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Paying Attention in the Grammar School Classroom

Fri, March 23, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Hilton Riverside Complex, Starboard Room


Although grammar school classrooms were among the most important loci of study in early-modern England, historians often overlook how such spaces enabled and limited certain modes of thinking and learning. For this reason this paper examines the interactions between the schoolroom's physical space and the practices of concentration while studying. Adopting a synchronic perspective I use architectural plans and visual evidence to explore the cognitive affordances of the classroom's seating arrangement. Then, adopting a diachronic standpoint, I analyze through furniture inventories and renovations bills how technological development such as print and pedagogical innovations such as Humanism affected the fundaments of learning. Examining renaissance education through its spaces challenges some current notions regarding schooling and the formation of knowledge. Focusing on attention – the cognitive process of selecting information from the array of stimuli in a given environment – enables to go beyond oppositions between propositional-knowledge and procedural-knowledge, and between thinking and doing.


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