David Salas and Camilo Olaya
Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia
Grupo de Investigación en Teoría de Sistemas en las Organizaciones TESO
Contact us: da-salas@uniandes.edu.co, colaya@uniandes.edu.co

Ver versión en español: Educación Seleccionista


Prevalent and established theories of education stand on Lamarckian ground since they presuppose that knowledge is transmitted from the environment to the organism. Here the premise is “learning”, that is, instruction, i.e. a passive process of combination, accumulation, and repetition in which knowledge is supposedly acquired stage-by-stage via cumulated inductive achievements; those theories also entail external agents that direct this evolution under an implicit notion of ‘progress’. However, following biology and cognitive science, a selectionist theory is a more plausible candidate for designing this process of acquisition, in this case, the growth of knowledge in a changing environment. We formulate a scheme for designing selectionist educational processes in the classroom; in short, education is conceived as a series of multilevel processes of free trials and error-elimination of unsuccessful responses. We implemented this proposal through ten class sessions in a Colombian school. We show that our scheme promotes in students problem-solving abilities, critical thinking, creativity, communication skills, and autonomous decision-making. Furthermore, and more important, we show that a natural selection of knowledge enhances educational processes in several ways: (i) Students become working and active agents that challenge preconceptions and external “authorities”. (ii) The role of teachers shifts from “instructors” to inventors of selectionist environments, e.g. the design of “selective pressures”. (iii) Our scheme questions the traditional imposition (i.e. transmission) of knowledge. (iv) It is consistent with what we know about man as product of biological evolution. (v) Finally, it promotes educational processes that work under the premise of freedom of thought.

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Piattelli-Palmarini, M. (1989). Evolution, Selection and Cognition: from "Learning" to parameter setting in Biology and in the Study of Language. Cognition, Vol. 31, 1-44.

Swann, J. (2008). Learning: An Evolutionary Analysis, in Educational Philosophy and Theory. Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia. Vol. 41, Issue 3. 256-269.


If you want to know more about selectionism in another knowledge process:
Click here to the research page of Camilo Olaya.



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