Learning Theories

[Alternative Teaching] (metodologies, etc. [Alternative Teaching] Montessori, etc On this page: {Links}

On-Purpose Associates' pages

Downloaded from: http://www.funderstanding.com/about_learning.cfm on 2008.04.05 Content by: On Purpose Associates. (except my notes [] - etc) This section examines 12 different theories on how people learn: Constructivism Action Research Behaviorism Piaget's Developmental Theory Neuroscience Brain-Based Learning Learning Styles Multiple Intelligences Right Brain/Left Brain Thinking Communities of Practice Control Theory Observational Learning Vygotsky and Social Cognition


See also: Action Research (below) Defn: Constructivism is a philosophy of learning founded on the premise that, by reflecting on our experiences, we construct our own understanding of the world we live in. Each of us generates our own "rules" and "mental models," which we use to make sense of our experiences. Learning, therefore, is simply the process of adjusting our mental models to accommodate new experiences. There are several guiding principles of constructivism: Learning is a search for meaning. Therefore, learning must start with the issues around which students are actively trying to construct meaning. Meaning requires understanding wholes as well as parts. And parts must be understood in the context of wholes. Therefore, the learning process focuses on primary concepts, not isolated facts. In order to teach well, we must understand the mental models that students use to perceive the world and the assumptions they make to support those models. The purpose of learning is for an individual to construct his or her own meaning, not just memorize the "right" answers and regurgitate someone else's meaning. Since education is inherently interdisciplinary, the only valuable way to measure learning is to make the assessment part of the learning process, ensuring it provides students with information on the quality of their learning. How Constructivism Impacts Learning Curriculum--Constructivism calls for the elimination of a standardized curriculum. Instead, it promotes using curricula customized to the students' prior knowledge. Also, it emphasizes hands-on problem solving. Instruction -- Under the theory of constructivism, educators focus on making connections between facts and fostering new understanding in students. Instructors tailor their teaching strategies to student responses and encourage students to analyze, interpret, and predict information. Teachers also rely heavily on open-ended questions and promote extensive dialogue among students. Assessment -- Constructivism calls for the elimination of grades and standardized testing. Instead, assessment becomes part of the learning process so that students play a larger role in judging their own progress. Reading : Jacqueline and Martin Brooks, The Case for Constructivist Classrooms. The content on this page was written by On Purpose Associates. See also: http://carbon.cudenver.edu/~mryder/itc_data/constructivism.html

Action Research

http://www.cis.gsu.edu/~rbaskerv/CAIS_2_19/CAIS_2_19.html (classical app of AR) http://www.scu.edu.au/schools/gcm/ar/arr/arow/kms.html (iterative ideas included) http://www.scu.edu.au/schools/gcm/ar/arp/rigour2.html#a_r2_ar (another look at rigour in AR) http://www.caledonia.org.uk/par.htm Sixteen Tenets of PAR http://mypage.iusb.edu/~gmetteta/Classroom_Action_Research.html Gwynn Mettetal's excellent page w/many links, and resources...


