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Marc Gold: Format for Single Pieces of Learning

Marc Gold began his career as a special education teacher in Los Angeles. It was there that he formulated a values based systematic training approach, "Try Another Way." This approach was based on a few fundamental beliefs: Everyone can learn but we have to figure out how to teach; students with developmental disabilities have much more potential than anyone realizes; and all people with disabilities should have the opportunity to decide how to live their lives. These video segments demonstrate his philosophy, and the respect and value he placed on the abilities of each of his students.

Format for Single Pieces of Learning

In the film on Content Task Analysis, we emphasized the importance of the task. It was pointed out that a thorough understanding of what makes up the task itself is perhaps the most basic information for being able to train someone who is difficult to train.

Once that's understood the second major chunk is process, and that is how do you teach the content? Process divides into two sub categories. Format and feedback. Format has to do with how you lay the information, how you lay the pieces out.

For this film, we're going to talk about a certain kind of piece of information, what we call single pieces of learning. We mean which nut goes along with this nut driver? That's a single piece of learning. What's the answer to this problem?

(Marc holds up a flashcard with 9x5=?)

That's a single piece of learning.  The answer to this problem is another single piece of learning.

(He holds up another multiplication flashcard)

But it's a different one. They're related because we say they are, but they really stand alone. Knowing which sock is going to go with this sock is a single piece of learning it may be more or less complicated as we'll discuss a little later by what else is available to pick from but that stands by itself.

Now let's talk bout some formats. Perhaps the simplest format is one where you show the person what's correct. You say that's the one. That's correct. Then you say, which one is it? He has something to fall back on, something to help him with, and he makes a decision, he makes a guess and of course you can verify it.

A slight modification of that is where you show him, and say which one is correct? Without having first told him and then over the course of several trials, of several times through, you say, if he points to this one, you say well try again. Try again, and that's a slightly more difficult problem. So that's just a simple discrimination problem with two variations.

Another possibility for format for single pieces of learning is the paired associate problem. That's a fancy name for it but it's something that we know very commonly for instance with flashcards. The idea of a pair is that this goes with this. Paired associate learning is where you show the person one thing and he tries to remember the other.

I can say to you, "What is 5 x 9?", and you say, "I don't know", and I say, "It's 45." And maybe I show you several them in a row, and I come back and I get again, 9 x 5, and I say, "What is it?", and you say, "45?" Well, yes it is. You have now paired two associations, two things together. So that's another format for presenting these kinds of information.

Another kind is what we call a match to sample problem. With match to sample problems you now enter into a more complicated but also much, much, more flexible way of teaching things.

I brought my laundry along here, and it really is. I just washed these this morning. Let's say that I have to fold socks. And I go in and I find this one, which happens to be my daughter's sock. And I say, "Which one of these is like this one?" And I go through and I look at different ones.

Well this isn't too hard a problem because she's the only one in the family that has to keep each individual toe warm. So that's an easy problem.

But what if I had this sock as my problem? (holds up a plain brown sock) And I would select then from among them the problem begins to get more difficult because there's one, two, three, four, five, different socks I can choose. As a matter of fact I picked the wrong one because the answer to this isn't even in this pile. So if I pick this one and get myself back on the right track I could go through and find the correct one.

With a match to sample problem what you do is you show the person a problem like the one where you show them the answer and then you present in front of them several alternatives including the right answer.

If I was to set up a rather clear description of that I might have this as the problem which one of these is like this one? What I was trying to show before and I really can't show it as well as I might be able to, is how you can control for the level of difficulty of the distracters, the distracters being the wrong one.

Let's say that this was the problem. Now you see that I have greatly reduced the available information to you for solving this problem. Now the colors aren't very much different than one another. And you don't have fuzziness over here, and length over here, it's a lot smaller in terms of the discriminations you have to make. This particular procedure lends itself very nicely to teaching people to make increasingly sophisticated discriminations.

Oddity is another format that really is sort of a negative match to sample. It has a lot in common with a match to sample procedure but in this case, you're trying to eliminate the one that does not belong. The particular things I'm using here are very interesting. These problems can be right in two possible directions but you can't have one without the other. I'm going to use this oddity problem and Jeanette is going to help me to show some of the kinds of things that you can do. So let's start out here. 
Jeanette, which one of these doesn't belong?

Jeanette: That one.

Marc: Alright.

(He continues with 3 more pictures, she answers correctly to all of them.)

Marc: Now I'm going to try something a little different. We have color responding. I'm going to try now to see if I can shift to form responding. You'll see what I mean here. Again he asks which one doesn't belong.

