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Conference papers

Motivate learners and promote formal logic learning through primary knowledge

Abstract : School enables students to learn knowledge that is difficult to acquire by themselves or through simple social interactions (e.g., grammar rules, mathematics). Yet individual acquire knowledge outside school without special instructions (e.g., oral mother tongue, food identification, face recognition). The evolutionary approach to knowledge differentiates two types of knowledge: secondary knowledge (i.e., knowledge that appeared recently during the evolution of species) for which individuals must invest effort and time and primary knowledge (i.e., knowledge that appeared early in the evolution of species) that would be easily and rapidly acquired (Geary & Berch, 2016). Secondary knowledge requires a lot of investment and learners are rarely motivated to process it, whereas primary knowledge seems to be intrinsically motivating. Individuals would also be predisposed to be efficient when confronted with primary knowledge. In addition, secondary knowledge learning would be built on primary knowledge (e.g., learning to read (secondary knowledge) is based on sound segmentation (primary knowledge); learning numbers is based on magnitude approximation, etc.). Already acquired primary knowledge is often neglected in education precisely because it is no longer to be learned, but it could be an asset in promoting the acquisition of secondary knowledge (Castro-Alonso, Ayres & Paas, 2015; Kirschner, Paas & Kirschner, 2011; Lespiau & Tricot, 2018; Paas & Sweller, 2012; Roussel, Joulia, Tricot & Sweller, 2017). We hypothesize that the characteristics of primary knowledge, defined by the evolutionary approach, can foster individuals’ motivation, performance and involvement in a learning task that is not inherently engaging (learning normative rules of logic). In two experiments conducted with high school students (n=210), the task involved learning rules of formal logic (syllogisms) that can endorse different contents easily. In order to best pass a final test, participants had to train with problems whose content was unknown (to reduce the use of prior knowledge) and could be related to primary knowledge (rules about invented food and animals) or secondary knowledge (mathematics and fictitious grammar rules). The training phase was compulsory or left to learners’ choice. With a third experiment, participants (university students, n=227) were confronted with three phases: (i) a priming phase consisting of problems with primary or secondary knowledge contents, then (ii) a training phase consisting of secondary knowledge only and (iii) the final test. Results confirmed the positive influence of primary knowledge in a learning task: participants were more efficient, more motivated, more confident and experienced less cognitive load when confronted with primary knowledge compared to secondary knowledge. In particular, primary knowledge favored the involvement and persistence of learners in the training phase regardless of their personal characteristics (e.g., their wish to find the right answers or their achievement goals) unlike secondary knowledge. Finally, presenting primary knowledge first and then secondary knowledge was more efficient both in terms of performance and motivation. But, it would seem that presenting a new course directly "in the heart of the matter" (secondary knowledge) without going through a taming phase reduced performance and undermined individuals. However, contenting oneself with primary knowledge only would not be enough to learn and one would have to go through secondary knowledge for that. Finally, the evolutionary approach to knowledge would provide a framework for developing a way to present new content that is cost-efficient in keeping learners motivated, whatever their age or personal characteristics. This study argues in favor of a presentation that would first involve an introduction, even a short one, of primary knowledge to motivate and increase learning performance. Primary knowledge would have a universal positive influence, as evolutionary theory defined it, while for secondary knowledge would require effort and time to be learned and often a particular motivation. It would therefore seem interesting to rely on primary knowledge to motivate individuals and place them all on an equal basis, particularly in the context of a learning task. In the end, the study provides arguments in favor of teachers’ intuitive practices that use primary knowledge contents to reassure and interest students. Who hasn't started learning to count with candy or been introduced to fractions with pieces of cake?
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Conference papers
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Contributor : Florence Lespiau Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Wednesday, July 17, 2019 - 12:41:00 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, February 3, 2022 - 1:30:01 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-02186576, version 1



Florence Lespiau, André Tricot. Motivate learners and promote formal logic learning through primary knowledge. 18th Biennial conference of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction, Aug 2019, Aachen, Germany. ⟨hal-02186576⟩



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