Five Popular Posts Of The Month

Friday, November 10, 2017

When reforms are due, too much of experience may be as bad as too little of it.

Charity OR investments? Can $$ billions reform education? Inventors/innovators: nature or nurture? Is thinking even teachable?
When reforms are due, having too much of experience in the field may be as bad as having too little of it.
Recently, all type of news outlets informed about new $1.7 billion initiative of Mr. Bill Gates.
In his speech Mr. Gates said: “We will let people come to us with the set of approaches they think will work for them in their local context.”
Everyone who dreams of changing education should keep it mind - it is not about money per se, it is about how to use those money. For example, it is a well-known fact that many countries whose kids are at the top of the list in STEM spend much less per a pupil than U.S.

BTW: even in politics the amount of money does not guarantee the result! 
Reforming education of a large country is not an ordinary problem.
One cannot solve an extraordinary problem using standard means.
New type of solutions start from rethinking the old paradigm. It requires time, effort, imagination, and willingness to reject well-established views.
In times like that people with well-established views may become an impedance, an obstacle.

Some of the most amazing breakthroughs in business have been done by the outsiders in the field, or by the people on the fringe. Everyone can offer many examples, but my personal favorite is Netflix, because it also demonstrates the devastating effect of a short-vision (a.k.a. Blockbuster). A searcher for a new paradigm should attract, embrace, be looking specifically for people which views are outside of the mainstream opinions. There is however a methodological problem – in the flow of ideas pouring down from all over the world, how to separate strange/unusual/counter-intuitive but promising ideas from truly foolish/crazy/irrational ones? There is no scientific answer to this question. However, what usually helps is looking at the professional or personal history of the author (there are different approaches based on the Activity Theory, which in part have been used in education:
“In my whole life, I have known no smart people” who didn't question themselves. My best teachers and mentors deliberately demonstrated that they did not know everything, and taught us how to deal with our limitations. Logical disagreements were embraced. A good teammate should have been smarter that we were! Inside the team, when with each other, we were as open as it was possible (but when needed to defend the team, we would present the united front). I believe, in any professional field, this type of professional relationship is the most fruitful for a team aiming at making a breakthrough.
People with well-established views may become an impedance, an obstacle, but people with no knowledge in the field may be pushing towards disastrous actions. How to solve this conundrum?
Well,searching for solutions of a new type always starts from rethinking the old paradigm, which starts from reading, and writing, and talking with each other. However, it is not about being different from others, it is about accepting a possibility of being wrong; it is not about convincing others to agree with you, it is about asking others to find mistakes in your own thinking - people with such an attitude make the most creative teams. 
Please, read some of the posts indicated below, and feel free to point at all the mistakes you find in them, as well as in this post!
In my reflection on "Backpack Full of Cash":
I write: “speaking about Bill Gates and other billionaires trying to reform education; the biggest problem they have (among many other) is how other people perceive them. For many people Bill Gates (for example) is (a) a guru and they take his every word without any doubt; or (b) a nice-to-hangout-with-celebrity; or (c) simple a "cash cow" who is "always right" as long as he gives money. I would like to ask Mr. Gates, how many times since his installation of his foundation, after giving a speech he would heard back: "No, that's not gonna work"? (an example of a conversation with a mogul:”
Mr. Gates wants to achieve drastic changes in education as a whole.
When a large system experiences a systemic change, a physicist calls it “a phase transition”.
If the system is social, the systemic change is called “a revolution”.
Like phase transitions in physics, social revolutions also have different types; not all of them are bloody (fortunately!); but all of them follow a similar pattern.
In order for a transition to happen, a system needs to pass through at least two distinctive stages:
1. The old state of a system should be weakened in some sense (which depends on the system); usually there is at least one parameter – the transition parameter (like, magnetization, or core beliefs), such that the all parts of the system had the same value of that parameter, but now different parts of the system can have different values, which also change in time (one says that the system exhibits strong fluctuations in its order – in space and in time). This stage is defined as the stage when the chaos in the system increases.
