He seemed to know the soft, hard, and bumpy places in the field and just how high a ball would bounce on them. From the flags on the stadium roof he noted the way the wind would blow the ball, and he was quick at fishing it out of the tricky undercurrents on the ground. Not sun, not shadow, nor smoke-haze bothered him, and when a ball was knocked against the wall he estimated the angle of the rebound and speared it as if its course had been plotted on a chart. He was good at gauging slices and knew when to charge the pill to save on the throw. Once he put his head down and ran ahead of the shot. Though the crowd rose with a thunderous warning, he caught it with his back to the wall and did a little jig to show he was alive. Everyone laughed with relief. . . . He was a natural.
-- Bernard Malamud
There are many examples of higher-level thinking in the processing of information by children who under traditional circumstances appear unable to perform classroom tasks to the satisfaction of their teachers. For example, in various cities where major sports teams occasionally play through final play-off games, many children who are not particularly successful in school mathematics or classroom reading assignments seem to have little trouble figuring out the meaning of batting averages or how to spell the names of their favorite athletes. It is also true that many children who do not read well in school have almost no trouble understanding and writing the words of songs that have swept their neighborhood in popularity. Knowledge acquired by these learners through out-of-school experiences have been self- selected through their own cognitive preferences for solving the problems of difficult word sounds and math skills that they have acquired--frequently on their own.
Because of various individual cognitive preferences, learners appear