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equal to that in the capacity trained, then the amount of transfer
is much nearer to the 0% end than to the 100% end. It probably is
o or very nearly o, for all capacities which are not distinctly similar
or related to the capacities specifically trained. Thus in the author's
experiment, practice in mental multiplication improved other forms
of mental calculations about one-fourth as much, but had no effect
upon immediate memory of numbers or words. In Winch's ex-
periment, practice in arithmetical computations had either no effect
or a doubtful effect upon arithmetical reasoning. In Rugg's in-
vestigation, practice in visualization ordinarily done in a course
in descriptive geometry had only a moderate effect upon visuali-
zation of other sorts. In Miss Hewin's study, improvement in



TRANSFERENCE OF TRAINING 253

biological observation improved non-biological observation only
one-sixth as much. In the author's investigation, the study of
foreign languages had no effect upon the capacity to write an Eng-
lish composition, the study of Latin seemed to produce a small
increase in English vocabulary and a decided increase in the knowl-
edge of EngUsh grammar, but only a very small increase in dis-
crimination in correct English. Wilcox hkewise found that the
study of Latin had no appreciable effect upon work in English
classes as measured by marks. The superiority of the Latin pupils
was due to their superior native ability rather than to the study of
the language. Perkins found that Latin as taught by him with
special emphasis upon word derivations and meanings produced
a noticeable increase in the abiUty to spell, define, and use Enghsh
words.

The transfer effects of the training of the abilities in school sub-
jects is very much less than is commonly assumed. This is prob-
ably due, in the first place, to the fact that the improvement in the
capacities exercised specifically by the school subjects is usually
not as great as is commonly believed by teachers. The modifica-
tions produced in the minds of the pupils are considerably less than
teachers usually assume as judged by the modifications produced
in their own minds after much longer and harder study. To il-
lustrate, teachers are inclined to believe that a course in mathe-
matics has produced a much greater improvement in mathematical
reasoning, or that a course in history has brought about much
greater facility in handling and interpreting historical material,
or that a course in psychology has brought about much keener
insight into the operations of mental process, than these respective
subjects actually have produced. This is probably the result of the
teacher's naturally egotistical belief in the effectiveness of his own
work.

The small effects of transfer are probably due, in the second
place, to the fact that the conditions for securing transfer are not
as favorable on the whole in the case of school subjects as in the
case of the special laboratory experiments on transference.

The evidence on spread of training in school material tends to
support for the most part the theory of identical elements. The
effects are the largest where there is similarity or identity of material
as, for example, in the case of the effect of the study of Latin upon
the study of Spanish, or upon the knowledge of English grammar.
The fact of identity of material or similarity of procedure makes



254 EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY

possible a jgreater control of the spread of improvement through
methods of teaching whereby the identity or the use of identical
material may be emphasized in as many desirable relations as
possible. This is illustrated by the spread of the effects of Latin as
taught by Mr. Perkins.

In formulating an opinion concerning general training effects
resulting from training of special capacities, we must bear in mind
that even where the transfer effect is considerable, as much as one-
fourth to one-third as much as in the capacity specially trained,
it is obviously more economical to give practice directly to the
capacities which we want to train rather than to do it indirectly
with the hope that the improvement may be transferred to them.
Concretely, even if the study of Latin under favorable methods of
teaching does improve the spelling of English words, would it not
be more economical to study directly the spelling of the words
which are to be acquired? Knowledge of the most common Latin
words from which the largest number of English words are derived
could be obtained in a relatively short period of time, probably a
year or even less. Learning to play the piano might help in learning
to play the violin, but no sane person would devote very much time
to the piano if his sole purpose is to learn to play the violin.

