Reflection on Learning Theories
Several weeks ago I described my personal theory on learning. My theory included aspects of behaviorism and constructivism. Students assimilate knowledge that they can connect to their everyday lives and receive feedback as to whether or not the knowledge is applied correctly. For much of my teaching experience I have designed lessons and units around these two theories and only these two theories; however, I have begun to implement more learning theories into my classroom in order to reach all students.
While I still strongly believe that these two aspects hold true, social constructivism also fits into the picture. With this addition, students are aided by a “more knowledgeable other” who can help the individual acquire more knowledge than they could alone (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010). Technology aids in this as communication can occur over long distances more quickly and the Internet through tutorials and demonstrations acts as a “more knowledgeable other.” A combination of these three learning models is representative of how students learn.
Two technology tools that I have already integrated in my classroom are VoiceThread and Webspiration. I have used VoiceThread in one activity with my students in which they discussed the social significance of the Max Schmeling vs. Joe Louis fight and the Jack Johnson vs. James Jeffries fight. Students were asked to read an article about the Joe Louis fight and compare the information presented in the article with the previous knowledge they had of the Johnson fight and discuss the overall significance each had in the advancement of black athletes in America through VoiceThread. This activity was a direct result of the shift in my personal learning theory as I have attempted create more social activities with my students. Together, students were able to think through the question, apply what we have learned, and made logical conclusions to answer the question.
The second technology, Webspiration, I have used twice with my 10th grade English class, which happens to be a survey course with no set curriculum. In one activity, students created concept maps that categorized the character development in the novel A Walk in the Woods. This allowed students to see how the juxtaposition was set-up between Bill Bryson and Stephen Katz. It also allowed students to view why certain characters are placed in a book to move the plot forward and why we attach ourselves to certain characters rather than others. In the activity, students provided feedback to one another, leading into the behaviorist aspect of my personal learning theory.
One change that I would like to include in my class is to incorporate more hypothesis generating and testing. With this instructional strategy, students applying what they know, experimenting, and adjusting their hypotheses based on the experiments (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). To accomplish this goal, I first will include a couple small activities in class in which students will generate and test hypothesis. I would eventually like to team up with our science teachers to create and implement more in depth activities, especially when completing the unit I implement where students create their own civilization. A second change that I would like to continue to work on is cooperative learning. While I have students work together on activities, I need to improve the types of activities that I am asking students to complete together. The ideal cooperative learning situation includes challenging scenarios that students individually could not complete (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).
With my increased use of technologies such as VoiceThread, the difficulties of problems I am asking students will also increase. Over the summer, I would like to sit down with other teachers teaching the same subject to create weekly challenging scenarios for students to work together to solve through a VoiceThread discussion. This would be implemented at the beginning of the next school year and will help to develop a learning environment that utilizes multiple learning theories.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Program eight. Social learning theories [Webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.