For a social system, such stage may be seen as reached, when people in many different cities and towns begin sporadically (a.k.a. randomly, chaotically) gather together to express themselves, to demonstrate their dislike or demand, or support to some ideas or people (often, completely incoherent, or even opposite).
However, the presence of the chaotic stage does notguaranty the presence of a transition to a new state.
For example, “Occupy Wall Street” did not lead to any structural change, neither social, nor political.
2. To finish the transition into a new state, the system has to undergo through another stage, when a new ordered state is emerged from the previously chaotically disturbed state. That means that all parts of the system should achieve a new stable state with a new – but the same for all parts of the system – value of the transition parameter.
There are two possible outcomes: the transition to a new state may not happen, and the transition to a new state may happen. However, there are four possible final stages.
(a) The transition did not happen – the system as a whole goes back to the original state (“Occupy Wall Street”).
(b) The transition did not happen – some parts of the system may go back to the original state; other parts may transit to a new state (or states; e.g. dissolution of USSR).
(c) The transition happened due local interactions, which led to local correlations, i.e. when neighboring parts of a system gradually balanced out with each other; this process usually is very long.
(d) The transition happened due to global correlations, e.g. due to an external field (“mass medium”, or “mass media”) applied to the whole system at the same time (watch a short video for an example:
In his speech, Bill Gates repeated the general sentiment of every philanthropist: “The role of philanthropy … is … to fund pilots, to fund new ideas, to let people … try them out and see what really works super well and get those to scale.”
This approach is not new, it has been used for decades, and so far,
it has not led to systemicchanges in education.
The reason for not leading to a systemic change is that this approach does not go further than the first stage. This approach helps to create a “chaotic” state, when people at different locations can try different ideas.
Which is great!
But this approach does not lead to a formation of a new state.
Which is completely different from another big Gates’ projects, like eradicating poliomyelitis.
The difference is simple.
One project leads to a transition from a clear state “the world with polio”, to a clear state “the world without polio.”
The goal is tough, difficult to achieve, but measurable.
On the contrary, the “goal” of
“Every student should get a great public education and graduate with skills to succeed in the marketplace”
is not measurable.
This statement does not describe a goal; it describes a wish, a dream.
Having a dream, a vision, is great! A dream helps to establish a general direction for the future actions.
One can see a big shift in Gates’ approach to reforming education; from pouring millions into charter schools and essentially abandoning regular public schools, he finally turns to public education as a whole, which means he acknowledges the core role of public schools.
However, he does not know yet what specifically does he want to achieve. The hope is, that in the pursuit of the dream, the view of the goal will be gradually becoming clearer and clearer.
Gates is not alone in his fuzziness on the path to the new state of educational system. All other philanthropists use their money in exactly same way as he is: i.e. supporting local initiatives.
They give generously via or to different charities.
But they do not investtheir money into large scale educational projects.
Because they do not know how to state a specific goal.
Because they do not know how to assess if the result has been achieved.
There is a general approach which will change this.
It has been discussed in this publication:
There are some specific projects in this venue, for example, discussed in these publications:
There is, of course, a natural question - why would anyone want to listen to me talking about education?
A short answer - because I am GOOD at teaching (I have a proof :)
For my credentials, please follow to:
(a short version)

Thank you for visiting,
Dr. Valentin Voroshilov
Education Advancement Professionals

To learn more about my professional experience:
The voices of my students 
"The Backpack Full of Cash": pointing at a problem, not offering a solution
Essentials of Teaching Science

A copy of a note from the main page.

am not an idiot or a reckless person. The reason I can allow myself writing what I think, even if that is perpendicular to commonly adopted and conventional views, is that my financial situation is sufficient and stable. Of course, as a normal person, I wouldn't mind making more money, or being involved in more interesting projects (as described in my generic resume). But I do not have to pretend to be someone I'm not to make my living.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Perimeter Institute for Learning and Teaching (PILT): the future of the future of education reform.

