Rule Learners vs Example Learners

Book - Make it stick.. the science of successful learningBook - Make it stick.. the science of successful learning


author: Peter C. Brown
title: Make it stick: the science of successful learning

argues that while Learning styles are a mythLearning styles are a myth
The theory of learning styles states that people have distinct learning styles (visual, written, auditory) and says that people learn better/best, when they receive instructions that match that lea...
, there are other, significant differences in the way people learn material. One differentiation that can be made in this context are "Rule Learners vs Example Learners"

Rule learners extract abstract underlying rules and apply those to new problems they face. Example learners do not extract the rules but rather generalize from the nearest example they remember to solve a given problem. The book mostly views rule learning as the superior way of processing material.

(Compare in machine learning: Regression to K-means algorithms)

The following excerpt of the book talks about a study from

M. L. Gick & K. J. Holyoak, Schema induction and analogical transfer, Cognitive Psychology 15 (1983), 1– 38

and illustrates how rule learning can be supported by providing two examples with specific similarities, and asking students to contrast them:

By way of an illustration, consider two different hypothetical problems faced by a learner. These are taken from research into rule learning. In one problem, a general’s forces are set to attack a castle that is protected by a moat. Spies have learned that the bridges over the moat have been mined by the castle’s commander. The mines are set to allow small groups to cross the bridges, so that the occupants of the castle can retrieve food and fuel. How can the general get a large force over the bridges to attack the castle without tripping the mines? The other problem involves an inoperable tumor, which can be destroyed by focused radiation. However, the radiation must also pass through healthy tissue. A beam of suffi cient intensity to destroy the tumor will damage the healthy tissue through which it passes. How can the tumor be destroyed without damaging healthy tissue? In the studies, students have difficulty fi nding the solution to either of these problems unless they are instructed to look for similarities between them. When seeking similarities, many students notice that (1) both problems require a large force to be directed at a target, (2) the full force cannot be massed and delivered through a single route without an adverse outcome, and (3) smaller forces can be delivered to the target, but a small force is insufficient to solve the problem. By identifying these similarities, students often arrive at a strategy of dividing the larger force into smaller forces and sending these in through different routes to converge on the target and destroy it without setting off mines or damaging healthy tissue. Here’s the payoff: after figuring out this common, underlying solution, students are then able to go on to solve a variety of differnt convergence problem.

(The book also relates this to the concept of "high vs low structure builders", maybe look into the literature for these topics?)