Classic Education: A Learners’ View (ALV) of Choices during Teaching and Learning

A Learners’ View (ALV) Is Of Choices On The Shortest And Fastest Path To Learning, The Oxygen Of Social Life.


Last Edited: January 1, 2018

Theme of this Site: The science of teaching-learning as social processes, and their uses to accelerate, increase, and deepen (AID) learning promptly and sometimes dramatically, thereby increasing life-chances of learners.

Nicknames for a Learners’ View (ALV) of learning: Two-Dots Learning (TDL) and Dot-Choice-Dot Learning (DCDL).

Science Simplifies Teaching-Learning into Essential Social Processes.

Connect The DotsWHILE CONDUCTING A MEETING, Thelma Thurston coughed slightly, just enough for dots of primary colors to scatter across her desk. She was updating one of her widely used school tests of Primary Mental Abilities published by Science Research Associates. Without missing a beat as we talked, she reassembled the loose dots and glued them into their places on a paper on which she had sketched circles, lines, and text.

While seeing her work, I remembered taking her tests and using worksheets similar to those tests in school. Without realizing it, I chose to miss then and during the meeting the relevance of what she was doing.

The relevance was hidden behind assumptions as well as professional vocabulary, practices, and speculations about the nature of teaching, learning, and life. They distracted me for decades from seeing more basic processes of teaching and learning than mental (cognitive) abilities and emotions. Looking back now at that meeting, Thurston was managing, from a learners’ view (ALV), two fundamental ingredients of teaching and learning: dots and lines. They represent social processes learners use while adopting and adapting the vocabulary and logic (sometimes called principles or rules) that the most accomplished people use to live in and out of schools.

In her own way, she was doing as mothers of that era had said to their children. “Walk directly to school. Don’t dawdle. Then walk directly home after school. Don’t let something distract you along the way.” Mothers used words like home and school for dots and “don’t dawdle” to indicate the shortest and fastest line between the two.

Thurston’s tests and workbooks contained problems simplified to dots and lines graded into levels of difficulty. Technically, she used dots and lines to instruct and assess people’s ability (sometimes called intelligence) to solve increasingly more difficult problems without changing the kinds of dots and lines. Each level included an increased complexity of problem solving by changing the arrangement of colored dots and logic needed to solve those problems. Such tools also appeared with more difficult  (more complex) problems when words and other symbols and signs replaced the dots and lines.

Students practiced solving these problems following lessons that showed and told them efficient ways to solutions. Problems were variations of those identified by L.L. Thurston (Thelma’s husband) and colleagues as generic to the construction and use of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale (1937/1960). David Wechsler used similar logic to assemble the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) (1949). I had worked, as part of a team, with Samuel A. Kirk as he followed similar patterns to revise the experimental edition of the Illinois Test of Psycholinguistics Abilities (1961).  During this same decade, Howard Gardner, Lloyd Dunn, and others were also developing ways to measure learning and the capacity of people to learn. Generations of successor test developers and teachers have followed version of these patterns. Psychologists in and out of schools continue to use such tests to assess impacts of teaching on ways learners solve problems. They label their efforts as featuring what they infer as cognitive skills.

These inferences are based on observations of social actions of people in regular and in experimental conditions. Inferences miss the obvious, the system of dots and lines used to speculate about the unseen. What are observable are showing students how to connect dots, and then to assess teacher influences of lessons on the effectiveness and efficiency of learners to solve life’s problems.

During that era, this rules-based approach, grounded in experimental research, faced challenges. Educators and their supporters sometimes created and other times responded to legal and political changes in schools. These included requiring non-segregated free appropriate education for all children including children from minority ethnic and cultural groups as well as children with disabilities (then labeled as handicapped).