In Physics there is an object called a prototype (or a standard, or an ├ętalon).
It has enormous importance in physics, in science, and in life in general, because based on a prototype scientists and engineers make simpler, cheaper, and in large quantities copies of the prototype and use them to make consistent and accurate measurements, the result of which does not depend on by whom and where that measurement was made. A prototype ensures uniformity of the measures across human practices and professional fields.
But not in education.
Education has no prototypes.
That makes the field of education virtually immeasurable, hence, non-scientific. Education research is not an actual scientific research establishing strong correlations between well-defined parameters, but an exploration, similar to a geographer exploring a new territory and writing letters with the description of the discoveries he/she made (or a botanist or zoologist describing new species they found).
This state of affairs, however, can be changed, and the company or institution that pioneers the transformation from an exploration to a scientific research will dominate the market of educational practices for years ahead.

Everyone who pays even slight attention to news about education knows about the continuous battle between supporters and opponents of charter schools, voucher schools, and other non-traditional educational entities.
Unfortunately, that clouds of the battle cover one of the biggest issues of the contemporary education, which is a significant insufficiency of fundamental theoretical and technological innovations (countless startups promoting their apps or gadgets do not make any difference in the field; a serous new type of scientific infrastructure is badly needed ASAP; The main reason for this insufficiency is not the lack of the resources, but the lack of a broad collaboration between various professional and scientific groups. 
Remember the tail about blind men and an elephant
This is the current state of science of education.
Education needs its own “Manhattan Project”, or “Apollo Program” (Five Projects Critical For Education)
The approach to advancing education in general and science of education in particular has to follow the approach developed in the oldest and the most successful science - physics. The field of education needs projects and institutions similar to the Large Hadron Collider - a collaboration of experimentalists and theorists and administrators and philosophers from many countries all over the world.
Large scale changes require systemic approach. As an analog to the Large Hadron Collider or to the Institute for Advanced Study the field of education needs PILT.This approach would allow to reexamine the well-established paradigms, and would guide a broad search for new connections and correlations; which would combine newly presented advances in artificial intelligence with neuroscience to study and analyze multi-layered universe of individual, group, and institutional learning and teaching; which would bring in education newly developed technologies, including AI, virtual reality, augmented reality, top level robotics.
This type of a program can be initiated via institutionalizing a collaboration between various professional and scientific groups by establishing a specific institution –an Institute for Learning and Teaching (the name is tentative, of course).
Within this Institute, professionals from various universities, intuitions, and companies would be able to join their effort and expertise.
Below one finds an illustration to the description of such an Institute.
They say, Steve Jobs liked quoting Pablo Picasso’s saying “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” (;
I just use this quote to excuse my own stealing.
The description below is basically a copy of the beautiful description of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics ( That description is so good, I just simply replaced words “theoretical physics” with word “education”, or words “learning and teaching” (and added a couple of statements); but it gives a very good idea of what the description of the new Institute could be.

Perimeter Institute for Learning and Teaching (PILT)
Perimeter Institute is a leading center for scientific research, training and educational outreach in foundational and experimental educational methods, techniques, and technologies. Its mission is to advance our understanding of the learning and teaching processes, and to use that understanding for stimulating the breakthroughs that could transform the education. Perimeter also trains the next generation of educators through innovative programs, and shares the excitement and wonder of science with students, teachers and the general public.
We believe breakthroughs are realized through a collision of intellect,
imagination and inspiration.
Perimeter Institute for Learning and Teaching is an independent, resident-based research institute devoted to foundational issues in the field of education at the highest levels of international excellence. We strive to create a lively and dynamic research atmosphere where many approaches to fundamental questions, both orthodox and unorthodox, are pursued simultaneously and where a balance between formal and phenomenologically-oriented research is established. We are determined to collaborate constructively with the surrounding academic community, in particular by creating outstanding educational and research opportunities for graduate students.  We are equally determined to create a world-class outreach program which conveys the wonder and mystery of the universe and the importance of future scientific breakthroughs, to the general public in New England and beyond.
Perimeter’s vision is to create the world’s foremost center for foundational and experimental educational methods, techniques, and technologies, uniting public and private partners, and the world’s best scientific minds, in a shared enterprise to achieve breakthroughs that will transform our future.
Scientists at Perimeter Institute forge new, mind-bending ideas about the ultimate nature of human intelligence, from fundamental grains of learning to essential acts of teaching. At Perimeter, we reexamine the well-established paradigms, and search for new connections and correlations. We use newly presented advances in artificial intelligence and neuroscience to study and analyze multi-layered universe of individual, group, and institutional learning and teaching. We bring in education newly developed technologies, including AI, virtual reality, augmented reality, top level robotics.
Since Learning and Teaching represent the highest levels of Intelligence, our "International Magazine for Study Intelligence" publishes work on all aspects of Intelligence: animal and human, biological and artificial.
Perimeter is supported through an innovative public-private partnership – which unites government, individuals, corporations, and foundations in a shared venture to enable scientific breakthroughs, nurture scientific talent, and share scientific discovery with the broader public.