Defn: Behaviorism is a theory of animal and human learning that only focuses on objectively observable behaviors and discounts mental activities. Behavior theorists define learning as nothing more than the acquisition of new behavior. Experiments by behaviorists identify conditioning as a universal learning process. There are two different types of conditioning, each yielding a different behavioral pattern: Classic conditioning occurs when a natural reflex responds to a stimulus. The most popular example is Pavlov's observation that dogs salivate when they eat or even see food. Essentially, animals and people are biologically "wired" so that a certain stimulus will produce a specific response. Behavioral or operant conditioning occurs when a response to a stimulus is reinforced. Basically, operant conditioning is a simple feedback system: If a reward or reinforcement follows the response to a stimulus, then the response becomes more probable in the future. For example, leading behaviorist B.F. Skinner used reinforcement techniques to teach pigeons to dance and bowl a ball in a mini-alley. There have been many criticisms of behaviorism, including the following: Behaviorism does not account for all kinds of learning, since it disregards the activities of the mind. Behaviorism does not explain some learning -- such as the recognition of new language patterns by young children -- for which there is no reinforcement mechanism. Reserach has shown that animals adapt their reinforced patterns to new information. For instance, a rat can shift its behavior to respond to changes in the layout of a maze it had previously mastered through reinforcements. How Behaviorism Impacts Learning This theory is relatively simple to understand because it relies only on observable behavior and describes several universal laws of behavior. Its positive and negative reinforcement techniques can be very effective -- both in animals, and in treatments for human disorders such as autism and antisocial behavior. Behaviorism often is used by teachers, who reward or punish student behaviors. Reading: D.C. Phillips & Jonas F. Soltis, Perspectives on Learning, Chapter 3. Teachers College Press. The content on this page was written by On Purpose Associates.

Piaget's Theories

Defn: Swiss biologist and psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980) is renowned for constructing a highly influential model of child development and learning. Piaget's theory is based on the idea that the developing child builds cognitive structures -- in other words, mental "maps," schemes, or networked concepts for understanding and responding to physical experiences within his or her environment. Piaget further attested that a child's cognitive structure increases in sophistication with development, moving from a few innate reflexes such as crying and sucking to highly complex mental activities. Piaget's theory identifies four developmental stages and the processes by which children progress through them. The four stages are: Sensorimotor stage (birth - 2 years old) -- The child, through physical interaction with his or her environment, builds a set of concepts about reality and how it works. This is the stage where a child does not know that physical objects remain in existence even when out of sight (object permanance). Preoperational stage (ages 2-7) -- The child is not yet able to conceptualize abstractly and needs concrete physical situations. Concrete operations (ages 7-11) -- As physical experience accumulates, the child starts to conceptualize, creating logical structures that explain his or her physical experiences. Abstract problem solving is also possible at this stage. For example, arithmetic equations can be solved with numbers, not just with objects. Formal operations (beginning at ages 11-15) -- By this point, the child's cognitive structures are like those of an adult and include conceptual reasoning. Piaget outlined several principles for building cognitive structures. During all development stages, the child experiences his or her environment using whatever mental maps he or she has constructed so far. If the experience is a repeated one, it fits easily--or is assimilated--into the child's cognitive structure so that he or she maintains mental "equilibrium." If the experience is different or new, the child loses equilibrium, and alters his or her cognitive structure to accommodate the new conditions. This way, the child erects more and more adequate cognitive structures. How Piaget's Theory Impacts Learning Curriculum -- Educators must plan a developmentally appropriate curriculum that enhances their students' logical and conceptual growth. Instruction -- Teachers must emphasize the critical role that experiences -- or interactions with the surrounding environment -- play in student learning. For example, instructors have to take into account the role that fundamental concepts, such as the permanence of objects, play in establishing cognitive structures. The content on this page was written by On Purpose Associates.


