Thomas Sticht

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Dr. Thomas Sticht taught at Harvard University. He was awarded UNESCO'S Mahatma Gandhi Medal for his twenty five years of service and dedication. [1]

Harvard University Private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with about 6,700 undergraduate students and about 13,100 postgraduate students. Established in 1636 and named for its first benefactor, clergyman John Harvard, Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning. Its history, influence, wealth, and academic reputation have made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world. It has often been cited as the world's top university by most publishers.


After retiring in 1999 as the President and Senior Scientist at Applied Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences Inc, Sticht conducted workshops and lectures on adult education and professional development.


Sticht created Functional Context Training for the U.S. Military. [2] His biggest contribution has been his research on improving the literacy skills for the new recruits of the United States Army, Navy, and Air Force.

United States Army Land warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Army (USA) is the land warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and is designated as the Army of the United States in the United States Constitution. As the oldest and most senior branch of the U.S. military in order of precedence, the modern U.S. Army has its roots in the Continental Army, which was formed to fight the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)—before the United States of America was established as a country. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on 3 June 1784 to replace the disbanded Continental Army. The United States Army considers itself descended from the Continental Army, and dates its institutional inception from the origin of that armed force in 1775.

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of US Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. It has the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 336,978 personnel on active duty and 101,583 in the Ready Reserve, the U.S. Navy is the third largest of the U.S. military service branches in terms of personnel. It has 290 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of June 2019, making it the third-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force and the United States Army.

United States Air Force Air and space warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Air Force (USAF) is the aerial and space warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven American uniformed services. Initially formed as a part of the United States Army on 1 August 1907, the USAF was established as a separate branch of the U.S. Armed Forces on 18 September 1947 with the passing of the National Security Act of 1947. It is the youngest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the fourth in order of precedence. The USAF is the largest and most technologically advanced air force in the world. The Air Force articulates its core missions as air and space superiority, global integrated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, rapid global mobility, global strike, and command and control.

Functional Context education is defined as instructional strategy that integrates the teaching of literacy skills and job content to move learner more successfully and quickly toward their education and employment goals. [3] [4] He later developed a training program to elevate literary skills in adult learners. Functional context training stresses on building upon prior knowledge to construct new concepts to accomplish difficult tasks. Sticht proposed that instructors should formulate better learning environments that incorporate real world situations to increase students' performance.

Sticht contributed to the field of Functional Context theory where he proposed that it was vital to make learning relevant to learners. The model of Cognitive system consisted of three components:

  1. Knowledge based (prior knowledge of the learner)
  2. Processing skills (problem solving, language skills, and learning strategies)
  3. Information displays that present information. [2]

The Functional Context approach recommends new assessment methods such as measuring functional learning and academic learning.

As a researcher, Dr. Thomas Sticht contributed to the research of early childhood education, and conducted the first conference on intergenerational transfer of cognitive skills. Many articles were published by Dr Sticht on the role of oral language and the transfer of literacy.

Cognitive functioning is a term referring to a human’s ability to process thoughts that should not deplete on a large scale in healthy individuals. It is defined as "the ability of an individual to perform the various mental activities most closely associated with learning and problem solving. Examples include verbal, spatial, psychomotor, and processing-speed ability." Cognition mainly refers to things like memory, the ability to learn new information, speech, understanding of written material. The brain is usually capable of learning new skills in the aforementioned areas, typically in early childhood, and of developing personal thoughts and beliefs about the world. Old age and disease may affect cognitive function, causing memory loss and trouble thinking of the right words while speaking or writing. Multiple sclerosis (MS), for example, can eventually cause memory loss, an inability to grasp new concepts or information, and depleted verbal fluency. Not all with the condition will experience this side effect, and most will retain their general intellect and the ability.

A spoken language is a language produced by articulate sounds, as opposed to a written language. Many languages have no written form and so are only spoken. An oral language or vocal language is a language produced with the vocal tract, as opposed to a sign language, which is produced with the hands and face. The term "spoken language" is sometimes used to mean only vocal languages, especially by linguists, making all three terms synonyms by excluding sign languages. Others refer to sign language as "spoken", especially in contrast to written transcriptions of signs.


Sticht contributed to over 170 books, inclusive of chapters, journals, articles, reports, and curriculum material books.

Related Research Articles

Learning theory (education) conceptual frameworks in which knowledge is absorbed, processed, and retained during learning

Learning Theory describes how students absorb, process, and retain knowledge during learning. Cognitive, emotional, and environmental influences, as well as prior experience, all play a part in how understanding, or a world view, is acquired or changed and knowledge and skills retained.

Whole language

Whole language is a philosophy of reading that is based upon the premise that learning to read English, especially for young children, comes naturally to humans in the same way that learning to speak develops naturally. In assessing this claim, research psychologist Keith Stanovich asserted “The idea that learning to read is just like learning to speak is accepted by no responsible linguist, psychologist, or cognitive scientist in the research community”, while in a systematic review of the reading research literature, Louisa Moats concluded that “Almost every premise advanced by whole language about how reading is learned has been contradicted by scientific investigations.”