Thank you for visiting,
Dr. Valentin Voroshilov
Education Advancement Professionals

Appendix I
I would like to congratulate President Brown and all us with launching Innovate@BU - a huge step ahead in the University development, which makes it on par with MIT’s Media Lab, and Harvard’s i-Lab.
We all know how profoundly big impact on a society can have an innovative device, design, or an application.
But the most important and lasting effect comes from the growing number of innovators and inventors fostered and thriving in the nurturing and supportive environment.
This initiative may have even broader impact if it spills out outside of Boston University.  Our elementary, middle, and high schools also need to employ teaching strategies which encourage and cultivate innovativeness of students. Unfortunately, the study and development of such strategies is in the very basic stage ( That is why for quite some time I have been trying to convince our Administration and the Board to establishing Boston University Institute for Learning and Teaching. An initial description of the mission of the Institute is available below.
My hope is that finally, after launching Innovate@BU our Administration and the Board will have their hands free for the next truly big and innovative initiative. The history of science and business development shows that pioneers in research and development are usually rewarded the most. However, in the end, having innovative approaches to education unpacked, explored, and flourished is more important than the place from where they are originated. That is why I am sending in the open the idea of the Institute for Learning and Teaching. 

Appendix II
Dr. Voroshilov is coming out of a closet:

Appendix III
1. charity or investments: can billions of dollars change education?

2. the full description of my experience and intentions:
3. an “Amazon School”, a proposition to Mr. Jeff Bezos (with no response, so far):
4. a relatively short description of my teaching philosophy:
5. a critical analysis of the “battle” for/against charter schools:
6. my take on AI v. HI in education:
7. physics as a door into STEM education: why everyone should take a physics course
8. to reform education we need a new paradigm:

Monday, November 6, 2017

What is teaching? What is learning? Professional philosophy of a STEM teacher.

