Can learning be taught? Or is it something that simply happens or doesn’t? Feuerstein believed that anyone could increase their ability to learn using human mediation. He distinguished between direct and indirect learning and what that meant for the learner’s ability to understand new information. After careful observation, he developed his method of dynamic assessments and cognitive intervention. Read on to find out about his method in more detail.
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Intelligence is not a fixed trait, because anyone, regardless of age, background, or disability can improve their cognitive capacity. The key for that to happen successfully is human mediation.
This idea is based on the theory of Reuven Feuerstein, a psychologist who was working with children arriving as immigrants in Israel from North African communities in the 1950s. To determine their school placement, the children were subjected to a series of assessments, including IQ tests.
During the assessments, Feuerstein noticed that while some children learned a new task very easily, others didn’t. Under closer examination, he realized that the first group was raised in environments that favored the transmission of local culture from generation to generation. In other words, their minds had received an adequate amount of mediated learning experience. The second group was deprived of their original culture and didn’t experience such natural learning.
Direct and Indirect Learning
Feuerstein then developed his method and began to distinguish two types of learning: direct and indirect. Children who only experience direct learning, may never reach their full potential. Kids who also learn indirectly, can.
To help the children who were deprived of indirect learning experiences, mediation comes in. The mediator curates the learning journey, selects meaningful materials, sparks the child’s curiosity, and provides comfort and feedback.
Gradually the child then internalizes this guided experience and becomes capable of self-mediation that enhances the direct learning. In other terms, mediation strengthens the cognitive modifiability and as a result, the child will learn more effectively — which is the essence of intelligence.
Dynamic assessment and cognitive intervetion
Based on these findings, Feuerstein developed a dynamic assessment of our cognitive progress and a program of cognitive intervention.
The dynamic assessment focuses on measuring someone’s learning potential based on the progress they have made as a result of mediation.
The cognitive intervention program provides children and adults with books, tools and materials that enhance their problem-solving skills. This method is also known as instrumental enrichment.
The Feuerstein method today
Feuerstein continued to work with hundreds of children and was able to document dramatic improvements in the ability among those who received intensive mediation of cognitive strategies. Even children who were considered unteachable eventually made it to mainstream schools or universities.
Today, tens of thousands have been taught using Reuven Feuerstein’s methods. For educators, he left the following advice: “If you are not prepared to look at your pupil’s strengths, don’t touch their weaknesses.”
What do you think?
What are your thoughts? Do you trust that anyone can increase their intelligence and become a better learner? To learn more about the method visit our website or reach out to the people from the Feuerstein Institute, which continues the work of its founder to this day.
Learn more about the 12 main aspects of mediation here.
Bring the Feuerstein method into your classroom with this guide on instrumental enrichment activities.