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Hardcover | Out of Print | 496 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 82 figs. illus. | June 2008 | ISBN: 9780262182638
Paperback | $35.00 Short | £27.95 | 496 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 82 figs. illus. | August 2010 | ISBN: 9780262515146
eBook | $24.00 Short | August 2010 | ISBN: 9780262253390
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Applying Cognitive Science to Education

Thinking and Learning in Scientific and Other Complex Domains


Many students find it difficult to learn the kind of knowledge and thinking required by college or high school courses in mathematics, science, or other complex domains. Thus they often emerge with significant misconceptions, fragmented knowledge, and inadequate problem-solving skills. Most instructors or textbook authors approach their teaching efforts with a good knowledge of their field of expertise but little awareness of the underlying thought processes and kinds of knowledge required for learning in scientific domains. In this book, Frederick Reif presents an accessible coherent introduction to some of the cognitive issues important for thinking and learning in scientific or other complex domains (such as mathematics, science, physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, or expository writing).

Reif, whose experience teaching physics at the University of California led him to explore the relevance of cognitive science to education, examines with some care the kinds of knowledge and thought processes needed for good performance; discusses the difficulties faced by students trying to deal with unfamiliar scientific domains; describes some explicit teaching methods that can help students learn the requisite knowledge and thinking skills; and indicates how such methods can be implemented by instructors or textbook authors. Writing from a practically applied rather than predominantly theoretical perspective, Reif shows how findings from recent research in cognitive science can be applied to education. He discusses cognitive issues related to the kind of knowledge and thinking skills that are needed for science or mathematics courses in high school or colleges and that are essential prerequisites for more advanced intellectual performance. In particular, he argues that a better understanding of the underlying cognitive mechanisms should help to achieve a more scientific approach to science education.

About the Author

Frederick Reif is Emeritus Professor of Physics and Education at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, Berkeley.


“Challenging. Illuminating. Rewarding. A masterpiece of organization and clarity… a privilege to read.”—American Biology Teacher
“An excellent example of the contributions that scientists, provided they are willing to cross some disciplinary boundaries, can make to solving important real-life problems.... a veritable gold mine for all those who teach physics or mathematics at high-school or college level. They will find introductory questions for activating students' prior knowledge about standard curricular content as well as stimulating ideas for engaging students in meaningful activities, e.g., through reciprocal teaching or written self-explanations. However, the book's merits go far beyond practical advice. A broad range of academics will find Applying Cognitive Science to Education intellectually stimulating.”—Science


“In this book, Frederick Reif has created a rich and practical synthesis of knowledge about thinking, with fascinating examples and implications for teaching. Like much of his earlier work, this is a 'must read' both for serious educational scholars and for anyone interested in learning how to teach science and math more effectively.”
Edward F. Redish, University of Maryland
“This book offers a comprehensive framework for reasoning systematically about the complex issues of thinking, learning, and teaching. Through thought-provoking examples, Reif illustrates how this framework can be applied in science and math education, in engineering education, in reading, and even in everyday performance. This is a significant contribution toward bridging the gap between learning and teaching, a problem that challenges educators all over the world.”
Bat-Sheva Eylon, Department of Science Teaching, Weizmann Institute of Science
“This book provides a wonderful overview and introduction to the important role that cognitive science can play in improving science education generally and physics education specifically. It would be extremely useful for all physics professors and teachers, and could be used as a text for physics education research courses for physics graduate students.”
Alan Van Heuvelen, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Rutgers University