Natural Learning Helps Learning & SAT Scores

September 22, 2011 by Geoff Nixon

Natural Learning Helps Confidence & SAT Scores

Less opportunities to learn through absorption are under-cutting SAT verbal scores

In any task or endeavor, the ease in which it can be accomplished impacts the amount of practice you do and the results. This is playing out now in SAT test score trends as reported by ED Hirsch recently.

The Right Side of the Matthew Effect

A fascinating Op-Ed piece by E.D. Hirsch Jr., author of “The Making of Americans: Democracy and Our Schools,” in the NY Times talks about the drop again this year in SAT verbal scores.  He describes the well-known Matthew effect in learning, taken from the bible, but restated by Hirsch this way:

“To those who understand the gist shall be given new word meanings, but to those who do not there shall ensure boredom and frustration.”

Hirsch refers to how vocabulary is truly learned, by absorption, by guessing meanings from context.  He argues this process requires less school curricula clutter, where more time is spent of subjects allowing more time for vocabulary and context to be absorbed.

Acquiring vocabulary also requires the ability to listen accurately and then to think while listening.  Students with learning difficulties, most especially auditory processing difficulties, tend to lag here.  They have no added capacity to think analytically while listening.

How To Stop the Drop in SAT Scores

This leads to lower achievement, and as Hirsch points out.  This is the Matthew Effect in learning.  Those that can think while listening build vocabulary and understanding through natural learning (the best kind of learning — absorption, like a new born) as well as instruction.  They find learning interesting and want to do more.

Those that cannot think while listening progress far more slowly.  They struggle to hold content and concepts because they don’t have the thinking capacity to put things in context, and as a result they tend not to love learning.

The good learners learn more, the struggling learners learn less.

Gemm Learning Approach

Gemm Learning is part of the new wave of cognitive learning services that seeks to help children learn naturally by processing more comfortably, and therefore learn to love learning.  We help children get onto the right side of the Matthew Effect. 

While Hirsch describes his set of ideas that educators and parents do to improve SAT scores, making sure the cognitive foundation in place should also be part of the solution.