Educators have pursued such noble goals before and after they changed into social imperatives. These movements brought rapid changes in vocabulary about schooling and their uses during teaching and learning. For example, one movement known originally as people-first insisted on changing descriptions of students from handicapped people to people with disabilities. These movements paralleled other human and civil rights initiatives. Together, they changed a focus in and out of schools from descriptions of teaching and learning to discussions about schools and schooling.

Such changes disrupted the use of simple lessons by replacing them with programs without broad experimental empirical research grounding. Instead of instructing learners how to connect two dots, new programs relied on chance to match teaching and learning, as through “projects” and “cooperative learning groups”. These appear to be grounded in political preferences rather than in results of experimental behavioral and social science research.

Since this disruption, educators and their supporters seldom cite or refer to major experimental research that resulted in descriptions of learning during teaching over 1,000,000 public school students as subjects by over 1,000 teachers of these students for multiple years. In addition, probably over 1,000 uncounted additional controlled studies occurred in laboratories, clinics, homes, and work settings. Results were routinely published in peer reviewed journals for others to critique and try to replicate. Eight or more of each 10 students learned lessons teachers taught. Higher proportions of learners learned lessons in settings other than schools. These studies, plus others before and after this era ground ALV in descriptions of results from teaching and learning in experimental behavioral and social science research reports. Few if any scientific studies have refuted these findings with similar or higher proportions of students learning lessons.

FROM A LEARNERS’ VIEW (ALV) OF LEARNING, learning is choosing ways to connect two dots, that is, to solve a problem. Dots consist of vocabulary and connecting them occurs through choices. On this site, we attempt to delineate the sources and uses of this theme by describing a learners’ view of learning as representing choices that experimental behavioral and social scientists (including the Thurston’s and others) have described learners making while learning.

ALV uses a social prism to describe what is common across differences in human learning and instruction. It uses a vocabulary that describes learning as occurring through social processes. That is, through interaction between at least two people as the smallest unit of analysis. In this sense, learning is observable, measurable, and manageable routinely. ALV describes choices learners make from among a finite set of active ingredients in lessons.

This prism displays ways to distribute learning beyond results from programs that assume variations in mental performance and abilities. This is a paradigm shift away from systems based on classifying people. Elements of this shift exist in teaching and electronic communication technologies. They foretell of still more efficient means to accelerate, increase, and deepen (AID) learning promptly, and sometimes dramatically. ALV represents and supports experimental research based systems of teaching and learning that gives priority to ways for learning anything, anytime, anywhere by anyone with and without educators.     More     Then Read Next


  1. A Learners’ View (ALV)
  2. A Learners’ View (ALV) One Lesson: Introduction
  3. Grounded Research
  4. See and Hear ALV (a Learners’ View) in a Lesson
  5. Terman, L. and Merrill, M. (1937/1960). Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale. Cambridge, MA: The Riverside Press.
  6. Thurstone, L.L. (1936). Primary Mental Abilities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  7. Thurstone, L. L. & Thurstone, T. G. (1941). The Chicago Tests of Primary Mental Abilities, for Ages 11-17. Chicago: Science Research Associates.
  8. Thurstone, T.G. & Thurstone, L.L. (1951). Thurstone Test of Mental Alertness. Chicago: Science Research Associates.
  9. Where Learning Occurs

Before a Learners’ View (ALV)

  1. Acknowledgments
  2. Preface
  3. Preview
  4. Task of Scientist Studying Teaching and Learning
  5. Trail to a Learners’ View (ALV) of Learning

Related Reading

  1. A Learners’ View (ALV) of Teaching and Learning in One Lesson
  2. A Learners’ View (ALV) of the Great Social Commission for Education
  3. ALV (a Learners’ View) in a Nutshell
  4. Behind Classic Education: A Learners’ View (ALV) of Choices during Teaching and Learning.
  5. Case for a Learners’ View (ALV) of Learning
  6. Interviews and Conversations about Applying a Learners’ View (ALV)
  7. Note to Readers
  8. Technical-Scientific Literacy of Educators (TSLE)
  9. Two Dot Learning (TDL)