Before we start talking about them, let’s try to clarify what intuitive theories are. A child before entering school is not a blank mind, before beginning to study the child has already created a series of theories that explain their reality , these are the intuitive theories.
Now, how are these intuitive theories of the child? These theories are not based on an exhaustive analysis of reality, quite the opposite. The intuitive theories are based on a quick reasoning of the perception of their reality. And constitute the common sense of the child. An example of them may be that the child thinks that the earth is flat.
Being created by common sense, these theories are incorrect or very imprecise. If we want children to really learn what reality is like. We must break away from these intuitive theories and replace them with those that explain the facts correctly. This looks like school work. But does the school take care of this, does it really fulfill this function?
Although I have proposed intuitive theories from the perspective of childhood. These are formed and exist throughout our lives. Whenever an event occurs, be it physical, social, political … that escapes our knowledge, our brain generates a theory that explains it through our common sense. A common sense that is often wrong or imprecise to unravel large phenomena, which does not mean that it is a vital aid in everyday life.
The intuitive theories and the school
Here we have a problem, our educational system plans the classes as if the students were passive subjects. For the school the students are empty glasses that they have to fill with knowledge. However, this is not the case: the student is like a plant that has to be watered so that it grows freely.
First, let’s talk about why the school sees students as empty glasses. If we go to a typical class we will find about 20 or 30 students sitting in front of a teacher who explains, with the support of a blackboard. A series of contents that students will have to memorize and then translate them into an exam. In this didactic model. It is obvious that students are only passive subjects of learning: their only task is to listen to the teacher and do what he says.
The passive situation of the students causes that they do not reach a deep comprehension of the contents. They simply memorize literally what the teacher exposes them. Therefore, in this situation, what will happen if a student has an erroneous intuitive theory and receives the information. The one that would help her to break with her, passively? The answer is that the student would continue to believe in his intuitive theory while maintaining the correct theory in his head, even if they are contradictory.
Two contradictory theories in the same head
How is it possible for the student to keep two contradictory theories in his head at the same time? This is because by not achieving a deep understanding of the correct theory, the student ignores the existing contradictions with his intuitive theory. When the student is in the school environment and the teacher asks him, he will go to his memory and respond with the correct theory. However, when a problem arises in a real situation, he will go to his intuitive theory, which is where he really believes.
To understand this we can do a little exercise, I want you to spend a moment thinking about the next question, if we jump very high upwards while climbing an escalator , in which step do we land: in the same one we were in, in the previous one? or in the later?
Intuition tells us that when jumping, we remain in the air while the ladder continues to rise, so we will land on the next step; but this is wrong, Newton’s law of inertia tells us that any moving body stays in motion while the resultant of forces on it is zero, therefore we would land on the same step. Since we would maintain the movement. The speed on corresponding axis- of the ladder during the jump.
If you have answered the question I congratulate you. If you have failed do not worry. Problems of this type were asked recently graduated students in Physics , in an investigation carried out by the psychologist J. Clement, and 88% of them gave a wrong answer.
Here we have a test of how the students, although they can do complicated physics exercises perfectly using the theories they learned during the race, when they are asked a question outside the academic field they ignore their intuitive theories.
Is there a solution to this problem?
The solution to succeed the theories that explain reality. Correctly is to achieve a deep understanding of the facts that falsify the intuitive theories for the same phenomenon. Unfortunately, the current educational system is not able to achieve a legitimate learning of knowledge because. It ignores the student as an active agent of their own learning.
To achieve a deep understanding and rejection of these erroneous theories. The classroom should be a place for debate where students can expose their theories. And with the help of the teacher adjust them to bring them closer to the correct theory of the facts.