What Is Teaching? What Is Learning? 
Professional Philosophy Of a STEM Teacher
Way too many people have a very trivial (primitive) view about teaching. They think that teaching is merely "do what I say" action. If that would be enough, everyone could become a good teacher - which is not a case at all. In "The Fundamental Laws of Teachology" I presented several short statements about the substance of teaching and learning. In this post I present an extended version of my view.
What is teaching?
Below is the quote from Google search on: “what is teaching” (the top answer):
The second meaning of “teaching” is transparent: “teaching is a synonym for philosophy”. But the first description does not really say much what teaching is. “Teaching is what a teacher does”.
Everyone wants to be healthy and successful and no one wants to be ill and poor. The only difference is how we want to achieve our success. There are people who use other people as a tool for climbing the social ladder. I would not recommend people like that going into teaching. Children feel when they are being used and always find the way to escape – one way or another. Anyone who wants to be a teacher (or an educator of some sort), should do it to help children to succeed in their life, and they will return the success.
Teaching is an important human practice. Many people think that teaching is simply telling students “do as I say”. This very approach is built in our DNA. Our parents used this approach when teaching us. Animals use this approach when teaching cubs, pups, baby birds (they rather use the “do as I do” version, which is also very popular among humans).
If teaching was indeed merely “do as I do” or “do as I say” practice, then of course everyone could do it! Teaching would not be much different from training animals (“a stick and a carrot” would do the trick).
Clearly, teaching is something more complicated than just “do as I say”. Not everyone can become a good teacher. Everyone can cook at home, or drive a car. But not everyone can become a successful chef or a race-car driver. And when we say this out loud, it does not sound controversial – because it’s obvious! Yes, we know that some people are a better fit for some practices than others, and some people are not a good fit for some practices. In particular, some people are just not fit to be teachers (which is not their fault), and one of the goals of every teacher preparation program should be identifying those people and helping them to find another professional path.
So, what is teaching, or, what does it mean to be a teacher?
I think that the answer to this question forms a fundamental basis for the whole professional philosophy of a teacher and for the practice built on that philosophy. One of the first indicators of a true teacher is that he or she has a certain answer to this question. I also believe that there is no single correct answer to this question. I believe that every teacher should search for and find his or her own answer (although the answers might sound very similarly).
In this essay, I want to share my answer to the question “what is teaching?”.
To me, teaching is guiding students through a specifically designed set of learning experiences (a.k.a. student activities) to help them to develop or advance desired skills and knowledge – this is my formal definition of teaching (hence, a teacher is a person who teaches in accordance with this definition; this link leads to short statements about teaching which I call “Laws of TeachOlogy”
A teacher might not be the one who designs the whole set of student activities, but should have a deep understanding of the reasons for the activities and measures of the success or failure of the activities.
We all know the old saying that one can bring a horse to water but one cannot make it drink. Well, a teacher cannot make a student learn unless that student wants to learn. Unfortunately, too often students start to learn only to avoid some kind of punishment. This kind of teaching might happen when a teacher does not care much about students, but just functioning to avoid being fired (mimicking/faking teaching). On another hand, a teacher might be very forceful on students (“It is for your own good”) to become being praised. I believe, no matter what a teacher does, students should not have any psychological damage (like, “feeling stupid”).
Teachers - like doctors – should take “a Hippocratic Oath” of a Teacher and promise “never do harm to anyone”, because there is always something more important in teaching than merely transmitting knowledge or training skills. A true teacher knows the limits.
Ideally, parents should be the first true teachers.  The best gift a parent can give to a child is good habits and love for learning. The same is true for a teacher.  Look at infants and little children – they always try things and want to learn something new! Now look at school graduates – so many of them do not want to learn anything new anymore (or cannot learn anything new, which is even worse). If children have lost their curiosity and desire to learn, that only means they did not have a true teacher in their life.
A true teacher is not the one who just loves teaching (“do as I say”), but the one who also loves learning. The art of teaching is based on love for education, and passion for sharing this love (and also on the science of learning).
Every student has his or her own learning style. Every classroom is different from another. Teaching constantly presents challenges: students do not act the way a teacher expects, parents or officials put pressure on a teacher. If a person cannot withstand challenges, that person should not go into the business of education in any form; she/he is not going to be a good teacher, or administrator or a researcher in the field.
No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes (the difference is what we do after we made it). Mistakes are an inherent part of our life. Mistakes are inevitable and unavoidable. Especially when people learn something new. A teacher should understand that students will be making mistakes. Learning is based on continually overcoming mistakes and learning from them. If a student did not learn something, which he or she was supposed to learn, chances are that it was because a teacher made a mistake. A true teacher never stops learning (mostly because no matter how good we are there is always a room for improvement: new students are different from the former ones, world changes, a new year is never the same as the previous one). And a true teacher is always open about mistakes he or she has done, even (especially!) if it happens in front of a class.
To summarize, what does make a teacher to be The Teacher (or a Teach-Smith, so to speak:
Patience, love of learning, understanding and accepting personal limits, genuinely caring for students (they intuitively feel if for the teacher they are just pawns in his/her game for personal success), constant professional development – including, but not limited to – having deeper knowledge of the content of the subject he or she teaches, deeper understanding of the fundamentals of the knowledge development within a specific science (each school subject is a projection or a simplification of a certain science), deeper understanding of the fundamentals of the knowledge development in general, understating of human behavior in general and behavior of a child, understanding of the fundamentals of human learning and teaching. From a procedural point of view, the simplest model of teaching is “teaching = motivating + demonstrating + instructing + explaining + assessing”, hence a teacher should have personal qualities, knowledge and skills which will allow to be able to motivate, demonstrate, instruct, explain, and assess (within the limits placed by “do no harm” rule).
A true teacher is not always the one whose professional description says so. A teacher is a person about whom other people say that they have learned something important from that person.
There is one controversy I would also like to address. Many people (including policy makers, parents, business representatives) think that to be a good teacher one just needs to know the content. But, that is not true. The content knowledge is one of many components of a good teacher, and not the most important one. Firstly, I have met people who had excellent content knowledge but were terrible teachers. I had professors who were at the top of the achievement list in academia, but who could not teach at all (they were very interesting storytellers, though). Clearly, they knew how to do difficult science and they did it. But they could not explain what they did, and why. Secondly, content knowledge is just a result of a certain amount of effort. Any reasonable person who spends a reasonable amount of time can obtain content knowledge in the amount sufficient to teaching at a reasonable level. Personal qualities like willingness to learn till the first day of the retirement (at least), patience, etc. are also very important for becoming a true teacher. A teacher is - first - a person, and - second - a knowledge storage, a skill presenter, a guide, a trainer.

