University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

A better way to teach? A better way to learn?

Renowned American academic encourages focus on cognitive learning

May 16, 2012 - For as long as anyone can remember, the K-12 school system has focused learning on the three R's—reading , writing, and 'rithmetic. Throw in some history, science and computers and you've pretty much rounded out the curriculum. Not many people have ever thought to question why schooling is organized around academic subjects; it just seems logical. But is it?

Roger Schank doesn't think so.

Schank believes there is another, more appropriate way to organize the classroom, and he says it involves using cognitive processes.

Schank was at the University of Calgary on April 26, where he presented his thoughts on the three processes he believes are instrumental to learning: conscious, analytic, and social development. "All of these processes are part of a small child's life as well as a high functioning adult's life," he explains. "Education should mean helping people get more sophisticated about doing these things through the acquisition of a case base of experience. Teaching should mean helping people think about their experiences and how to think more clearly about them."

"Unfortunately, education and teaching rarely means either of these things in today's world."

Schank's name is familiar to many, as he is considered one of the United States' preeminent computer scientists—perhaps, most notably, as the Director of Yale University's Artificial Intelligence Project in the late '80s. Since those days, his work has evolved to include a strong focus on teaching and learning, and today, he is the Executive Director and founder of Engines for Education, Inc. He is also the Chairman and CEO of Socratic Arts, Inc. a company that delivers story-centered curricula to schools and businesses.

Schank's talk, "From Subject-Based Education to Cognition-Based Education: what cognitive science tells us about what we really need to learn", provoked thought and discussion as it focused on how to teach these processes and how to use them as means of creating an exciting and enjoyable educational experience for students at all levels of schooling.

Podcasts of Schank's presentation and Sharon Friesen’s introduction are available to the right as are the accompanying slides.



Sharon Friesen

Introduction by Sharon Friesen

Alternative content

Roger Schank

Dr. Roger Schank: From Subject-Based Education to Cognition-Based Education

Alternative content

Click here for the Powerpoint Presentation (PDF 11 MB)