Even if mathematics may cause some improvement in reasoning
about bargains, even if the study of Latin may increase English
vocabulary, or even if a study of animal psychology did make a
man a better teamster, these efTects are relatively very small and
can be produced much more economically by a direct study of
bargains, or of the origin and meaning of English words, or of driv-
ing horses. A course in mathematics or in Latin or in psychology
will have to stand primarily on its own feet for the content that it
offers or the skill that it develops. These by-products may be useful
but they cannot be the sole purpose of the efforts put into a course.
The value of a meal depends upon the meal itself and not upon the
crumbs that fall from the table. Whenever a subject loses its con-
tent value through changed social conditions it seems mysteriously
to acquire a great deal of disciplinary value.

An immense amount of confusion in the thinking about the prob-
lem of mental discipline and the value of school subjects, even on the
part of distinguished thinkers, has resulted from a failure to dis-
criminate between the effect of a certain kind of education and the
native capacities of the individuals subjected to the education.
Whenever allowance or deductions for differences in original ability



TRANSFERENCE OF TRAINING



255



have been made, the general disciplinary effect has been found to be
much less, or, in many instances, even non-existent. To argue that
because certain great leaders of men had a certain type of education,
it must have produced their greatness does not prove the point.
They probably would have achieved distinction if they had had any
other sort of education. If the chief argument for pursuing a given
subject is that it selects the more able pupils, it would be much more
economical to do so by a shorter and more certain method. Almost
any fifteen or twenty mental tests that can be applied in a psycho-
logical laboratory in two hours would separate much more ac-
curately the gifted from the stupid.

Finally, the upshot of the experimental and statistical inquiries
into the transference of training is that effects of training are trans-
ferred in smaller amounts and within much narrower limits than has
commonly been assumed. This does not mean that there is no gen-
eral mental discipline in any form of training, nor that the doctrine
of formal discipline has been ''exploded" but rather that the actual
limits of general discipline have been more accurately defined.
These limits, to be sure, seem to be much narrower than many are
inclined to believe. So far as the value of school subjects is con-
cerned, it means that the content value of a subject must be the
prime reason and the general disciplinary value the secondary
reason for pursuing it.

Before leaving this discussion, two further points should be borne
in mind: The first is that any effect of transfer, even if very slight,
would probably be worth while if it extended to all or to a large
number of capacities. If training in botanical observation improved
all forms of observation in life ever so little, it might still be the
best form of training in observation. But the implication of the
evidence thus far at hand is that the spread seems to extend only to
rather narrow limits. The second point is, that while the trend of
the arguments here presented would be to reduce the time devoted
to some subjects, particularly in high school and college, we must
be sure that we put something better in their places. The advan-
tage of some of the subjects that would suffer reduction is that they
are well organized for teaching purposes. Some of the new sub-
stitutes are not well organized and offer neither form nor content.
Transitions should be made gradually so that the new branches may
become organized and extended, and the teachers properly trained.



PART III

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF LEARNING: B. OF SCHOOL
SUBJECTS



CHAPTER XV

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF LEARNING SCHOOL SUBJECTS

Psychology and Teaching. If education consists in making
changes in human beings, if psychology is the scientific study of
the mental processes of human beings, and if teaching consists in
the facilitation of the changes to be made by the school, then it is
obvious that knowledge of how to bring about these changes in
the most economical manner must be based upon an exact knowl-
edge of the processes involved in these changes. A reliable peda-
gogy can be based only upon a reliable psychology of the processes
concerned. Engineering did not become a science until the physi-
ical and chemical knowledge of the processes involved in a given
project were thoroughly understood. To build a Brooklyn bridge
involves a precise knowledge of the laws of gravitation, the strength
of materials, the means of supporting weights against the force of
gravity, and the like. To compound an electric cell involves a
precise knowledge of the chemical action of certain elements. To
know how to destroy bacteria harmful to plant and animal life,
it is necessary to understand the biological processes of the par-
ticular plant and animal life concerned.

