For this reflection, we have been asked to expand on our personal theory of learning and answer the following questions: How has your personal theory of learning changed? How has it evolved?
The largest area of change for me in reflecting about my personal theory of learning has to do with stepping back and thinking more about the how and why behind my beliefs related to education. This has required devoting more thought to ontology and epistemology. According to the online quiz called The Basic Ontology/Epistemology Test, my view of the world (being and existence) can be characterized as post positivism (OkCupid, 2014). I found this to be interesting because I have always thought of myself as being more in the positivist category as a scientist who believes wholeheartedly in the scientific method. I suppose that this means that my world view borrows from both the scientific and the post positive idea that the world is complex and not entirely explainable. In terms of epistemology, the quiz Epistemology And You! revealed that I can be categorized as a pragmatist (Pro Profs Quiz Maker, no date). I think this is fairly accurate since I am pretty straightforward and practical. This carries over into my philosophy of learning which is very much in line with the constructivist viewpoint.
I believe that learning takes place in interactive environments and situations in which the learner gains knowledge through a combination of experience and the transfer of information. The individual learner does not exist in a vacuum devoid of social, cultural and environmental influences (Moore, 1998). As such, their learning, current and future, is influenced by their prior knowledge. Learning builds on foundations of exploration and utilization of the senses. Gibson’s affordances or characteristics of the environment that are perceived by the learner also contribute greatly to the acquisition of knowledge and the interaction between the instructor and the student to produce authentic knowledge through learning (Greeno, 1994). I was also taught as a child, and still believe, that it is more important to know how to learn than it is to become a repository of facts. For example, you may not know much about physics, but if you possess the skills to research, assimilate and apply information about physics then you are arguably more knowledgeable and educated than the person who can only tell you facts about physics at the expense of other subjects and/or their applications. In addition, I believe that the most effective learning takes place in collaborative environments that are integrated into, or foster, relationships with the community. As an example, the Montessori Method fosters self-directed learning and the idea of “olders” helping or guiding “youngers” as well as volunteering in the larger outside community at a variety of scales and involvements. In addition, emphasis is placed on the individual taking responsibility for their own learning and accomplishments.
The best way for someone to teach is to create a learning situation that facilitates new encounters for the learner in which they can experience, interpret and contextualize the experience within their existing framework of knowledge (Appleton, 1993). A good teacher does a lot of planning and research to provide the appropriate opportunities for the student and is a valuable resource when the student needs help accessing and interpreting new material. I agree with Clark that “It is what the teacher does-the teaching-that influences learning. Most of the methods carried by newer media can also be carried or performed by teacher.” (Clark, 1983, 456-457) The best teacher is the one who has a true passion for teaching or for a subject area. However, that is often times not enough. The educator must also be cognizant of individual learning styles, their own predispositions, and a variety of methodologies for the actual transfer or development of knowledge. The best teachers know how to use resources including technology in ways that allow the student to construct knowledge rather than have it delivered as Clark says, by a grocery truck (Kozma, 1991). I think of the teacher as being the guide and the student as being the clients. Ultimately it is up to the client to determine what they get out of the experience. As Merrill says, the motivation of the student comes from true learning, not flashy new technologies (Merrill, 2008). The guide can show the client what is available, but it is up to the client or student to construct meaning and produce a worthwhile product (Molenda, 2009).
In my opinion, behaviorism and its emphasis on proper responses to target stimulus and student practice of making the correct responses falls short of real learning and acquisition of knowledge (Ertmer, 1993). Under this theory of learning a lot of emphasis is placed on meeting standards and properly responding to cues. The cognitive process is overlooked and the lack of success with this approach can be seen in many of our schools today. A cognitive approach is more palatable to me in terms of the consideration that is given to the development of higher order thinking and problem solving skills. I can identify with the emphasis on the learner being an active participant and that the learning environment is instrumental in supporting the learning process (Ertmer, 1993). I think that students learn best when the material is meaningful and they are presented with information that adds to their existing base of knowledge. While I identify with many aspects of cognitive theory, it still falls short in that it (and behaviorism) treats the world as an entity separate and unrelated to the leaner (Ertmer, 1993). Constructivism expands the idea of learning environment to include the broader world and allows students to create (rather than acquire) meaning from the interpretation of experiences (Ertmer, 1993). Just as humans exist as part of a larger society, students should be able to learn in a context that is supportive, nurturing and thoughtfully constructed. Students learning within a constructivist approach would be allowed to experience situations as active participants. In a cooperative and collaborative learning environment, the emphasis is on creating a shared understanding through communicating, listening and active participation (Leidner, 1995).
It is no surprise to me that I most closely identify with the cognitive and, even more so with, the constructivist theories. I like that students are treated as individuals capable of self-direction and self-construction of meaning and therefore knowledge. No wonder my children go to a Montessori School and my own teaching style places an emphasis on making the subject matter and material meaningful for the learner. I think that one of the most interesting aspects of instructional design is examining how we will balance our personal theories of learning with new technologies and theories of learning in a world that is increasingly dominated by technology. It will be important for us as designers and technologists to keep in mind our own philosophies and instructional preferences, but also be open to other new theories and perspectives.
Appleton, K. (1993). Using theory to guide practice: Teaching science from a constructivist perspective. School Science and Mathematics; 93(5) 269-274. Retrieved from: http://libproxy.library.unt.edu:2095/docview/195222459/fulltextPDF?accountid=7113
Clark, R. E. (1983). Reconsidering Research on Learning from Media. Review of Educational Research, 53(4), 445-459.
Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly 6(4), 50-71.
Greeno, J. G. (1994). Gibson’s affordances. Psychological Review, 101(2), 336-342. http://libproxy.library.unt.edu:2058/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=ba601db8-4d45-4066-9827-c614da81b05e%40sessionmgr110&vid=2&hid=4213
Kozma, R. (1991). Learning with media. Review of Educational Research, 61(2), 179-211.
Leidner, D. E., & Jarvenpaa, S. L. (1995). The Use of Information Technology to Enhance Management School Education: A Theoretical View. MIS Quarterly 19(3), 265-291.
Merrill. D. [mdavidmerrill]. (2008, August 11). Merrill on Instructional Design [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_TKaO2-jXA
Molenda, M. (2009). Instructional technology must contribute to productivity. Journal of Computing in Higher Education (21), 80-94.
Moore, B. (1998). Situated cognition versus traditional cognitive theories of learning.
Education, 119(1), 161-171. Retrieved from: http://libproxy.library.unt.edu:2095/docview/196420587/fulltextPDF?accountid=7113
OkCupid. (2014). The Basic Ontology/Epistemology Test. Retrieved from http://www.okcupid.com/tests/the-basic-ontology-epistemology-test
ProProfs Quiz Maker. (no date). Epistemology And You! Retrieved from http://www.proprofs.com/quiz-school/story.php?title=epistemology-and-you