I learn. My friends learn. My students learn. My colleagues learn. My dogs learn. We all learn. I believe learning is an ongoing process. Learning occurs from the day you are born until the day you die. You are never too old or too young to learn. The burning question is, “How do we learn?” My answer is, “Lots of different ways!” There are many paths traveled throughout the learning journey. Before today, I didn’t try to discover my theory of learning. I guess I never really knew what theory I associated my learning with the most….until now.
What is a “Learning Theory?” According to James Kelly of The Peak Performance Center learning theories are an organized set of principles explaining how individuals acquire, retain, and recall knowledge. There are many learning theories. I didn’t realize how many actually have been named until I began really thinking about MY learning theory. I have concluded that I learn through a myriad of ways. I think everyone has different methods of learning depending on age, situations, availability, and countless other factors. I’ll begin by explaining the two different learning theories that I believe have shaped my learning journey the most.
BEHAVIORIST LEARNING THEORY: A mechanical process of associating the stimulus with a response, which produces a new behavior. (Ratna, 2017) J. B. Watson, I. Pavlov, and B. F. Skinner were proponents of this learning theory. Basically, the learner starts with a blank slate and their learning behaviors are shaped by stimuli and responses. A behaviorist learning approach is good if you are looking for only one possible correct answer.
Growing up, I could have been a great behaviorist theory research subject. Much of what I learned in school was simply memorization. I was good at memorizing facts. For instance, I learned my multiplication tables quickly. I used flashcards, I wrote the multiplication problems down, my parents quizzed me. Looking back, I realize why I worked so hard at memorization. I wanted to beat Carolee Benson in the Around the World game we played each week at school. She was my friend, but also my nemesis. She was really good at multiplication facts. The agony of losing made me work even harder.
I got straight A grades in school. I knew how to take tests. I could memorize information. Sadly, unless I used that information later, I forgot it. When I was in fifth grade, I knew a lot of facts. I knew the names of travelers, what wars were fought, and dates. Today if I participated in the TV show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader,” I just might lose! Just for fun, click here and see how you fare!
A small part of me probably still reverts to the behaviorist learning theory, but I would like to think I have evolved beyond just stimulus and response learning. Although, I am still motivated by doing well and achieving a good grade! I do utilize behaviorist learning daily on my dogs, though! I am constantly training them using mostly rewards, with a few punishments that are necessary at times.
CONSTRUCTIVIST LEARNING THEORY: We construct our own knowledge of the world based on individual experiences. (Kelly, 2012) Two noted researchers were leaders in this theory, J. Piaget (cognitive constructivism) and L. Vygotsky (social constructivism). (Kretchmar, 2013) Although, I must state that during my reading of different works about learning theories, these two names were also associated with cognitivism. I believe that some learning theories are very similar and incorporate related beliefs, therefore it makes sense that people would be associated with more than just one theory of learning.
I am a doer. I learn best when I am actively involved in my learning. I believe that my past experiences and contexts I encountered have been the biggest contributors to my learning. I seek tacit knowledge. I remember something if I experienced it. I don’t always believe what I am told or what I read until I confirm on my own. I do believe what I see!
Is your glass half full or half empty? Your answer might be based on your prior life experiences. If the majority of your experiences have been negative, then your glass would probably be half empty. I have been lucky, the majority of my life experiences have been positive. My glass is half full.
It is imperative that I understand how I learn best, my personal theory of learning. Why? Because I am a teacher. Since I believe I learn best when the constructivist theory is in play, wouldn’t I want my students to have that same opportunity? Yes, there are times when I must revert to teaching using rote learning or the behaviorist theory, but not very often. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!
I believe my learning philosophy impacts my teaching philosophy. They go hand in hand. However, not all of my students learn the same way I do. I have found that some students don’t like their learning to be left up to them. They just want to be told. Being in control scares them. I think it’s mainly because they haven’t had the experience of seeking information on their own. This is where my teaching philosophy grows from my learning philosophy. I try to instill the love of learning in my students. I don’t want to be the sage on the stage (although that role is sometimes necessary). My goal is the be the students’ guide on the side.
As I have stated, the learning theory I associate myself with the most is the constructivist theory. In hindsight, this is why I created the innovation plan that I did. As I was forming my innovation plan, my learning theory did not even cross my mind. I just knew what I wanted to get done and how to best go about attaining that goal. Looking back, I can see that my wish for teachers to incorporate blended learning into their classrooms and me being available to help them do that directly correlates with my constructivist learning. I don’t feel as though teachers will incorporate blended learning into their lessons unless they actually experience blended learning. I want to share my own blended learning experiences with the teachers in their own classrooms so my colleagues can experience it for themselves.
I am Kris Bumsted and I have developed into a CONSTRUCTIVIST LEARNER!
Kelly, J. (2012) Theories. Retrieved from http://thepeakperformancecenter.com/educational-learning/learning/theories/
This site and article included graphics that clarified the learning theory concepts for me. The definitions of the different learning theories were very easy to understand. There were also example situations listed for each learning theory. Only the three main theories were elaborated on behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism.
Kretchmar, J. (2013) Constructivism. Research Starters: Education (online edition). 6p. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.libproxy.lamar.edu/eds/detail/detail?vid=2&sid=d708e140-cd71-42f0-b51e-a8b8cce1c907%40sessionmgr4009&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=89164134&db=ers
Brought clarity to the different strands of constructivism learning theory: Cognitive constructivism and social constructivism. There was a section of terms and concepts that gave the definitions of words used.
Ratna, S. & Tron, B. (2017). Learning theories: Implications in teacher education. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/6730061/Learning_Theories_Implications_in_Teacher_Education
Defined and clarified the learning theories of behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. Listed the strengths and weaknesses of each theory as well as applications and implications.
UNESCO. (2017). Most influential theories of learning. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/strengthening-education-systems/quality-framework/technical-notes/influential-theories-of-learning/
This publication gave an overview of several different learning theories: Behavioral, cognitive, constructivism, experiential learning, multiple intelligence, situated learning, and community of practice. This was a great start to understanding the different learning theories.