To be truly successful, the learning should never stop. Learning is not about reaching a destination, but should be a lifelong process. I have been involved in various careers, and teaching was not my initial planned career path. I accelerated earning my teaching credentials through an alternative certification program. This fast-tracked method to teaching, had tunneled my energy towards teaching, which prevented needed reflection on my learning. How have I learned? What have I learned? Why have I learned? Having the opportunity to understand my learning philosophy, will only build and strengthen my teaching philosophy. I have discovered that my learning philosophy has changed and will continue to evolve through the years. I have learned through both Behaviorism and Constructivism which has lead me to develop my own learning philosophy.
The primary learning philosophy that was used during my K-12 was Behaviorism. In an educational setting, behaviorism is when the learner is usually passive, and responds to both negative and positive reinforcement (J L, 2007). Reinforcement both positive and negative is used to teach the learner what essential information is needed. Students learn primarily through lecture-style teachers and the memorization of information. Most of my early years of learning were spent quietly listening to the teacher, and trying to decipher what I was supposed to learn. Then studying exactly what was taught, proving that I learned through a formative assessment. Even though Behaviorism philosophy developed in the 1920s, it continues to be a most common approach to learning in the Unites States (Bates, 2014). Applying this learning philosophy was in some ways a good foundation for basic understanding of concepts. However, this lead me to only learn what I was supposed to learn, and on a surface level. I took negligible risk to earn the highest grades. I finished High School with high marks, but had almost no idea how to solve a real problem.
In college, one of my first assignments was to create a ping pong launcher. The rubric consisted not of what materials to use, or how to construct this structure, but on accuracy of the launch. The professors would give you two opportunities to hit the mark of their choice, one short distance and one long. This was my sink or swim moment. The only choice I was confronted with was to completely revamp my learning philosophy or I would quickly fail this course. I didn’t realize this at the time, but my learning philosophy immediately changed to Constructivism. This places emphasis on learners controlling their learning, focusing not just the what but the how (Brooks & Brooks, 1999). I had to apply all the physics and mechanics I had learned while working with a group of peers. This theory allowed me to learn on a much deeper level. I wasn’t just listening to a teacher explain how physics work, I was applying it. Learning should be about actively learning through experiences and solving critical problems. Although this abrupt transition was challenging, it provided me with the foundation of a learning philosophy I still believe in. Changing my learning philosophy to Constructivism, has provided me with successful lifelong problem-solving skills. Furthermore, Constructivism approaches that have the most impact towards my learning beliefs are problem-based learning and experiential learning.
Problem-based learning is an approach allowing for students to apply knowledge to new situations. Student are exposed to open ended questions without “right” answers, work to investigate problems with groups, and teachers adopt a role of facilitators of learning (J L, 2014). I have discovered directly how beneficial a hands-on approach provides a deeper understanding of concepts. I believe if you can take basic knowledge and apply these principals to create, build, and investigate, the learner is challenged, resulting in significant learning skills. Having an opportunity to create something to provide an outcome, even if you fail, you will have a learned more than just memorization of facts. Problem-based learning promote student’s confidence in problem solving skills and can put students at an advantage in future careers (Speaking of Teaching, 2001).
The experiential approach is learning through experience, the learner gains knowledge by interacting with their environment (Mughal & Zafar, 2011). For someone to really learn it must be through experience. Everyday learning is happening all around us through things we do and see. We should be taking advantage of these opportunities and learning not through isolation but through environmental observations. To obtain relevant knowledge a learner must be exposed to experiences in their environment (Mughal & Zafar, 2011). Having only access to information is not enough compared to being exposed to an actual situation.
Learning vs. Teaching
My learning philosophy and teaching philosophy go hand in hand, but this has not always been the case. Previously I taught math, and was overwhelmed with the compacted curriculum and standardized tests. I was tired of pressures placed on students, parents, and teachers, so I made a change. At the time, I believed these math teaching methods no longer aligned with my values. What I was really expressing was my learning philosophy was conflicting with my teaching philosophy, which was causing the frustration. I used to spend hours discussing cumulative formative assessments, and analyzing statistics of students that were at-risk of failing a standardized test. Having the opportunity to teach Career & Technology Education courses has lead me to spend time on developing discussions for problem based learning, collaborating with colleagues about differentiating curriculum, and finding ways to facilitate learning. Teaching is a key component to learning. However, the teaching methods where students only learn through direct teaching are not ideal for 21st century learners. Students memorizing information to regurgitate answers is not real learning. Students need to have options to choose how they learn. The implementation of my blended learning plan allows for students to have options to choose between student led instruction, peer collaboration, small group teaching, and online learning. I believe providing an opportunity for students to have control over their learning will lead them to adapt to future challenges. When students have learned basic concepts, they are able to then apply these concepts through projects and hands-on experiences. I believe using the Constructivism theory through experiences and problem-based learning will provide needed skills for students to excel in the future. Although my learning philosophy will continue to grow and evolve, I will continue to strive for what I believe benefits students.