Jeanette:  The brown.

Marc: Try a different one. Point to the one that doesn't belong. Point to a different one that doesn't belong. This one's a different shape. Which one doesn't belong? Try it. Try another one. That's the one. Which one doesn't belong? Good. Which one doesn't belong? Right. Which one doesn't belong? Right. Listen you did a really very fine job on this, and helped us show something that needs to be shown.

Here's some things that we couldn't show with these particular plates here. For instance, how to teach category. Now there was a categorical thing here in terms of trying to pick the form category as the one to look at, but we could use for instance, pictures of cats and dogs for teaching certain things. Instead of having two identical cats and then a dog, where you pick the dog as the odd one, we could use two different cats, pictures of two different cats, so people could begin to learn categories. It's very flexible. 

Another thing about match to sample problems and oddity problems that make them very, very useful is they teach generalizations. And that is, in this particular problem, this one was rejected. But not because + is no, it's because in this particular problem, + is the one that doesn't belong so that people learn in match to sample problem, I look for the one like this one no matter what one this is, and that's a very important part of this kind of learning.

We've looked at a number of different formats for single pieces of learning. We started out with something very simple.  This is the right one, which one goes along with it? 

Then we went to paired associate. Match to sample. Oddity. Now let's take a look at a couple of considerations for using those different formats. The first one is what we call simultaneous versus successive presentation. At least that's what the people who use fancy words call them.

When we say simultaneous presentation we mean everything's in front of you at once. Remember when we had the socks on the table, we had the one that we wanted out there and we had all the other ones to pick from out there. That's simultaneous.

Successive is where you see the one that you're supposed to have, and then it's put aside and you look through for others one at a time and make a yes/no decision.

Let me show you what I mean, and I'll use the socks again, and you'll see that it's a more difficult problem. I just happen to have my socks with me here. Here's the sock. That's the sample. Get a good look at it now, because that's the one you're going to try to pick. Okay? Now, I'm taking it away from you. So that it isn't out there to make comparison. Let's see what I can find. Yes or no?

(Marc holds up a different black sock)

Is that the same sock? No, get rid of it.
Try another one. Is that the same one? Look very closely. You can see as well as I can, you can see that this is really blue not black like the other one was, and this has ribbing. Wrong one.

Let's see what else. Oh no that's not the right one. Be careful what I take out of my pocket here. Okay, what about this one? That's the one. But in order for you to know that, and here I'll show you, we set this up so we'd know, that's the right sock. That's a different problem than if they were all laid out in front of you.

When you're teaching the various things that you want to teach, this is the way I do it. When you teach the various things that you want to teach, remember that when it's all out there at the same time it's a simpler problem, and if you want to move the person to complicated problems depending on a particular task, you might move through simultaneous into successive problems.

The other issue that I want to bring up is described as the difference between recognition, and recall. Recognition again is where somebody says, here it is, which one is it? Versus saying, which one is it? 

Let me tell you what I mean. Let's say that, let's say that you're at a party. You're standing with a friend, and you say to you friend, 'Say, who's that young lady over there in the blue dress?'  And your friend says, 'Her name is um, oh, ahh,…' And you say, 'Well it's either Evelyn or Margie.' And he says, 'Margie! That's it!' Well that's recognition.

In other words, even though you had it in there, until somebody put the alternatives in front of you, you couldn't get it out. That's where you recognized. On the other hand if you look at the person over there, and you say, "What's her name?" and he says, "Oh it's um, oh begins with a B. Um, Rhona! That's it!" and you say, "Oh okay."

To pull it out of there when nothing was laid out in front of you is recall. That's a whole different kind of information, different kind of an issue. Well I guess that pretty much covers it for this film, and most of the things we wanted to discuss here so, if you'll excuse me.

You thought this was the end of the movie didn't you? But it's not. We still have a problem. A simultaneous problem. (signs reading  "men"  "women") Which one, with both of them here to choose? It's a simple solution, but maybe I should try another way. So I will try this way.

(a sign reads Gentlemen)

But this is a different problem. Maybe there's another one I can pick from I can't, I can't decide alone here. Let me try something.

Ohhh. (Marc points to a sign that reads Ladies) Oh, let's see I think I remember what was back there, and so this is a successive problem. And I know better than to go here because there's ladies in there. So I'll come back over here. Where was I? Oh wait a minute. This is yet another problem. Here I know; no other signs to help me. I have to decide, yes or no. Go, no go. And so I'm going to go.

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