Learning Theories: Ever-Present in a Life of Learning

September 29, 2018

After reading the assigned articles for EC&I833 this week about learning theories, (Ah yes, you cannot have an education grad class without reading about and discussing learning theories 😊)

I have taken some time to reflect on my learning, my teaching and on my own children’s learning. I am currently on maternity leave and have only had my two children as my learning examples and have thought about how these theories apply to a two and half year old and a nine-month-old. Observing how they learn has become an interesting prospect.

I can observe behaviourism in my two-year-old when she learns how to act socially within and outside of our house. Through guided action and response, I watch her learn that if she hits her brother there will be a consequence or if she uses the potty there will be a reward. She learns what is expected of her through the responses she gets either from me or from her surrounding environment. These are things that cannot just be told to her but she must experience a number of times to understand the positive and negative consequences with each action. I observe behaviorism with my nine-month-old when he cries and realizes that he can get the attention of his mom or dad. I can also see the irony that, I too, am becoming conditioned in the same process. I use behaviourism in my classroom with my classroom management. It takes a little time to teach the students what responses will be attached to each action, but I believe that in order for it to work to the greatest affect, I need to be consistent.

I observe forms of cognitivism with my two-year-old when I see her using her knowledge of the alphabet to recognize written names in our family that are familiar to her or noticing the numbers that she has learned and seeing them on objects around the house or outside. Whereas my nine-month-old is learning which shape fits into the similarly shaped hole in his shape puzzle ball. In my classroom, I realize that forms of cognitivism are changing as the educational technology changes, such as memorizing math formulas or specific facts, such memorizing the authors of ten different books (or what I remember doing when I went to school) that can be looked up instead of storing in our memories.

I see the constructivism when my two-year-old who is used to eating popcorn corn-on-the-cob that is warm or having to blow on it when it is hot and then she goes to Happy Hallow where they have a sandbox of corn for the kids to play in and my daughter picks up the corn in her hand and confused say “hot?”. She has to create meaning to the fact that the corn she is playing with looks and feels different that the corn she eats and even though it is not hot it is still corn.

The impact that technology has on these learning theories has changed the way people learn. Knowledge storage is not as necessary for us because we have devices readily available to help us retrieve the new things we learn, such as a computer. We do not need to memorize phone numbers or dates because that information an be stored in our phones. Students do not need to memorize the times tables because they have access to some type of calculator that would do it for them. (Even still, I encourage my students to memorize their times tables despite these technologies).

Connectivism (created by George Siemens) depends on the connections one has within a network of connections to other people and other information. In my classroom students can understand that learning does not only occur from other people but from non-human appliances or that we can learn from a variety of opinions and not only from the opinion of one source. I found this short video to help outline the ideas of connectivism a bit better for myself:


Image result for examples of connectivism in the classroom

I find that my goal for life-long learning and teaching my students and children about is quite dependant upon me keeping up with the changing technologies so that I can assist my student with their learning. I know that I need to make more of an effort to continue to use new technologies in my teaching not just for the learning of my students but also for my own learning. This is where I need to implement the theory of connectivism into my teaching so that I am able to allow for the learning to be less individualized and more with the community in the rapidly changing digital world.

When I read about “the Learning Pyramid” I was surprised at first that I had not seen (or really recalled seeing) it before. Then as I read further to see that it was a debunked theory, I was glad not to be unfamiliar with it. It reminded me of an article I read (after a former professor of mine had mentioned it to me in one of my previous grad classes) about the debunking of the different types of learners “auditory”, “visual”, “kinesthetic” (as I have included here Learning Styles Debunked) because of the lack of evidence in supporting the research as is similar in the “Learning Pyramid”.

Image result for learning pyramid

There are multiple theories on learning but I think what is important is that learning is occurring in the classroom regardless of what I do as a teacher. I am not the only source of learning and thus need to be able to be aware of this so that I can assist my students in their learning journeys to allow for multiple learning experience through multiple learning sources. This too, leads to my ever-changing ideas and knowledge in teaching, where I too become a continuous learner.

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