The foundation science for sane and dependable methods in
education is psychology in its broad sense. The great difficulty
in establishing a reliable pedagogy is the fact that sure and de-
tailed knowledge of the psychological processes and laws in learn-
ing the material of the school subjects is largely unknown. In the
past the schools have proceeded largely by guess. The future will
have to map out in detail the psychological steps involved in each
school subject, and to submit these processes to direct experimental
investigation. A science of engineering was impossible until it
was discovered how the physical and chemical laws operated in
the particular conditions under which the bridge had to be built
or the cell had to be compounded. Knowledge of the law of gravi-
tation was practically useless until it was discovered how it operated
under given concrete conditions of materials, distances, and
circumstances. The psychological laws of learning will be practi-
cally useless until we shall know how they operate under the

259



26o EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY

concrete conditions of the school and with the materials to be
learned in the school. The reaction times of numerous psychologi-
cal processes have been studied in great detail for many years, but
this knowledge is practically useless in giving to the educator
scientific information by which he may proceed to facilitate
the reactions of a child in learning to write or to read. This
knowledge is useful in furnishing a general background, in
pointing the way, and in supplying a general experimental tech-
nique. ^ But even these must often be materially modified and
adapted to the solution of a particular problem in a given field.
The old-time pedagogy has fallen into disrepute because it has
been almost wholly a matter of personal guesswork. The slate
must be wiped clean and only those principles and laws whose
truth has been fully proved can be recorded thereon.

Problems. If we grant that the method and procedure of the
school should be based upon a sound psychology of the processes
involved in learning the special materials of the school subjects,
it follows that the fundamental tasks to be done are these:

(i) A thorough and complete analysis of all psychological
processes involved in the learning of a given subject, or in the
acquisition of skill in it, and of the order and manner in which
these processes intermesh.

(2) The devising of means by which these processes may be
measured and tested so that the facility in their operation may be
determined cjuantitively.

(3) The discovery of the most economical procedures by which
each particular step in the entire process may be developed.

If we wish to determine how to memorize a poem in the most
economical and most permanent manner, it is important to know
the perception, association, and reaction processes involved, the
means for definitely measuring facility in these operations and
the means of controlling these processes most efficiently. Teach-
ing is mental engineering; it consists in managing the mental
processes concerned in learning the materials and in acquiring the
skill of the school in the most effective and most profitable
manner.

In considering the psychology and pedagogy of school subjects
in the succeeding chapters, this three-fold division of the problems
will be made for each subject and the available information of
each one surveyed so far as our present knowledge warrants.



CHAPTER XVI
READING

Processes or Steps Involved in Reading

If we trace, for analytical purposes, the successive steps front
the external presentation of the visual stimuli of the printed
words on through the complicated elaborations within the mind
and back to the external expression of reactions in the pronunci-
ation of the words, we can discern the following order or combin-
ation of elements:

(i) Reception upon the retina of the stimuli from the printed
page.

(2) The range of the field of distinct vision on the retina.

(3) The range of attention in apprehending visual stimuli.

(4) The movements of the eyes.

(5) The transmission of the visual impressions from the retina

to the visual centers of the brain.

(6) The establishment or arousal of association processes where-

by the incoming impulses are interpreted.

(7) The transmission of the impulses from the visual centers

to the motor speech centers.

(8) The transmission of motor impulses from the speech centers

to the muscles of the vocal chords, tongue, lips, and re-
lated parts. ^

(9) Execution of the movements of the speech organs in speak-

ing the words.
These are the steps as they occur in the developed reading
process. It is obvious that they do not follow each other in a
temporal order but that some, as for example (i) to (4), occur
simultaneously. During the early stage of learning to read there
occurs, simultaneously with steps (i) to (5), a parallel series of
steps derived through the ear by which the child learns the pro-
nunciation of the word, thus: (i) reception in the ear of auditory
stimuli from the pronunciation of the word by the teacher, (2)
transmission of the auditory impulses from the ear to the auditory
center in the brain, (3) transmission of impulses between the

261



262 EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY

auditory and the visual centers whereby the sound and the sight
of the word become associated. Silent reading involves only
the first six steps except in so far as incipient speech move-
ments accompany it, in which case the remaining steps enter
in part.

