Thursday, November 5, 2015

Knowledge Use is the "Why" of Retrieval Methodology

The post title is simply to point out that no discussion regarding educational goals is complete, without considering how knowledge use can be better applied in aggregate, for populations as a whole. Does anyone think that young students haven't figured out the true limits of today's workplace access, outside their classrooms? Otherwise, the daily newscasts of student/teacher/police brawls in the classrooms - something I never could have imagined as a young student - would make little sense at all.

No one is going to get anywhere with discussions regarding education, until students have better defined ways to make those educational years matter - otherwise everyone is wasting their time. Therefore, discussions regarding knowledge retrieval - for instance - matter well beyond the "hows" of signalling and personal success. Rather, retrieval as method should be part of the strategy for shifting to economies which can better accommodate the knowledge use investments of recent decades, on everyone's part.

In the knowledge use systems of local corporations, retrieval method would be central to the incremental growth which is time arbitrage. Because this form of time arbitrage would be symmetrically compensated (thus creating new time based product) it can be used for basic knowledge components alongside high skills value. In other words, repetition becomes a possibility for ongoing economic activity, instead of being mostly delegated to assistance from family and friends if one is "lucky" enough.

When time value is asymmetrically compensated, knowledge repetition is not always possible (economically), because repetition appears less important, than the knowledge which present institutions feel most compelled to compensate. In earlier posts for instance, I emphasized that (asymmetric) services formation in healthcare often defaults to "after the fact" or worst case scenarios (leaving little room for preventative maintenance) which require high skill levels. Even though today's healthcare institutions broadcast "one size fits all" preventative knowledge as advertisement, they have little (economic) room for the specific circumstance, which preventative maintenance actually needs.

Knowledge retrieval is more than just a useful strategy, for either educational purposes or present day workplace concepts. For instance, retrieval methods to regain productive habits, could assist the homeless who have lost the ability to maintain housing, despite the fact that housing assistance has been provided by a caring community. Anyone who would be reimbursed for assistance in this local capacity, would not be classified as for profit or not for profit - but simply part of ongoing local corporate activity.

Shane Parrish highlights some important aspects of retrieval (as method) from the book "Making It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning", and notes:
Francis Bacon and William James also wrote about this phenomenon. Retrieval makes things stick better than re-exposure to the original material. This is the testing effect.
Parrish continues:
Repeated retrieval not only makes memories more durable but produces knowledge that can be retrieved more readily, in more varied settings, and applied to a wider variety of problems. 
He also notes that testing need not be provided by the teacher, for students to gain from testing situations. When one hears complaints about testing, it helps to remember that too much testing hasn't appeared helpful because it has not translated into something that students can ultimately use.

Testing is most helpful, when knowledge is going to be utilized or otherwise applied to ongoing activities in the near future. Given the fact students in knowledge use systems would be compensated for helping other students with educational material, this gives an immediacy to what they learn, which otherwise might not exist. This process would generate a central component of local corporations: incremental ownership of skill, as one proceeds through educational and working environments. Fortunately, incremental ownership of skill would provide further credence to the value of testing, as well.

How might one think about these processes in terms of general IQ? Memorization and IQ are not so much the (observable) point of the matter, as whether or not one has a pragmatic environment of incremental ownership for knowledge retrieval. To what degree have present day institutions actually provided this? Not enough, as far as I am concerned. From the Amazon review for "Hive Mind", the new book from Garett Jones (which was highlighted by Tyler Cowen):
On average, people who do better on standardized tests are more patient, more cooperative, and have better memories. As a result, these qualities - and others necessary to take on the complexity of a modern economy - become more prevalent in a society as national test scores rise. What's more, when we are surrounded by slightly more patient, informed and cooperative neighbors we take on these qualities a bit more ourselves.
What needs to be considered regarding national averages for IQ levels, is the degree to which a nation's institutions actually provide room for knowledge use, for populations as a whole. Further, this is not something easily observable in statistics. Even so, we know plenty of circumstance where individuals are not particularly inclined to be cooperative and patient - cue the latest classroom brawl caught on someone's smartphone.

While the hive mind is quite real, it exists insofar as family formation and work formation are capable of generating these fortunate circumstance. However, more than familial or work circumstance are needed now to preserve knowledge use, particularly as long term economic growth threatens to stall. Knowledge use systems could provide the institutional capacity to expand - and preserve - what present day institutions are still struggling to make available, to those who seek economic entry.

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