When we were looking at the lists of education theorists, I just glazed over. It was 'way too much data. However, I was reminded of the work of Reuven Feuerstein today by Maté and Neufeld. These two doctors have written a book on parenting called Hold Onto Your Kids. I recommend it to all people who have children of any age and to teachers of students of all ages, too.
In their chapter on how to draw your children (or students) to trust you and attend to what you have to share with them, they talk about orienting the child. They mean by that to help the child/student to be aware of the context in which certain facts will be important for them to learn. That means setting the scene in time and place and in the social context.
This is something that some parents are already doing. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about successful and unsuccessful geniuses. In the chapter "The Trouble with Geniuses, Part 2" he gives examples of how those parents prepare their children for new experiences and explain how to talk to those in authority, such as teachers and doctors, to advocate for themselves.
In 1945, Reuven Feuerstein was working with children in what we would call "Special Education" classes. He was successful as a teacher when he did certain things with them. From this he developed what he called "Mediated Learning": that is when the adult acts as a mediator to help the child think through a problem, rather than as a teacher laying the given solutions on him. One of the important steps, he said, was to ready the child to the lesson by orienting him in time and place. He has developed special activities to help students think about and understand various aspects of problem solving.
You can read about Feuerstein's theories here. http://www.3d-ring.org/cep/mediatated.asp
All that may seem obvious, but very often what is obvious is taken for granted. Think about that for a moment. Are we granted problem solving at birth? Are we blessed by fairy godmothers at our birth? No, we have to learn about how to solve problems bit by bit over time. So we miss from whom we learned it or when or where. But someone showed us the way at some time. We are not Red Knot sandpipers whose children fly from the Arctic to Tierra Del Fuego alone after their parents have left for the south.
When I was a child, I had to make certain trips on the train all by myself to my grandmother. Before a trip, my mother would draw me a map and rehearse what to expect at each part of the trip and who would take care of me. Mother would put me on the train, the Conductor would look out for me, and Grandma would collect me as I stepped off the train. I was a calm, confident traveller because I had been prepared.
Because of my mother's way of orienting me to new experiences, and because of Feuerstein's work, I wrote my high interest/low vocabulary booklets on Marathon, Thermopylae and Troy with an introductory activity about where and when the events happened.
Another reason is that I remember, when I took Grade 5 social studies, I could answer all of the questions on the tests, but I knew I was not really understanding it because I really didn't understand the time-period. It was not until much later that I began to have a feel for life in the Age of Discovery. When I taught a Grade 11 course on the entire twentieth century (divided by a chapter a decade), I selected movies to show as an introduction to the new decade. Each of those decades had its own particular music and dress-style that expressed the mood and issues of the time.
I just find that it is very telling of the importance of this idea that doctors, a journalist, an educator, and parents all find this to be an essential idea.
P.S. Gabor Maté has written a handful of excellent books on addictions, attention deficit disorder, and the effect of stress on health. Boy, did these books ever explain a lot in my life and they will probably help you with yours. Unless, of course, you are among that very small group whose lives are perfect in every way.
Feuerstein, R. Google him. Wikipedia has a long list of his books.
Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers. Penguin Group, Canada, 2008
Raymo, Chet. Skeptics and True Believers. Doubleday, Canada, 1998
Neufeld, G and Maté, G. Hold On To Your Kids. Vintage, Canada, 2005