Ann Leslie Brown (1943–1999) was an educational psychologist who developed methods for teaching children to be better learners. Her interest in the human memory brought Brown to focus on active memory strategies that would help enhance human memory and developmental differences in memory tasks. Her realization that children's learning difficulties often stem from an inability to use metacognitive strategies such as summarizing led to profound advances in educational psychology theory and teaching practices.
Brown received a PhD in psychology from the University of London for research on “Anxiety and Complex Learning Performance in Children.” She moved to the United States where she met her husband and collaborator Joseph Campione. Brown received several prestigious awards for her research and served as president of American Educational Research Association.
In the words of one fifth-grade student quoted by Palincsar (2003):
Ann Brown—she’s really very sophisticated. She knows a lot about a lot of things. It’s no wonder people picked her to be president of AERA. She’s good at organizing and she keeps track of all our work no matter how much we do. She spends a lot of time with kids. Yeah, that’s what I like. When she comes to school she spends time with the kids instead of the adults. She listens to make sure that we have learned. To tell you the truth, she really is a big help. She makes you feel so proud of yourself. You know, your self-confidence gets better.
Contributions in educational research
Through her research, Brown and her colleagues hypothesized that some metacognitive strategies, such as general problem solving routines like summarizing and self-testing, had advantages over other strategies i.e. mnemonic instruction. Instead of recalling relative meaningless material, studies moved towards connecting the material, which allowed Brown to move towards further research in text comprehension.
Brown was also instrumental in the development of the method of reciprocal teaching, in which teachers and students take turns leading structured discussions of text.
Fostering Community of Learners
Fostering Community of Learners (FCL) was a program launched by Brown along with her husband Joseph Campione at the University of California, Berkeley. The project was noted to be similar to earlier reform methods such as progressive education, and discovery learning. Critics questioned how Brown and Campione's project of FCL would differ from Dewey and perhaps succeed where Dewey did not. Brown and Campione assure that while the approaches to the FCL project are similar to Dewey's early works, there are also differences. The approach to the project was to create a program that met between the theories of discovery learning and didactic learning. According to Brown and Campione, discovery learning that was unguided could potentially be dangerous, while didactic study led to passive learners. Therefore Brown and Campione's approach of “guided discovery” was the middle ground between the two.
In FCL, students were encouraged to design their own learning through a curriculum they prepared themselves therefore acting as collaborative researchers. A teacher, or guide, is then responsible for modeling, fostering, and guiding the process of discovery into forms of disciplined examination. The project also utilized reciprocal teaching, which allowed students to study and share their expertise with a group and discuss material they have prepared themselves. The curriculum of a FCL classroom was a key feature to the program. Depending on the curricula, the classroom activity fostered various themes and unites that aided in the further development of the student. Biological themes included interdependence and adaptation while environmental science themes included balance, competition, and cooperation.
Through the Brown and Campione team, the FCL research enhanced the interaction between classroom and laboratory research. Research conducted in a laboratory allowed a better understanding of the developmental patterns demonstrated by children and in turn gave rise to classroom observations in which hypotheses could be systematically explore in relatively controlled environments.
Palincsar, A.S., & Brown, A.L. (1984). Reciprocal teaching of comprehension-fostering and comprehension-monitoring activities. Cognition and Instruction, 1(2), 117-175. (159 Citations, PsycINFO)
Brown, A.L. (1992). Design experiments: Theoretical and methodological challenges in creating complex interventions in classroom settings. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 2(2), 141-178. (147 Citations, PsycINFO)
Brown, A.L., & Campione, J.C. (1994). Guided discovery in a community of learners. In K. McGilly (Ed.), Classroom lessons: Integrating cognitive theory and classroom practice. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/Bradford Books.
Brown, A.L., & Campione, J.C. (1996). Psychological theory and the design of innovative learning environments: On procedures, principles, and systems. In L. Schauble & R. Glaser (Eds.), Innovations in learning: New environments for education (pp. 289–325). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Palincsar, A. S. (2003). Ann L. Brown: Advancing a theoretical model of learning and instruction. In B. J. Zimmerman and D. H. Schunk (Eds.), Educational psychology: A century of contributions, pp. 459–475. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Brown, A.L., & Campione, J.C. (1994). Guided discovery in a community of learners. In K. McGilly (Ed.), Classroom lessons: Integrating cognitive theory and classroom practice. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/Bradford Books.
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