Friday, 8 January 2016


So it is good learning
But if it's made too easy...?

Written by Connor Diemand-Yauman, a one-time cognitive psychologist, published this week in the Huffington Post:

What an extraordinarily garbled retelling of Vygotskii ('the theory of proximal development' – really!), and yet, and yet...

The lad has glimpsed a certain human truth (more than have many retellers of Vygotskii's tale) and – ignoring the psychobabble – there is a sort of pedagogic reality in there, recounted in a fresh and lively way that conductivists might like to consider, relish and perhaps incorporate into their own narratives.

Try it, and see the published report of the original study to which he had contributed in his misspent youth:


Best to draw a veil over the unnecessary biologisms ('...difficulty is unpleasant, and we're hardwired to avoid it whenever possible... and '...over time we can rewire our brains to perceive difficulty as something to be treasured and celebrated...'). These are statements of many psychologists' faith and ideology rather than of relevance to what he is trying to say.

The problem that I have with such unevidenced assertions is how I am meant to square this presumably phylogenetic inheritance with the ontogenetic reality of human learning and development, for societies as well as for individuals. Perhaps we are hard wired not to be hard wired!

Folk pedagogy

Meanwhile, the world seems to be aware of this anyway: 'no gain without pain.., gi' it some 'ommer…, put your back into it' etc., at least that part of the world that works hard to improve performance mentally and/or physically. Not much research needed there except of course the practical R and D programmes to help improve how this is done. Sorry, I digress...

Back with the concerns of Conductive Education, the notion that learning may be made too easy offers another slant on the idea of learned (i.e. taught) helplessness and dependence as potentially major developmental problems for those who live with limiting disabilities.


Diemand-Yauman, C. (2026) Thank you, difficulty, Huffington Post, 4 January

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