mental multiplication as she carried out,
that her efficiency was reduced only by about one-half. Other
investigators have shown in general the same facts.

Seashore and Kent ( '05) measured continuously, for as long as
two hours, the threshold of hearing by recording the audibility and
inaudibiUty of a sound varied about the limen. The intensity of
the sound was changed at a uniform rate. As soon as it became too
faint to be heard the subject gave a signal to the experimenter who
at once increased the strength of the sound. As soon as it could be
heard again the subject again responded. Then the sound was de-
creased again, and so on without break. A sample curve is shown
in Figure 53. Ten records were obtained which showed that "con-



THE RATE AND PROGRESS OF LEARNING



175



tinuous liminal or moderately faint sounds do not seem to lower the
efficiency of the ear in a two hour test" (p. 100).

It would seem, therefore, on the basis of experimental work, that
fatigue in the sense of decrease in product achieved is practically a
negligible element in school work. The actual capacity to do work
with the same degree of accuracy is practically undiminished in the
course of a school day. Such symptoms of fatigue as have been
frequently enumerated in pedagogical writings, are apparently only
superficial signs of monotony, of lack or diminishing of interest,
or of being bored by school work, and not actual signs of loss of
capacity to do the work. Such statements as "I simply cannot
work any longer" made after a half or whole hour's work, are il-
lusory and probably signify chiefly a weariness with the work



.•" X o 21 -




90 100 110



to < 2o^

40 .> 20 30 40 50 60 70
Minutes
Fig. 53. — Continuotis record of the measurement of the threshold of hearing.
After Seashore and Kent (,'05).

which, if it must be kept up by force of conditions, can usually be
continued without difficulty or harm and usually without being
seriously boresome.

The feeling of interest or satisfaction in doing work does decrease
very materially as the work goes on. Thorndike (17) for exarhple
found that the satisfyingness of such work as grading compositions
decreased in the course of two hours to about one-half and in the
course of four hours to about one-third of the amount of satisfac-
tion at the beginning of the period.

The feeling of weariness, from the practical side of school activ-
ities as well as of mental work generally, is, however, an important
item. In a certain sense it is a real thing. Even if it is illusory
it does interfere with the smooth continuation of work. But it is
very likely a less serious situation than an actual loss of capacity
to do work would be. Practically it resolves itself into a problem
of maintaining interest rather than relieving depreciation of ef-
ficiency.



CHAPTER XII

HOW TO STUDY

Waste in Studying. Since studying is learning under school
conditions, it would seem worth while to make such suggestions
as can be made concretely to assist pupils in this important phase
of the psychology of learning. It may seem preposterous to give
advice about something concerning which each pupil is presumably
proficient after years of practice in it, and furthermore to attempt
to give suggestions on studying may seem to many to be nothing
more than an "unprofitable delineation of the obvious." It is,
however, very certain that there is an uncalculated waste of energy
and a still more prodigal waste of time in so-called studying. If
we may judge from the possibility of improvement in reading ca-
pacity alone, and from the larger accomplishments attained under
favorable conditions of work, we may venture to guess that the
average student could accomplish his work just as efficiently or
more efficiently, in two-thirds, or less, of the amount of time
ordinarily consumed, by developing more economical methods
and habits of studying. Improvements in proper procedure in
studying have shown how much more may be accomplished in the
same length of time or even in a shorter period of time. Vicious
habits of dawdling in school work are acquired, which may have
their permanent effect throughout the individual's life.

Is Studying Worth While? This question is worth raising in
view of the belief, prevalent among students, parents, and grad-
uates, that after all it does not matter much whether a pupil does
well in his studies or not, that the boy who does poorly in the
grammar grades or the high school will outgrow his negligence and
come into his own when he gets into his college or professional
course, or that when he gets into the real business of life he will
outstrip his more studious mates. To what extent are these beliefs
true or false? To what extent is early scholastic performance
indicative of similar or different performance later on? To what
extent is scholastic performance prophetic of performance in life?

A considerable amount of statistical material has been accumu-
lated in the attempt to answer these questions. Some of this

176



HOW TO STUDY 177

material was presented in the latter part of Chapter IV under the
heading "Correlations between Early and Later Mental Abilities."
These correlations were found to be high. Dearborn, for example,
found that of 472 pupils, whose records were traced through the
high school and college, only two who were in the lowest quarter in
the high school rose to the top quarter in the university. It should
be noted further that these two were just barely poor enough in
the high school to be classed into the lowest quarter and that
they rose just barely enough to get into the top quarter in the uni-
versity. The chances that the pupil who is doing poor work in thj
high school will later come into his own are exceedingly small;
apparently he has been in his own all along, or, if not, he had better
have got into his own as soon as possible.

President Lowell ('10) made a study of the records of the grad-
uates of Harvard College for a period of twelve years. He found
the following situation :

Men graduating with various Percentage graduating with distinction from

honors The Law School The Medical School

A. B.'s with highest honors 60 92

A. Bi's with great honor 40 87

A. B.'s with honor 22 76

A. B.'s without honor 6>^ 36

A. B.'s without honor, of men who
had entered college with condi-
tions 3

The 250 Yale men who graduated from the Harvard Law School
in 1900-1915 were divided into nine groups according to their
scholarship at Yale. These nine groups, with the exception of one,
finished the Harvard Law School in the same relative order of
scholarship that they had held at Yale.

To many persons a more important problem is the relationship
between scholastic attainment and success in business or profes-
sional work. Foster ('16) has summarized in an interesting manner
much of the evidence pertaining to this problem. He made a
study of the Harvard College class of 1894. He asked three men,
the dean of the college, the secretary of the alumni association,
and a member of the class, to name the most successful men of the
class. They were free to use their own interpretation of success
except that they were not to include men whose success appeared
to be due chiefly to family wealth or position. The three judges
agreed on twenty-three men. Foster then obtained their records



178 EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY

in college and compared them with the records of twenty-three
other men chosen at random from the same class. The former had
nearly four times as many highest grades as the latter, namely,
196 A's as compared with 56 A's. By a similar plan three judges
selected the most successful men among the graduates of the
University of Oregon for the period of 1S78 to 1901. Of the grad-
uates designated as successful, 53% had been good students and
17% had been weak students. Of the graduates designated as
unsuccessful, 12% had been good students and 52% had been weak
students.

A study of the alumni of Wesleyan University showed that of
the living graduates for the period of 1S60 to 1SS9, 50% of the men



Online LibraryDaniel StarchEducational psychology → online text (page 14 of 41)