Formal Education Versus Everyday Learning

  • Jan J. Elshout
Conference paper
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (volume 84)


Educational philosophy seems to be locked into a pendular motion, in some periods favoring rational formal schooling as its ideal, then swinging to the position that the best of learning is to be found in everyday life. When the latter position is in the ascendance, stress is laid on what formal education does not accomplish and, on the other hand, on the wonderful feats of learning, transfer and performance we may see of persons of who we would not have expected them; not expected, that is, if we take the view that excellence can only result from a transfusion of well designed knowledge from the outside. When, again, formal schooling is in favor, the stress is laid on the beauty of the efficient mass production of knowledgeable people, freed of the ignorance and the irrationality persons left to their own devices are forced to succumb to. One may ask of what energies this swinging motion feeds (e.g. why do we periodically have outbursts of research on the question, whether two learn better than one?). My suggestion is, that it is the combination of the attractiveness with the inconsistency of both positions that makes us feel the tug of the pendulum whenever we get too much committed to one of them. The attractiveness beckons from afar, while to see the inconsistency one has to come close up. Our overall conclusion will be, especially as research on intelligent tutoring systems is concerned, that a pendulum is not a good compass.


Decontextualization Transfer 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan J. Elshout
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of PsychologyUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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