Beliefs About Learning
For as far back as I can remember, my idea of school was students sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher lecturing. When I was in school, we sat at desks in rows, worked from textbooks, took notes as teachers lectured, and were scalded if we spoke without raising our hand. I remember only seldom a time where we were working in groups, sat in literature circles, or rotated in stations. Schools today are different than when I was in school, teachers are encouraged to allow students to speak freely to share their ideas, teachers encourage students to learn to work together in collaborate groups, and grade using rubrics because all assignments don’t need to be done the same. As society changes, it is important to develop changes in education to adapt to the needs of the learners. Education reform has been a frequent topic of concern of people for decades and as a result, education is changing and adapting from a teacher centered classroom to a learner centered classroom. As stated in How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice, “Schools and Classrooms must be learner centered.” (Donovan, Bransford, Pellegrino, 1999) Learner centered classrooms allow for differentiated instruction through freedom of thought and discovery using prior knowledge while encouraging social interaction with peers.
When thinking about my beliefs in learning and how to create a learner centered classroom, I have taken several theories and ideas to incorporate into my classroom to allow students to maximize learning. The following are a few ideas and theories that I implement in my classroom to develop and expand student potential in the learning process.
Anyone can learn. A famous quote states, “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” A fish is not
inferior for its inability to climb a tree, that fish is remarkable for being able to swim to great depths of the oceans. Teachers should think of their students this way, and be understanding that not all students are going to be great at the same things or learn in the same ways. Everyone learns in different ways, there are different learning styles to help students understand and conceptualize topics and ideas. Howard Gardner (1983) coined the term ‘multiple intelligences’ a theory, simply stated, that not everybody learns in the same way. Any person that has ever been around multiple people at once understands that no two people are the same. If people are not all the same, why do we stick 30 kids of around the same age in a classroom and teach them the same things in the exact same way? Educators should differentiate class to meet the needs of many types of learners. As educators attempt to meet the learning styles of students, they should also teach students the importance of having a growth mindset to learn to learn to grow to adapt to new challenges.
Discovery Learning. Students learn best when they can make their own discoveries. Students learn from their mistakes and develop meaning and understanding by comparing ideas to real-life experiences. As stated by Christopher Pappas in his 2014 article, Instructional Design Models and Theories: The Discovery Learning Model, “Discovery Learning was introduced by Jerome Bruner, and is a method of Inquiry-Based Instruction. This popular theory encourages learners to build on past experiences and knowledge, use their intuition, imagination and creativity, and search for new information to discover facts, correlations and new truths.” Allowing inquiry based instruction in classrooms allows students to investigate and develop ideas. In addition to making their own discoveries in learning, students should work with peers for social development.
Social Development Theory. Socialization plays a role in the development of people. “The major theme of Vygotsky’s theoretical framework is that social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition.” (Social Development) I believe that people need to be around other people to develop social skills. With the digital age among us, it is important to look at effect of technology on learning theories.
Learning in the Digital Age
Education is changing which is why it important to develop changes in the classroom that allow for students to maximize their potential learning using available technological resources. Many teachers across the United States are incorporating more technology into their lessons, but the focus of technology in a lesson should not be the technology itself, but the ability to enhance a lesson, to allow students access to things they would not normally have access to. Teachers should not use technology to teach the lessons, instead, they should use the technology to develop the learning. George Siemens, author of Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age addresses the importance of reconsidering learning theories to adapt to new technologies being incorporated into learning. As society and the world around us are changing, it’s important to adapt to the needs of the learner.
The Relationship Between Teaching and Learning
Robert Marzano wrote, “I believe that the “heart of the matter” of any educational reform or restructuring is the relationship between the teaching and learning processes. We know that effective teaching mirrors effective learning, yet as educators we have not mounted a serious effort to organize teaching around the learning process” (p. 1). For a teacher to offer an effective learning environment for students, teachers must develop a plan to organize teaching around the learning process. Unfortunately, developing plans to create more successful learning environments for students is a challenge for teachers; teachers lack time and support in developing effective learning environments for students. Teachers and educators should be working to develop ways to enhance the learning process to be more learner centered.
Students are going to learn, teacher or not. A child does not need a teacher to learn, humans are programmed to be curious, investigate, and explore. Children do not need a teacher to teach them things, they need a facilitator that will guide them in the direction of following their own passion and curiosity. Educators should push children to want to learn but should not get frustrated when students are not learning the intended goals. The role of a teacher is changing, a teacher’s job at one point was to teach information but the job of a teacher is shifting to facilitator; teachers facilitate the learning, allowing students to make their own discoveries. In addition to facilitating learning, teachers should be encouraging and positive. I have always found that my most inspiring teachers were the ones that were the most encouraging and positive to my growth as a student.
My ideas of learning have adapted over time and I have developed new methods of understanding the learning process. When developing a learning philosophy, the ideas and theories to consider are endless; New ideas are formed every day and theories are constantly being published and critiqued. An important job for educators is to keep their classrooms up to date with the changes of learning theories, student needs, and society. The current role of an educator is shifting from teacher to facilitator where teachers guide learning rather than providing information. My search for new information to maximize my students learning potential is ongoing and I will continue to adapt my teaching to the needs of the learners.
Social development theory (Lev Vygotsky). (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2016, from http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/social-development.html
The article sums up the theories and ideas of Lev Vygotsky indicating that importance of people learning from social interactions. I agree that social interactions influence the behavior of people which is why it is important to facilitate group activities for students in social settings.
Donovan, M. S., Bransford, J. D., & Pellegrino, J. W. (1999). How people learn: Bridging research and practice. Retrieved June 5, 2016, from http://www.nap.edu/catalog/9457.html
How People Learn uses research to provide evidence of strategies of different practices to help people learn. Each of the strategies developed is proven to provide maximum outcome in student learning. Understanding how people learn is important to help teachers develop a significant learning environment.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.
Dweck states there are two mindsets, a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. People with the growth mindset use mistakes as opportunities to grow themselves. People with a fixed mindset do not look at failure as an opportunity to grow, rather, a limit of ones’ capabilities. Distilling a growth mindset in students will increase their willingness to explore new ideas and will not limit them with failure.
Earl, K. (2016, March 18). Masters of mindset – Compete4Christ. Retrieved November 27, 2016, from http://compete4christ.co/2016/03/18/masters-of-mindset/
This site provided a great visual in understanding the growth mindset versus the fixed mindset.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner identifies that there are different learning styles that all people learn in different ways. Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences has played a large factor in my teaching because I understand that not everyone learns in the same way and want to adjust my teaching to fit the needs of multiple types of learners.
Marzano, Robert (1992), A different kind of classroom: Teaching with dimensions of learning, Alexandria, Virgina: ASCD
Marzano describes the importance of reforming education to develop learner centered classrooms.
Pappas, C. (2016, October 21). Instructional design models and theories: The discovery learning model. Retrieved November 27, 2016, from https://elearningindustry.com/discovery-learning-model
Pappas simplified the constructivist theory developed by Jerome Bruner that learning is a cognitive process. When students are able to discover and make connections to their pasts, they develop more meaningful connections to their learning when compared to being told information.
Siemens, G. (2005, January). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved November 27, 2016, from http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm
Siemens describes the importance of developing known theories to technologies of current times. As time passes, it is no surprise that there are technological advances which should be acknowledged when looking at previously developed theories.