Friday, December 13, 2013

Mentoring and Learning

Researchers from the Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada compared the potential impact on learning between groups of participants who either observed one teacher only or who observed five teachers. The participants were asked to learn new skills (digital photo editing and knot-tying) and then pass on those new skills to the next “generation” of participants. There were some interesting results. For example participants who were given greater access to teachers (role models) accumulated significantly more skill than those with less access to teachers. Within ten “generations,” each member of the group with multiple mentors had stronger skills than did participants who were limited to a single mentor. Those with greater access to teachers also retained their skills much longer than groups who began with less access to mentors, sustaining higher levels of “cultural knowledge” over multiple generations. According to the researchers, the study has important implications for several areas, from skills development and education to protecting endangered languages and cultural practices.
Michael Muthukrishna et al., Sociality influences cultural complexity, Proceedings of the Royal Academy: Biological Sciences, 2013, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2511 (open access)

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