Defn: Neuroscience is the study of the human nervous system, the brain, and the biological basis of consciousness, perception, memory, and learning. The nervous system and the brain are the physical foundation of the human learning process. Neuroscience links our observations about cognitive behavior with the actual physical processes that support such behavior. This theory is still "young" and is undergoing rapid, controversial development. Some of the key findings of neuroscience are: The brain has a triad structure. Our brain actually contains three brains: the lower or reptilian brain that controls basic sensory motor functions; the mammalian or limbic brain that controls emotions, memory, and biorhythms; and the neocortex or thinking brain that controls cognition, reasoning, language, and higher intelligence. The brain is not a computer. The structure of the brain's neuron connections is loose, flexible, "webbed," overlapping, and redundant. It's impossible for such a system to function like a linear or parallel-processing computer. Instead, the brain is better described as a self-organizing system. The brain changes with use, throughout our lifetime. Mental concentration and effort alters the physical structure of the brain. Our nerve cells (neurons) are connected by branches called dendrites. There are about 10 billion neurons in the brain and about 1,000 trillion connections. The possible combinations of connections is about ten to the one-millionth power. As we use the brain, we strengthen certain patterns of connection, making each connection easier to create next time. This is how memory develops. How Neuroscience Impacts Education When educators take neuroscience into account, they organize a curriculum around real experiences and integrated, "whole" ideas. Plus, they focus on instruction that promotes complex thinking and the "growth" of the brain. Neuroscience proponents advocate continued learning and intellectual development throughout adulthood. Readings Gerald Edelman, Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter of the Mind. Basic Books, 1992. Bobbi Deporter, Quantum Learning, Chapter 2. Dell Trade, 1992. Renate and Geoffrey Caine, Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain. Robert Sylwester, "What the Biology of the Brain Tells Us About Learning," Education Leadership, December, 1993. The content on this page was written by On Purpose Associates.

Brain Based Learning

Brain-based Learning Defn: This learning theory is based on the structure and function of the brain. As long as the brain is not prohibited from fulfilling its normal processes, learning will occur. People often say that everyone can learn. Yet the reality is that everyone does learn. Every person is born with a brain that functions as an immensely powerful processor. Traditional schooling, however, often inhibits learning by discouraging, ignoring, or punishing the brain's natural learning processes. The core principles of brain-based learning state that: The brain is a parallel processor, meaning it can perform several activities at once, like tasting and smelling. Learning engages the whole physiology. The search for meaning is innate. The search for meaning comes through patterning. Emotions are critical to patterning. The brain processes wholes and parts simultaneously. Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception. Learning involves both conscious and unconscious processes. We have two types of memory: spatial and rote. We understand best when facts are embedded in natural, spatial memory. Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat. Each brain is unique. The three instructional techniques associated with brain-based learning are: Orchestrated immersion -- Creating learning environments that fully immerse students in an educational experience Relaxed alertness -- Trying to eliminate fear in learners, while maintaining a highly challenging environment Active processing -- Allowing the learner to consolidate and internalize information by actively processing it. How Brain-Based Learning Impacts Education Curriculum -- Teachers must design learning around student interests and make learning contextual. Instruction -- Educators let students learn in teams and use peripheral learning. Teachers structure learning around real problems, encouraging students to also learn in settings outside the classroom and the school building. Assessment -- Since all students are learning, their assessment should allow them to understand their own learning styles and preferences. This way, students monitor and enhance their own learning process. What Brain-Based Learning Suggests How the brain works has a significant impact on what kinds of learning activities are most effective. Educators need to help students have appropriate experiences and capitalize on those experiences. As Renate Caine illustrates on p. 113 of her book Making Connections, three interactive elements are essential to this process: Teachers must immerse learners in complex, interactive experiences that are both rich and real. One excellent example is immersing students in a foreign culture to teach them a second language. Educators must take advantage of the brain's ability to parallel process. Students must have a personally meaningful challenge. Such challenges stimulate a student's mind to the desired state of alertness. In order for a student to gain insight about a problem, there must be intensive analysis of the different ways to approach it, and about learning in general. This is what's known as the "active processing of experience." A few other tenets of brain-based learning include: Feedback is best when it comes from reality, rather than from an authority figure. People learn best when solving realistic problems. The big picture can't be separated from the details. Because every brain is different, educators should allow learners to customize their own environments. The best problem solvers are those that laugh! Designers of educational tools must be artistic in their creation of brain-friendly environments. Instructors need to realize that the best way to learn is not through lecture, but by participation in realistic environments that let learners try new things safely. Readings: Renate and Geoffrey Caine, Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain. Leslie Hart, Human Brain, Human Learning.

