I have enjoyed surfing around websites such as Newton’s and Area9 where highly sophisticated computers are solving Benjamin Blooms “two sigma” problem. Back in the mid-nineteen eighties he led efforts to compare regular classroom instruction (lecture and summative testing) to mastery techniques and other specific learning modalities. He concluded that the master/apprentice relationship (completely personalized tutoring) was measurably superior to other educational practices. The problem then became one of expense. Schools cannot afford to hire teachers for each student. He asked for studies combining classroom instruction with combinations of other techniques to sneak up on the superiority of one-on-one instruction. The new adaptive, computerized learning systems are moving dramatically in that direction.
The theory of tacit knowledge fits right in and offers theoretical support to these new learning systems. Check out some of the key features of tacit learning. One is the need for feedback to the student. After identifying some specific error in the conceptual mental makeup of the learner (deduced automatically by the program), the computer can assign the right kind of instructional experience to get the student passed their error in thinking. Tacit knowledge warns us that misconceptions are a severe barrier to forming the desired “tacit integration” and adaptive learning systems are well suited to overcoming those kinds of barriers. The self-paced nature of adaptive learning meets another requirement for formation of tacit knowledge which is the need for incubation time. The mind does not automatically form tacit integration’s on the schedule of a school system but when self-pacing is factored in that incubation time is allowed. I will be exploring how these adaptive learning programs aid in the formation of tacit knowledge further.