What is learning?
A dictionary tells that learning is:
* the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught.
* knowledge acquired through experience, study, or being taught.
For a teacher, this definition may be a starting point for reaching a deeper understanding of how people learn.
The first fundamental notion is that learning is a basic need, like food, or oxygen. There is a “slight” difference, though. With no food or oxygen, a person ceases the biological existence (a.k.a. dies).
Without learning a person ceases the social existence (the reason for all dictators to micromanage education - they are scared of free thinking which comes with true education). Learning - as a process and as a result - is solely responsible for the prosperity of a society (even if the prosperity still is very uneven).
Secondly, learning is a process; it has phases, it has stages (that is why a college does not accept middle school graduates). Learning stages might differ in length and difficulty, depend on many parameters (subjective like age, race, brain development of a student; contextual – what science is this subject about; social – culture, traditions, economics), but they are as objective as stages in the seasons we observe every year. The existence of these stages results in the existence of the specific patterns of learning, which must be reflected in the specific patterns of teaching.
We cannot jump from a spring right into a winter; similarly, we cannot jump into learning quadratic equations right after learning the addition within a hundred (the normal process of giving a birth requires 9 months and should go through well-established phases - from an embryo to a baby: the process of “giving a birth” to an educated person– from having no knowledge and skills to having them - also has specific stages). If despite our best efforts a student did not learn how to solve a quadratic equation, it means that his/her learning path had missed in the past some of the important stages (assuming that students’ learnability is adequate).
Thirdly, learning is a result, it is an achievement. There are many achievements in our life, which – kind of - just happen; learning how to walk, learning how to talk. Achievements like that happen usually in a natural way, they do not normally require special prolonged management, do not have to be controlled, assessed, regularly measured, at least if everything happens as expected.
However, reading and writing, adding and subtracting, solving equations, etc. are skills; and to learn those skills a special and longitudinal effort is required, and hence, these skills have to be assessed. What needs to be assessed, how, when and by whom, however, are some of the most controversial questions of the contemporary research on education.
True learning never happens by just watching and listening (i.e. by merely attending lectures), it happens by doing. One can observe every cycling tour; interview every famous racer, that will definitely help the one to understand the theory of biking, but to learn how to ride a bicycle one has to ride a bicycle. One can watch for hours other people swimming, but if one wants to learn how to swim, the one has to get yourself into water and start trying. In the latter case, it would help having around someone who could explain what one does wrong and how to correct it (a friend screaming “you can do it, you can do it” would not be much of a help).
Active lectures help to boost motivation, develop vocabulary, give a perception that things are not as hard as they seem. Reading (and watching, and listening) also helps to form a vocabulary, to strengthen some relationships between the current knowledge and the upcoming one, to ignite curiosity, to boost imagination, to reinforce self-discipline, to advance mental capacities.
However, skills are only formed by doing.
For example, if the only exercise students had been doing for 12 years is squats, they will not be good at push-ups and pull-ups. If we want students to develop a certain skill, we have to give them an opportunity to practice that skill (ideally – as long as they need to master it).
Our brain is acting in a way similar to how our regular muscles act. Memorization is a mental activity very much different from creating new images, searching for new meanings, describing new phenomena, or developing new approach to solving a problem (during different mental activities a brain does a different work). Hence, if for 12 years in a school students only have been memorizing facts, it is not reasonable to expect from the graduates an ability to think critically, or to be creative.
Thinking critically is a specific mental activity, which requires comprehensive methodology, meticulous planning, detailed procedures, and designated time (much more time than just memorizing and retrieving facts).
Our brain is a powerful pattern recognition machine. As soon as it recognizes the task, it retrieves from the memory the sequence of the actions, which has to be performed to succeed. Of course, we assume that that particular brain is capable of storing and retrieving the information and governing the actions required for fulfilling the task (otherwise we have to discuss a case of learning disabilities). If a brain does not recognize the task, we have two options: (a) the task is the same but due to some features it is camouflaged as a different one; (b) the task is different and is really new for the brain and the brain does not have the solution (at least in full) in its storage.
Every teacher has to teach students to two different practices: (a) how to perform specific tasks (the set of those tasks should be specified by a curriculum); (b) how to create a solution to a problem which has not been solved in the past (by that person); the latter practice, in turn, requires a practice in making a conclusion regarding the familiarity of the given assignment - is it the same as one from the past (a task) or different (a problem)? Development of that skill also requires specific practice.
Teaching thinking critically (a.k.a. creatively) means teaching how to create solutions, invent actions/procedures which have not been presented/trained before.
In general, the answer to the question “what is learning?” depends on the interpretation of who is asking this question. For example, one can believe that learning is …

