Personal Theory of Learning

Here are two different versions of my personal theory of learning:

Version 1

It is my belief that learning is an active process of gathering a vast repertoire of tools to effectively navigate life. These tools include knowledge, skills, connections, and experiences.  In one sense, a learner’s role is to be a sponge in an ocean of information. Yet, to be an effective learner, the knowledge gained must accompany meaningful skills, including skills to effectively learn more. These include, but are not limited to, organizing new information by chunking similar concepts together, welcoming questions, elaborative interrogation, self explanation, summarization, highlighting or underlining, using keyword mnemonics, imagery, re-reading, practice testing (such as flash cards), distributed practice, and interleaved practice (Dunlosky et al 2013).

As humans, we are wired to learn. As infants, we watched our parents and probably mimicked their actions, voice, and other aspects about them. We may have asked a lot of “why” questions and learned a lot about others and the answers they gave. This grew and was formalized by educating in and out of school. Our individual role, however, is still to learn. Physiologically, when learning takes place in the brain, a pathway, or neuron is formed. The more times those synapses fire over the neurons, they grow stronger. The more methods of experiencing the understanding and skills, the stronger those neurons get.

As we mature to adults, learning effectively must include taking what is learned becoming an expert in some way. Experts know a topic well enough they can see it from multiple approaches and can recognize when mistakes are made, and how to improve on their knowledge.

The purpose of learning, therefore, is to effectively navigate life and become productive, kind, thoughtful, smart, and aware humans.

References

Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14, 4–58.

 

Version 2

It is my belief that learning is gathering a vast repertoire of tools to effectively navigate life. In one sense, a learner’s role is to be a sponge in an ocean of information. Yet, to be an effective learner, the knowledge gained must accompany meaningful skills, including skills to effectively learn more. These include, but are not limited to, organizing new information by chunking similar concepts together, welcoming questions, elaborative interrogation, self explanation, summarization, highlighting or underlining, using keyword mnemonics, imagery, re-reading, practice testing (such as flash cards), distributed practice, and interleaved practice (Dunlosky et al 2013).

As humans, we are wired to learn. As infants, we watched our parents and probably mimicked their actions, voice, and other aspects about them. We may have asked a lot of “why” questions and learned a lot about others and the answers they gave.

The purpose of learning, therefore, is to effectively navigate life and become productive, kind, thoughtful, and aware humans. Learning effectively must include taking what is learned becoming an expert in some way.

Learning is an active process of gathering facts, information, and skills to put toward knowledge and wisdom. Some learning requires less action: it happens more passively, without a concerted effort to gain the facts, information, and knowledge. This could also be described as observational learning. For example, one observe the sky is blue. This didn’t require more action than going outside on a sunny day and looking at the sky. Other learning requires a lot more action, work, and awareness of what is happening. For example, this could be for learning why the sky is blue: reading informational texts, attending a class that talks about the atmosphere, doing some activities about the atmosphere, and recognizing how how much one has learned about the atmosphere, as well as how much more there is still to learn about why the sky is blue. One would be skilled in knowing which resources to use to learn about the atmosphere.

In schools, teachers play an important role in helping students learn to be good humans. They can give the learner a wide variety of experiences to learn. These could also be described as providing students with opportunities to use a variety of learning strategies. For example, teachers might lecture a class. As students learn about neurons, a neuron is created about a neuron. If the teacher has students repeat the word “neuron,” a synapse is fired and the neuron grows. As students write the word, “neuron,” more synapses are fired still. As students experience that neurons are a network of connections made in the brain, and practice as a class making a large network of connections while touching fingertip to fingertip, that neuron gets stronger still. Even more, they can turn to the students they have made the fingertip connection and call each other a “neuron,” making that neuron very strong. The teacher can then come back to the topic of neuron the next day and have students pull the word neuron and its meaning from their memory, making it very strong.

Much has been said in education about different learning styles. I’ve recently learned that various teaching styles attending to the different learning styles doesn’t have much effect. However, what I believe is that it’s best to cater to the brain by approaching the forming of a neuron in as many ways as possible. A straight lecture will not suit the needs of all learns. I have had many students who simply won’t remember a thing I say unless I also write it down somewhere (and have them write it down). Conversely, I have other students not remember what I write, or understand what I write, unless I read and explain it to them. I have witnessed students remembering the things we learn better as we do an activity about whatever topic or skill we are learning. So, though research apparently doesn’t back up teaching to the different learning styles (Bransford, Brown and Cocking, 2000), I find my best practice is to teach to let all possible learning styles be attended to.

One of the biggest insights into learning, I feel, is by looking at learning disabilities. Students that I’ve seen with learning disabilities (i.e. auditory processing disorder, attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, and so on) force my teaching style to attend to and accommodate their needs. I find that more students benefit from these accommodations than just those with a diagnosed disability. By teaching with their needs in mind, I find more students learn effectively.

References

Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school: Expanded edition. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press

 

Advertisements