Philosophizing on learning

I’m going to be honest. I never thought of myself as subscribing to a specific learning philosophy other than that I believe all kids can learn. When I was working my teaching certification, I remember studying the work of Piaget and others. I gleaned information from everything but I don’t remember having to declare which learning philosophy I believed in. I wanted to teach history because I loved studying history and kids need to know their history.

Once I started teaching I realized that while history is important, I really wanted to make an impact in my kids lives. I’m not a teacher of history, I’m a teacher of students became a common phrase I would tell myself. However, there was still a focus on the teaching not the learning. Over 19 years, you get exposed to A LOT of theories in education. Many times teachers do not have enough time to study and reflect on them in a deep way. Taking the DLL program at Lamar has really given me an opportunity to explore learning with a more in-depth focus.

Have I really even been focusing on the learning as much as I should have all of these years? The answer is yes and no. I think it is sometimes natural as a teacher to get caught up in what we are doing for our learners and not always taking into account the learning process.

“Learning is a complex process that has generated numerous interpretations and theories of how it is effectively accomplished.” (Ertmer & Newby, 1993)

Which learning philosophy do I believe in? I believe that I learn through all 3 major learning theories. Why? Because learning is complex and the reasons that we want to learn things are complex. I don’t think we can learn in any one of these ways exclusively.

Our current school system is based on many behaviorist principles. We have a system of rewards and punishment. Do students learn this way? Yes. I sure did, at least sometimes I did. In behaviorism, we learn much of the “what” that we need to take learning to a deeper level. There was a lot of extrinsic motivation involved but I learned. I will admit this is probably how I learned basic math concepts. The only reason I took pre-Calculus and passed was that it was required in my degree program not because I had a wild interest to learn it. I still don’t by the way. The teacher drives this type of learning but sometimes it’s what students need.

Cognitive theory requires more intrinsic motivation from the learner. We build upon  things we already know. History was always my favorite subject. I always loved reading biographies and accounts of historical events. So that led me to go out and discover on my own and learn more about the historical figures and events. I was the computer seeking more information. Pretty much all of my history classes were lecture and discussion driven in college and I loved them. I loved listening to the stories that my professors weaved and then going and reading about them as well. Many nights were spent on the 4th floor of Willis library looking through the historical collection. Still love the smell of old books.

As I’ve become an adult learner and especially through this program I can also see the constructivist theory at work. Much of what I’ve learned and incorporated into my teaching has been more on my own. There may have been a facilitator guiding some learning but I have had to construct the meaning on my own or with a group team. Sometimes it was out of necessity and sometimes because I was motivated on my own to do so. Learning technology has been on my own  and occasionally with some guidance from a digital learning facilitator along the way.

“A learning philosophy is something that reflects what a learner has discovered and come to believe about learning.” (Wiemer, 2014)

So what do I believe about learning? I believe that we can’t explain how people learn in one specific, rigid category. Learning is organic and can’t fit into one theory alone. As I illustrated above, I learned under all three theories. So I believe as I move into my blended learning innovation plan I have to take all of them into account as part of my learning philosophy.

“The better you know and understand specific learning theories the better able you will be to select the best elements from all the theories which will help you to mashup the most effective learning environment.” (Harapnuik, 2016)

Moving forward, I will continue to research learning theories and I’m sure my learning philosophy will adjust and change as I delve deeper into my innovation plan. I will need to continuously ask the question, which theory will be most effective for the learners in the task that I am wanting them to learn?

Annotated Bibliography
Bates, T. (2014, July 29). Learning theories and online learning. [Web log post] Retrieved from: https://www.tonybates.ca/2014/07/29/learning-theories-and-online-learning/
Discusses why learning theories are significant and should be explored and evaluated to meet the needs of divers learners.
Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 1993, pp. 50–72. doi: 10.1111/j.1937-8327.1993.tb00605.x
This article highlights the 3 main learning theories and compares them and their application in instructional design.
Harpnuik, D. (2016, March 11). Four keys to understanding learning theories. [Web log post] Retrieved from: http://www.harapnuik.org/?p=6344
Dr Harapnuik makes the case for understanding the learning theories to help create significant learning environments for our learners.
Overview of learning. (2017) GSI Teaching and Resource Center. Retrieved from: http://gsi.berkeley.edu/gsi-guide-contents/learning-theory-research/learning-overview/
Provides a brief introduction to each learning theory and how they are viewed by learners and teachers.
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/qualityframework/technical-notes/influential-theories-of-learning/
Provides a summary of each learning theory as well as some learning styles.
Weimer, Maryellen. (2014, March 26). What’s your learning Philosophy [Web log post] Retrieved from: https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/whats-learning-philosophy/
Blog delving into one’s need to consider their learning philosophy.
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