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Conceptual Coordination - How the Mind Orders Experience in Time


reviewed by Clyde Winters - 2001

coverTitle: Conceptual Coordination - How the Mind Orders Experience in Time
Author(s): William J. Clancey
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Mahwah, NJ
ISBN: 0805831436, Pages: 432, Year: 1999
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W. J. Clancey's Conceptual Coordination: How the Mind Orders Experience in Time, is an interesting book on the way we learn, that has important implications for education. This book written in a popular style explains how the mind orders concepts that form the basis of behavior.

Conceptual Coordination is divided into three sections. The first part of the book discusses the role of memory in learning.

In section two, Clancey describes how humans acquire consciousness. Here we discover that the brain is analogous to a lightening rod, waiting to be excited into action by one's interaction with the environment. As a result, Clancey acknowledges that "experience is not merely something experienced, but the coordinated activity of a conscious agent" (p.110). Clancey's view of learning recognizes that a person's social experiences not only frame their persona, but also coordinate the actions that make us who and what we are.

In part three of Conceptual Coordination, Clancey explains his theory that the brain is like a coloring book with numerous and interesting designs inside, waiting to be colored in by the owner of the book. This analogy seeks to convey the perception by Clancey that the brain's architecture has all the ingredients within it to make us human, yet the behaviors that make us human are not static; through interaction with the environment they can surface in myriad possible ways. This means that the neural structures informed by our social experiences are generative of the individual's future behaviors/experiences that have context only from what we have previously learned.

In Conceptual Coordination we discover that human learning depends on WIDN ("what I am doing now") behavior rather than a (neural) script already encoded in the brain waiting passively to be activated when we learn. Through numerous examples from the fields of psychology and neural science we learn from Clancey that there is a dynamic reconstruction of knowledge when we learn. This is in sharp contrast to the AI model of intelligence, which suggests that the brain is hard wired for selected behaviors retrieved from our long term memory during episodes of learning.

In Conceptual Coordination, Clancey makes it clear that learning is the result of purposeful activity. In other words we learn when there is interaction between (peers, books) the natural and classroom environments, and stored chunks of knowledge in our long-term memory. This schema becomes a neural map, which we use to interpret and perfect new and old behaviors.

I highly recommend Conceptual Coordination; it is concisely written and contains the latest information on learning. Clancey has made it clear that learners reconstruct knowledge whenever they are engaged in any learning experience. This reality explains why novel learning experiences in communities of learning, problem based learning and constructivism have proven to be effective teaching methods in contemporary schools.

It is these learning situations where students are active and engaged learners creating their own knowledge.



Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 103 Number 1, 2001, p. 46-47
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10586, Date Accessed: 1/18/2022 5:41:42 PM

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