Such an analysis as this may seem detailed to an unprofitable ex-
tent; but, in fact, it might be made even more detailed, depending
upon the extent to which we are able to discern and describe the
minuteness of the neural and mental functions involved. The
more complete and accurate our analysis and description of the
steps is, the more sure our knowledge for managing these
processes will be; and ultimately, that is what teaching amounts
to: The efficient management of the psychophysical processes
concerned.

The next problem is. How does each of the elements in the
reading process operate? The truth is that concerning many of
them we know at the present time very little or nothing with cer-
tainty or completeness. Concerning some of them, however,
considerable definite knowledge has been accumulated in recent
years. What the differences between an efficient and an inefficient
reader are, or what the diJQficulties in learning to read are at each
of the steps can be inferred partly, but only partly, from our
present knowledge about these factors. It is, however, certain
that the differences and difficulties are to be found in these and
possibly additional processes. We shall examine each of these
steps in turn and survey what definite knowledge is available.

(i) The reception upon the retina of the visual stimuli from
the printed page depends obviously on the one hand, upon the
size and kind of type, length of lines, indentation of lines, paper,
and illumination; and, on the other hand, upon the inertia of the
retina in receiving stimuli. We know, for example, that for adults
and for children above lo or 12 years of age, type smaller than
8 or ID points is probably too small to be perceived easily. Like-
wise, type larger than approximately 10 points, spreads out upon
too large an area of the retina to be perceived quickly in as large
groups as possible. Experiments by Dearborn ('06) and others
have shown that probably the most advantageous length of line
is in the neighborhood of 2 >^ or 3 >^ inches, and that it is better to
have the lines on a page uniform in length instead of varying in
length as is often the case in reading-texts in which illustrations
are set into the margins and the lines made to vary according to



READING 263

the space around them. Wc do not know what the most ad-
vantageous size of type is for younger children who are beginning
to learn to read. We feel that it ought to be larger than for older
children or for adults, but we do not know definitely how much
larger.

So far as the inertia of the retina to the reception of the stimuli
goes, we may infer that it varies in different individuals probably
according to the normal distribution and that it may be less in
rapid than in slow readers, but no definite measurements have
been made to ascertain the truth about it.

In an investigation, as yet unpublished, by C. L. Hull and W. R.
Ames, an effort was made to determine the relative effect upon the
eye of reading from papers of various colors, of various amounts of
gloss and of various degrees of perfection of the inked impressions.
Four kinds of paper were compared: a matte white paper, a pink
newsprint paper, a blue newsprint paper, and a very glossy white
paper. As measured by the Ingersoll glarimeter, these papers had
the following glare or gloss values respectively, iS.5%, 41.5%, 42%,
73.5%. A fair sized book was printed, uniformly upon each kind of
paper in such a way that the successive pages followed one another
on a single band of paper. These were placed upon special reels
in such a way that the pages would be at a uniform distance
from the eyes, at a uniform angle and would have uniform
illumination.

Three measures of the changes in the eyes produced by reading
were taken:

1. The number of lines read during a 15-minute period.

2. The number of spontaneous winks per minute while reading.
These were recorded by a special device unsuspected by the sub-
jects.

3. Extent of failure to recover during a 15-minute reading period
from artificially produced diminution in the distance at which the
subjects were able to see faint parallel lines as distinct lines. This
distance was determined before and after reading by an elaborate
recording device of considerable precision. Four subjects were
used.

The final averages for each kind of paper by each of the tests are
shown in the following table. In addition, the relative rank of the
four papers is given for each of the three measures on a scale of 10.
Lastly these ranks are averaged for a final score of all three meas-
ures.