Instructional design (ID), also known as instructional systems design (ISD), is the practice of systematically designing, developing and delivering instructional products and experiences, both digital and physical, in a consistent and reliable fashion towards an efficient, effective, appealing, engaging and inspiring acquisition of knowledge. The process consists broadly of determining the state and needs of the learner, defining the end goal of instruction, and creating some "intervention" to assist in the transition. The outcome of this instruction may be directly observable and scientifically measured or completely hidden and assumed. There are many instructional design models but many are based on the ADDIE model with the five phases: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation.

Instructional scaffolding is the support given to a student by an instructor throughout the learning process. This support is specifically tailored to each student; this instructional approach allows students to experience student-centered learning, which tends to facilitate more efficient learning than teacher-centered learning. This learning process promotes a deeper level of learning than many other common teaching strategies.

Situated learning is a theory on how individuals acquire professional skills, extending research on apprenticeship into how legitimate peripheral participation leads to membership in a community of practice. Situated learning "takes as its focus the relationship between learning and the social situation in which it occurs".

Lifelong learning is the "ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated" pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. Therefore, it not only enhances social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development, but also self-sustainability, as well as competitiveness and employability.

Situated cognition is a theory that posits that knowing is inseparable from doing by arguing that all knowledge is situated in activity bound to social, cultural and physical contexts.

Constructivism (philosophy of education) Philosophical viewpoint about the nature of knowledge; theory of knowledge

Constructivism in education has roots in epistemology. The learner has prior knowledge and experiences, which is often determined by their social and cultural environment. Learning is therefore done by students' “constructing” knowledge out of their experiences. While the Behaviorist school of learning may help understand what students are doing, educators also need to know what students are thinking, and how to enrich what students are thinking.

Problem solving consists of using generic or ad hoc methods in an orderly manner to find solutions to problems. Some of the problem-solving techniques developed and used in philosophy, artificial intelligence, computer science, engineering, mathematics, or medicine are related to mental problem-solving techniques studied in psychology.

Metacognition is "cognition about cognition", "thinking about thinking", "knowing about knowing", becoming "aware of one's awareness" and higher-order thinking skills. The term comes from the root word meta, meaning "beyond", or "on top of". Metacognition can take many forms; it includes knowledge about when and how to use particular strategies for learning or problem-solving. There are generally two components of metacognition: (1) knowledge about cognition and (2) regulation of cognition.

Synthetic phonics a method of teaching English reading

Synthetic phonics, also known as blended phonics or inductive phonics, is a method of teaching English reading which first teaches the letter sounds and then builds up to blending these sounds together to achieve full pronunciation of whole words.

Cognitive apprenticeship is a theory that emphasizes the importance of the process in which a master of a skill teaches that skill to an apprentice.

Fast ForWord is "a computer-based reading program intended to help students develop and strengthen the cognitive skills necessary for successful reading and learning" by Scientific Learning Corporation. The research literature on Fast ForWord was reviewed by What Works Clearinghouse (WWC), an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES). WWC found 21 research studies that meet their rigorous standards, the most of any reading intervention evaluated. Positive effectiveness ratings and improvement indices were found for alphabetics, reading fluency, comprehension, and English language development. In fact, Fast ForWord had the largest improvement index of interventions evaluated in the English language development category, describing the learning done by English Language Learners.

Patricia A. Alexander is an educational psychologist who has conducted notable research on the role of individual difference, strategic processing, and interest in students' learning. She is currently the Jean Mullan Professor of Literacy and Distinguished Scholar/Teacher in the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology in the Faculty of Education at the University of Maryland and a visiting professor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

The worked-example effect is a learning effect predicted by cognitive load theory. Specifically, it refers to the learning effect observed when worked-examples are used as part of instruction, compared to other instructional techniques such as problem-solving and discovery learning. According to Sweller: "The worked example effect is the best known and most widely studied of the cognitive load effects".

The apprentice perspective is an educational theory of apprenticeship concerning the process of learning through physical integration into the practices associated with the subject, such as workplace training. By developing similar performance to other practitioners, an apprentice will come to understand the tacit duties of the position. In the process of creating this awareness, the learner also affect their environment; as they are accepted by master practitioners, their specific talents and contributions within the field are taken into account and integrated into the overall practice.

A dialogue journal is an ongoing written interaction between two people to exchange experiences, ideas, or reflections. It is used most often in education as a means of sustained written interaction between students and teachers at all education levels. It can be used to promote second language learning and learning in all areas.

Word recognition, according to Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS) is "the ability of a reader to recognize written words correctly and virtually effortlessly". It is sometimes referred to as "isolated word recognition" because it involves a reader's ability to recognize words individually from a list without needing similar words for contextual help. LINCS continues to say that "rapid and effortless word recognition is the main component of fluent reading" and explains that these skills can be improved by "practic[ing] with flashcards, lists, and word grids".

David Richard Olson is a Canadian cognitive developmental psychologist who has studied the development of language, literacy, and cognition, particularly the mental lives of children, their understanding of language and mind and the psychology of teaching. Olson is University Professor Emeritus at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, where he has taught since 1966.

M. David Merrill education researcher specializing in instructional design and technology

M. David Merrill is an education researcher specializing in instructional design and technology.


  1. "The Intergenerational Effects of Adult Education". Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County. August 13, 2012. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  2. 1 2 Functional Context Training
  3. Wider Opportunities for Women, 2009
  4. Functional Context education
  5. Publications

Further reading