1.      memorizing facts and excelling in performing certain task (actions). 
2.      obtaining knowledge and developing skills which will allow to create (a.k.a. “construct” – for those who loves constructivism, as I do) solutions to problems which have never been solved by the person in the past. 
3.      from a procedural point of view, the simplest model of learning is   

Learning = goal making + memorizing + reiterating/practicing + thinking/analyzing + self-assessing (reflecting on the actions done during the problem-solving process).
My personal definition of learning is a combination of all the three above.
I believe that teaching how to think critically, teaching how to create solutions to new problems is the most important goal and the most difficult task of the contemporary education. If a person cannot solve any new (for that person) problem, it is hard to expect this person would generate some knowledge (or product, or business) new to the society. However, if a person can solve problems which he or she has not solved in the past, there is at least a chance that that person would give us something absolutely new and unexpected (good or bad – that is a different conversation). We should keep in mind, though, that critical thinking cannot be learned without a solid foundation in facts and skills.

Why Physics?
It has become a common place to say that American schools need to attract more students into STEM related fields (
I believe that physics represents a door into STEM education ( If students get confidence in physics class, they will feel confident in any science. Physics is one of the oldest and most developed sciences, hence it has a very clear logic and a straightforward learning methodology. Also, nowadays physics or physics based approaches can be found far beyond physics itself, for example, in medicine, in business and finance, even in sport (more at:

What changes does US education reform need?

Education needs its own “Manhattan Project”, or “Apollo Program”, which would reexamine the well-established paradigms, and would guide a broad search for new connections and correlations; which would combine newly presented advances in artificial intelligence with neuroscience to study and analyze multi-layered universe of individual, group, and institutional learning and teaching; which would bring in education newly developed technologies, including AI, virtual reality, augmented reality, top level robotics.

This type of a program can be initiated via institutionalizing a collaboration between various professional and scientific groups by establishing a specific institution –an Institute for Learning and Teaching (the name is tentative, of course).

Within this Institute, professionals from various universities, intuitions, and companies would be able to join their effort and expertise (more at

In this short essay, I tried to summarize my views on 
what is teaching, what is learning, 
and why everyone should learn physics.
Since I am not special, every STEM teacher can use a similar set of views.

Thank you for visiting,
Dr. Valentin Voroshilov
Education Advancement Professionals

To learn more about my professional experience:

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