Learning Styles

Defn: This approach to learning emphasizes the fact that individuals perceive and process information in very different ways. The learning styles theory implies that how much individuals learn has more to do with whether the educational experience is geared toward their particular style of learning than whether or not they are "smart." In fact, educators should not ask, "Is this student smart?" but rather "How is this student smart?" The concept of learning styles is rooted in the classification of psychological types. The learning styles theory is based on research demonstrating that, as the result of heredity, upbringing, and current environmental demands, different individuals have a tendency to both perceive and process information differently. The different ways of doing so are generally classified as: Concrete and abstract perceivers -- Concrete perceivers absorb information through direct experience, by doing, acting, sensing, and feeling. Abstract perceivers, however, take in information through analysis, observation, and thinking. Active and reflective processors -- Active processors make sense of an experience by immediately using the new information. Reflective processors make sense of an experience by reflecting on and thinking about it. Traditional schooling tends to favor abstract perceiving and reflective processing. Other kinds of learning aren't rewarded and reflected in curriculum, instruction, and assessment nearly as much. How the Learning Styles Theory Impacts Education Curriculum -- Educators must place emphasis on intuition, feeling, sensing, and imagination, in addition to the traditional skills of analysis, reason, and sequential problem solving. Instruction -- Teachers should design their instruction methods to connect with all four learning styles, using various combinations of experience, reflection, conceptualization, and experimentation. Instructors can introduce a wide variety of experiential elements into the classroom, such as sound, music, visuals, movement, experience, and even talking. Assessment -- Teachers should employ a variety of assessment techniques, focusing on the development of "whole brain" capacity and each of the different learning styles. Readings: Bernice McCarthy, The 4-MAT System: Teaching to Learning Styles with Right/Left Mode Techniques. David Kolb, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Carl Jung, Psychological Types. Gordon Lawrence, People Types and Tiger Stripes: A Practical Guide to Learning Styles.

Multiple Types of Intellegence

Defn: This theory of human intelligence, developed by psychologist Howard Gardner, suggests there are at least seven ways that people have of perceiving and understanding the world. Gardner labels each of these ways a distinct "intelligence"--in other words, a set of skills allowing individuals to find and resolve genuine problems they face. Gardner defines an "intelligence" as a group of abilities that: Is somewhat autonomous from other human capacities Has a core set of information-processing operations Has a distinct history in the stages of development we each pass through Has plausible roots in evolutionary history While Gardner suggests his list of intelligences may not be exhaustive, he identifies the following seven: Verbal-Linguistic -- The ability to use words and language Logical-Mathematical -- The capacity for inductive and deductive thinking and reasoning, as well as the use of numbers and the recognition of abstract patterns Visual-Spatial -- The ability to visualize objects and spatial dimensions, and create internal images and pictures Body-Kinesthetic -- The wisdom of the body and the ability to control physical motion Musical-Rhythmic -- The ability to recognize tonal patterns and sounds, as well as a sensitivity to rhythms and beats Interpersonal -- The capacity for person-to-person communications and relationships Intrapersonal -- The spiritual, inner states of being, self-reflection, and awareness How Multiple Intelligences Impact Learning Curriculum -- Traditional schooling heavily favors the verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences. Gardner suggests a more balanced curriculum that incorporates the arts, self-awareness, communication, and physical education. Instruction -- Gardner advocates instructional methods that appeal to all the intelligences, including role playing, musical performance, cooperative learning, reflection, visualization, story telling, and so on. Assessment -- This theory calls for assessment methods that take into account the diversity of intelligences, as well as self-assessment tools that help students understand their intelligences. Reading: Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. The content on this page was written by On Purpose Associates.


emtech.net]- Superb jump page http://pzweb.harvard.edu/ebookstore/index.cfm studio thinking text ...hmmm? http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/bloom.html Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning http://www.teachers.ash.org.au/researchskills/dalton.htm Applying Bloom's Taxonomy http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/cogsys/bloom.html More on Bloom & Cognitive approach... http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/topic.htm The Classics in Psychology (papers)