Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My Personal Learning Theory

As I was thinking about my learning theory, I realized that it is a combination of both the behavioral learning theory and the cognitive learning theory. The behavioral learning theory focuses on events that happen to the child. The outcome of learning is a change in the child’s behavior. On the other hand, the cognitive learning theory focuses on mental processes. It is using the understanding that we already have. Learning cannot be directly observed. My learning theory consists of both of these theories mixed together. I believe that learning takes place when a change in behavior takes place, but I also believe that learning occurs inside the child. Sometimes learning can’t be directly observed.
One of the main aspects of the behavioral view is reinforcing the students. While I was in the schools I noticed that students reinforcement was a huge deal to get them motivated. The best way to motivate the children was to have a variable ratio reinforcement schedule. When the teacher reinforces after a varying number of responses, the students won’t know when it is going to happen. This will help them work for longer periods of time. I think that this is extremely important in the classroom because the students are motivated, but they aren’t being reinforced constantly. This allows for some intrinsic motivation. This type of reinforcement is positive reinforcement because the teacher is presenting a desired stimulus after the behavior.
Another behaviorist point of view that I completely agree with is the Premack Principle. This principle states that a more-preferred activity can serve as a reinforcer for a less-preferred activity. This is a great way to help motivate children. It is saying that as soon as the students finish the worksheet or test, the students may participate in an activity that they enjoy. Some students in a classroom need to be reinforced after each step of a task. This is called shaping. These students may have a hard time concentrating unless they are constantly being motivated. Teachers may even need to make a task analysis, a task broken down into steps, so the students know exactly what is expected of them.
Students can also be reinforced when they see other students succeed and be reinforced for a task. This is called vicarious reinforcement. When teachers are constantly praising and reinforcing their students there will be a positive attitude in the classroom. One aspect of reinforcement that I have noticed is the fact that it changes through out the grades. First graders will need to be reinforced a lot more than sixth graders. Sixth graders are more likely to be intrinsically motivated.
There are also many aspects of the cognitive view of learning that I think are crucial aspects of the classroom. Since learning has to do with mental processes, teachers need to be aware of all of the different parts of the Information Processing System so they can help students move information from the sensory memory, where information from your senses is held, to the working memory, where the information is only help for a short amount of time. To remember the information the students need to know how to move the information from their working memory to their long-term memory.
There are different strategies I believe should be practiced within the classroom to help students remember material more efficiently. One of the most important ones to me is elaboration. When students connect new knowledge to already existing knowledge they are more likely to remember it. They are coming up with their own way to remember it and it becomes more meaningful to them. There are many other mnemonic strategies that are used to remember information. Examples of these are loci method or associating items with places, and acronyms. Teaching your students these methods and understanding them yourself with result in more learning and growing in the classroom.
In conclusion, learning may be observable and it may not be. Learning is frequently taking place as students are interacting with their peers, a more knowledgeable other, and even by themselves. They are constantly connecting new knowledge with prior knowledge and making meaning for themselves. I believe that is important to incorporate both types of learning theories in the classroom. Each student is different and unique. We as teachers need to learn how to adapt and incorporate different types of teaching styles to best help all the students in our class.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting comment about people's need for reinforcement changing as they get older. I've noticed this, too. Since you've adopted a Behav-Cog perspective, one thing that I've found helps to explain the older students' motivational needs is the Utility-Value approach. As people progress, those obvious external rewards take on a different nature and people need to be able to also see the utility (and its 4 different types).