I am almost constantly asked why I designed The Crossley ID Guide the way I did – it is different to any other book on many levels. More importantly does this design help you or not?
Scientists and educators have scrutinized the way we learn – some of the best experts in the world have looked at this in depth. Below are some of the findings on the way that we learn and the way in which ‘The Crossley ID Guide’ follows these principles.
The search for meaning is innate. All students have the capacity to comprehend more effectively when their interests, purposes and ideas are engaged and honored.
“Facts are empty without being linked to context and concepts. Give a fact or two; link these facts into related concepts. Move back to the narrative to help them make the connection between this concept and the story. Go back to another fact. Reinforce the concepts. Reconnect with the original story. In and out, bob and weave, among facts, concept, and narrative”.
Dr. Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., is an internationally recognized authority on brain development
Old-school bird guides typically show up-close birds on plain white backgrounds – there is no context. In reality we rarely see birds this way. The plates in The Crossley ID Guide allow you to study both distant birds and compare them to larger images in lifelike scenes. The plates capture a habitat or environment typical for the species and shows birds in typical postures to help you understand their behavior. Thus the facts are linked to the context. Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception. What is less understood is the fact that human beings also learn from the background – the context that is not consciously attended to.
“The idea of focusing on just one specific thing before moving on to the next has also been challenged.
It turns out the brain is better at retaining information when it is placed in a broader context. So, by studying one type of math problem over and over, the brain doesn’t put that problem into a broader context. But if you mix things up, you remember it all: better. A great example is a study where students in an art history class were taught different genres of art in two different ways. One group was shown many examples of the same genre over and over then they moved on to the next. The other group was shown multiple genres at the same time. That group remembered which genre was which much better”.
OHSU Neuroscientist, Dr. Larry Sherman
One of the most important things to learning to become a good field birder is the ability to see features that remain constant, regardless of distance. By creating depth in the plates, you can see how a birds’ appearance changes with distance. Looking at the similarities between the different sized images will help you focus on the features that remain constant. You will be seeing birds as they really are rather than just looking at them.
The search for meaning occurs through patterning.
Patterning refers to the meaningful organization and categorization of information.
People make sense of experience by their mind’s drive to find and create patterns and
relationships. The brain is designed to perceive and generate patterns and resists having meaningless patterns imposed on it by others. All students have substantial unused capacities to perceive and create patterns and to link those new patterns to what they already understand.
“The ‘Neuron Dance’ is how the brain learns everything new. Whether it’s music. Or a foreign language. Or learning to drive. Think of any activity you’ve ever learned – and you’ll see that one of the key factors in that learning was repetition.
Repetition is how we build the neural pathway. If you’re learning something and want to get better at it then repetition needs to be part of your learning process. The more perfect repetitions you put in, the more you’re making the ‘Neuron Dance’ work for you. And the better you’ll get”.
The Crossley ID Guide plates show you birds in all poses, near and far, with many images repeated on one plate so you can see them over and over. As with life, practice makes perfect and this repetition will help your confidence and enjoyment of birding. Your birding ‘neural pathway’ will rapidly expand. Repetition and patterning go hand-in-hand in this process.
“The more complex the topic, the more likely the brain is to learn when learning experiences are accompanied with rich sensory input, which also helps to enhance the retention potential”. Dr Arlene Taylor, PhD
“The Brain processes parts and wholes simultaneously. Students comprehend more effectively when details are embedded in wholes that they understand. Gestalt psychology explicitly shows how the mind connects parts to make these wholes”. Renate Cain, PhD and Geoffrey Caine, LLM
The Crossley ID Guide was not created in a vacuum. It was created by following the principles of how we teach kids and scientific research on how the brain works. In short, this book was designed – whether you like its’ concept or not – to make you a better birder. At its’ heart, it questions the logic of what has come before and does not accept the status quo. Using 21st century technology and information to advance bird and natural history books, we can help people to better identify and understand what they see in front of them.