264



EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY



TABLE 79. After Hull and Ames. From a Thesis in the Library of the L^ni-
versity of Wisconsin, 1917



Fi


NAL Averages






Final Ranks






Loss OF

Visual

Acuity in

Inches


No. OF
Winks

PER

Minute


\o. Lines
Read per

KS-MiN.

Period


Visual
Acuity


Winks


Lines
Read


Average
Rank


Matte White . .
Pink


i.S
30

2.0


7-5
7. 2
S.I
«-5


415
422
414
398


I
10
5-4
3-4


3

I ■
7.2

ID.


3-6
I.

4-
10.


2-5
4'


Blue


S-S
7.8


Gloss While...



DespiLe rather striking differences between the results obtained
by the third measure and l^y the other two, the results as a whole,
as indicated by the final average rank, show that glare is the de-
cisive factor in diminishing ocular efficiency. The two white papers
are respectively the best and the worst of the set. The two colored
papers which are intermediate in glare are also found intermediate
in ocular efficiency. These results suggest that color as such has
little or no influence one way or the other.

A microscopic examination of the texture and perfection of the
inked impressions of the various papers revealed the glossy white
papers to be the most perfect, with the matte white, the blue and
the pink in decreasing order. This order indicates that within
ordinary limits the perfection of th^^printed impression is of little
consequence. y .

(2) Concerning the size of the distinct field of vision, Ruediger
('07) made some experiments with the tachistoscope. Speed of
reading may depend upon the horizontal area of distinct vision in
the retina. Ruediger, however, concluded that little correlation
exists between the areas of color zones on the retina and visual
acuity and other qualities of sight, that the field of distinct vision
is reduced as much as one-half when the eyes are tired from reading
and that there is only a shght correlation between visual acuity
and the size of the field of acute vision.

Judd, McAllister, and Steele ('05) marked the eye near the
pupil with a flake of Chinese white and then directly photographed
the movements of the eye. They concluded that there is no cor-
relation between the size of the horizontal field of acute vision
and the rate of reading or the number of pauses in reading. The
correlations found were —.06 and —.10.



READING 265

(3) The range of attention in apprehending words and letters.
Dearborn, in his photographic records of the movements and
pauses of the eyes, found that the eye takes in, on an average ob-
tained from live subjects, 1.64 words at one time, or at each fixa-
tion. He believes that the word is the unit of reading. This is
corroborated by the fact that slight misspellings in words are often
not noticed and that such words as "psychology" and "physiology"
may easily be confused with each other because they are per-
ceived as wholes. In many instances he found that long words
take no longer time to be perceived than short ones do. The
habit of grouping is apparently very important. "It is not the
short words as such but the words which cannot be easily grouped
with others, which necessitate separate fixations." He also found
that the range of attention with slow readers is often only a syllable
while with the fast reader it is words and phrases. There is thus
a large and important difference which is probably highly signifi-
cant in the development of rapid reading as will be pointed out
later.

By presenting ordinary printed material for very brief intervals,
Gray showed that the number of words which could be compre-
hended at a single exposure was much larger than the number
actually read at a single fixation — often twice as large. This
means that the areas of visual apprehension overlap considerably
at successive fixations. This suggests that the number of fixations
might be reduced considerably by practice. Gray tried this out
experimentally with two children, one a good and the other a poor
reader, and found it to be true. The poor reader decreased the
number of pauses per line from 15.5 to 6.1 by a 20-minute practice
period each day for 20 days.

In this connection the possibiUty of improving the range of
visual apprehension becomes important. Some years ago Miss
Aiken claimed to have increased enormously the range of visual ap-
prehension of the girls in her school by special training. G. Stanley
Hall wrote of it, "I would not have thought such rapidity and
accuracy possible if I had not seen it." Whipple, in an attempt
to verify these claims under laboratory conditions with adult



Online LibraryDaniel StarchEducational psychology → online text (page 22 of 41)