Bates, T. (2014, July 14). Learning theories and online learning. Retrieved from https://www.tonybates.ca/2014/07/29/learning-theories-and-online-learning/
Bates begins by explaining why it is important to understand the different theories of learning. Then he gives an overview of Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism. He provides a background and history for each theory and specific examples of how they are used in the classroom.
Brooks, M. G., & Brooks, J. G. (1999, November). The courage to be constructivist. The constructivist classroom, 18-24. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov99/vol57/num03/The-Courage-to-Be-Constructivist.aspx
This is a good article explaining many of the aspects of the Constructivism theory. The article begins with standardized testing and how these tests can constrict learning. There is then an overview of how constructivism is applied in the classroom, then explaining what constructivism is and is not.
Culatta, R. (2015). www.instructionaldesign.org. Retrieved from http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/constructivist.html
Culatta gives a good overview of the Constructivism theory specifically through research from Jerome Bruner. He provides direct examples of how the Constructivist theory is used by both the learner and teacher or facilitator. He provides a brief history and research that Bruner has developed.
Buck Institute for Education. (n.d.). Research summary: PBL and 21st century competencies. Retrieved from http://www.bie.org/object/document/research_summary_on_the_benefits_of_pbl
This resource gives a description on project based learning, why to use it, and how to use it. Then the rest of the article gives direct research regarding benefits for 21st century learner, increased motivation by students, academic achievement, and teacher satisfaction.
J L, "Behaviorism," in Learning Theories, January 31, 2007, https://www.learning-theories.com/behaviorism.html.
This article gives a brief overview of the learning theory of Behaviorism. There is a short history explaining the development by BF Skinner. This website also provides and easy explanation through a video giving examples of how this used in the classroom.
J L, "Constructivism," in Learning Theories, June 20, 2015, https://www.learning-theories.com/constructivism.html. This resource provides a brief explanation of how Constructivism is used and compares the theory of Behaviorism. An explanation is provided that Constructivism can be misunderstood assuming that instructors never teach anything directly to the students. A video is provided giving classroom examples for a teacher to apply this theory in the classroom.
J L, "Problem-Based Learning (PBL)," in Learning Theories, July 23, 2014, https://www.learning-theories.com/problem-based-learning-pbl.html.
J L gives an overview of basic characteristics of problem based learning. The beliefs of project based learning are explained along with a brief history of this theory beginning in the late 1960s. Explanation of both the benefits of problem based learning and possible negative impacts for learners is included.
Donavan, M. S., Bransford, J. D. & Pellegrino, J. D. (1999). How people learn. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/catalog/9457.html
This is an extensive report regarding research explaining human learning. Included in this report are implications for teaching, how to bring order to learning, how to design classroom environments, and to apply these concepts to adults learning. Also provided are how both the education communities and policy communities have responded to learning.
Standford University. (2001). Problem-Based Learning. Speaking of teaching, 4-5. Retrieved from http://web.stanford.edu/dept/CTL/cgi-bin/docs/newsletter/problem_based_learning.pdf
Stanford University composed research based explanation of problem based learning. The beginning of the article gives research backed benefits of problem based learning. The then article progresses giving direct examples of how this can be been applied in both small classrooms and large classrooms.
University Center for the Advancement of Teaching. (2017). ucat.osu.edu. Retrieved from http://ucat.osu.edu/professional-development/teaching-portfolio/philosophy/
This is an overview of what a teaching philosophy statement is, and what is the purpose of developing a teaching statement. This article provides formatting suggestions and links to examples of teaching statements.
Weimer, M. (2009, November 12th ). Problem-Based learning:Benefits and risks. Effective Teaching Strategies. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/problem-based-learning-benefits-and-risks/ Weimer gives a brief overview of what problem-based learning is. She further discusses the benefits of problem-based for students, instructors, and institutions. She then gives the risks for students, instructors, and institution.
Zafar, F. M. (2011). Experiential learning from a constructivist perspective: Reconceptualizing the Kolbian Cycle. International Journal of Learning & Development, 2.
Initially this article discusses the importance of differentiating between experiential learning and experiential education. Further explained is the constructivist perspective of learning through experiential. The article explains what learning is through the Kolbian Cycle and breaks down each component.