Term Paper: Education Theories Knowledge of Learning Styles

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Education Theories

Knowledge of Learning Styles, Learning Theories, Approaches to Education

There is a great deal of worthwhile information for today's instructional professionals related to styles of learning psychological approaches to learning, to be found in contemporary literature. This paper will present a review and analysis of the literature, reflecting a diversity of ideas and techniques for the learning process.

MASSIFICATION of HIGHER EDUCATION:

In a scholarly article published by the journal Higher Education the author suggests there is a need "...to redefine the aims, goals, and ethics of research and instruction from a new perspective" (Tynjala, et al. 2003). In particular, the article proposes that the relationship between higher education and the professional working experience genre "...should be examined from at least four perspectives"; from the position of "student learning" and developing expertise; from the position of "educational institutions and staff"; from the viewpoint of "working life organizations and employers"; and finally, from the perspective of our society and the present educational system.

In short, within the relationship between business enterprises, society, and the world of academics, there is too often a disconnect, in part because the "massification" of higher education has pushed institutions into expansion of services without fully integrating cultural changes in the society into the curricula. In Europe, the authors point out, special emphasis has been placed in recent years on developing "new forms and methods of teaching, practical training, diploma work and cooperation with industry." We're not talking strictly about vocational training here, but rather, Tynjala writes, but addressing the fact that learning is (and should be) a "phenomenon that it situated in its cultural context."

DIRECT INSTRUCTION: Today's secondary and higher educational environments reflect the diversity of the society, and that diversity includes many students whose native language is Spanish. In terms of a style of learning for these students, direct instruction is a superior way in which to teach Spanish-speakers to read. It is better and more "hands on" for the teacher to fully engage the student who is learning, rather than expect that the old "tried and true" way of teaching reading.

The Whole Language method: this is an approach to reading instruction based on the belief that children learn to read in much the same way as they learn to speak: naturally. So, the child is introduced to entire texts at the very outset of the course, and is encouraged to learn a variety of strategies that help him or her figure out what the words say. The emphasis in whole language is on looking at words at wholes, as units of potential meaning, and "interpreting" the text rather than reading for accuracy (www.home-school.com,2005).

Meanwhile, direct instruction can mean a variety of different things to various teachers and educators. For example, in a school district in Adelaide, Australia (Demant, et al., 2003), 58 teachers responded (out of 150 who were given questionnaires) to a voluntary survey querying them on what they understood about direct instruction, and whether they had positive impressions of direct instruction. Eighty-one percent of teachers returning questionnaires answered positively to the statement, "Direct instruction is an effective method with all students."

Those positive responses "...correlated positively with teachers' years of experience..." And with a checklist measure "...tapping actual knowledge of the components" of direct instruction. Some 19% of the respondents returned surveys with negative responses to direct instruction. Meanwhile, of the 58 teachers (all in primary grades), 46 (79%) could not identify even one researcher (out of seven listed) who had made significant contributions in the field of instructional research methods (specifically in the area of direct instruction). Six (10%) of the respondents identified one of the seven researchers, and another six (10%) identified two or more of the researchers. The researchers listed included: Tom Good, David Berliner, Ellen Gagne, Ann Brown, Jere Brophy, Michael Pressley, and Barak Rosenshine.

And now that the basic premise of DI has been reviewed, how well does DI work with Spanish-speaking students for whom English is a second language? In an article titled "Success of a Direct Instruction Model at a Secondary Level School with High-Risk Students" (Grossen, 2004), the author reports that when DI (the Corrective Reading Program) "...is implemented consistently (at least four days a week) by well-trained teachers," the rate of improvement for students with English as a second language "increases two to three times the normal rate," Grossen writes. It would seem to make sense that to teach Hispanic children English by just using traditional methods (giving them the whole book to try to digest and work their way through) - and not using direct instruction methods - failure can be expected to follow.

An article in the Reading Teacher (Drucker, 2003) points that because "Native English speakers are not sitting around waiting for ESL students to catch up," therefore English language learners (ELLs) must "gain more language proficiency each year than their native-speaking peers in order to catch up and close the gap." Hence, teachers must do their part, and certainly a direct instruction approach is recommended, including using "...the setting, body language, facial expressions, gestures, intonation, and a variety of other clues" during conversation to assist the ELL.

Drucker also suggests that the teacher of English language learners provide "context" on the story prior to asking students to read the text. Preview each section of the book, Drucker suggests, and begin the previews by asking some rhetorical questions that hook the students' interest." There should be a challenge associated with the previews, however, enticing the student to "...stretch just a bit above his or her current abilities." Drucker suggests "choral reading" - with body language, "motions and gestures" - that will aid the children to act out the story through drama, another part of direct instruction's powerful approach.

Hearing the story as the ELL student reads along in the book is a method that has proven to be successful, Drucker writes. It is also important of course to select books that "will match the cultural schemata and background knowledge..." Of ELLs. Characters that are familiar to the Spanish-speaking student will be of much greater interest than English-language stories that do not related to the Latino experience. "Culturally relevant teaching is an important component" of successful direct instruction and further, culturally relevant stories "validate the environment" for all students, Drucker adds. "Would I want to be a student in my classroom?" teachers should ask themselves.

ALBERT BANDURA

Meanwhile, one of the best ways to test the value of a learning theory is to find out how well it works during the process of teaching reading skills. A recent article in Journal of Research in Childhood Education reported on the effectiveness of ALBERT BANDURA's social learning ("self-efficacy") model among 4th grade students who were considered "at risk" (McCrudden, et al., 2005). The strategy used by the instructors - over a two-week period - was to measure "self-efficacy" (Bandura's model for learning), interest in reading, and comprehension "before and after the strategy instruction."

McCrudden explains self-efficacy as "a person's confidence to perform a specific task successfully"; self-efficacy is closely related to the attitude going into a task, the persistence of the person taking on the task, and what is achieved during the task.

Students who have a higher level of self-efficacy "are more likely," McCrudden continues, "to select challenging tasks, expend more effort, and persist when encountering difficulties."

The article points out that learning to read is an "effortful, long-term process" and that it requires what the authors call "sustained motivation on the part of the reader." But when reading instruction is effective, the article continues, it can create "more positive attitudes about reading and can improve achievement." Hence, that having been said, it follows logically that "reading strategy instruction is one way to increase self-efficacy for reading comprehension."

The deeper purpose behind this reading / learning project, McCrudden continues, was to focus "specifically on self-efficacy and interest in using reading strategies rather than an intensive program in strategy acquisition." In other words, instead of teaching cognitive skills to reading students, this project taught strategies for self-efficacy, e.g., strategies so a student can learn to self-assess his or her challenges prior to completing a reading task.

For a point of reference in the world of psychology scholarship, Yvonne Malone, writing in the International Journal of Reality Therapy (Malone, 2002) compares Bandura's social cognitive learning theory (SCT) with William Glasser's choice theory (CT). She writes that Bandura's model is "an eclectic blend of diverse points-of-view," all funneled into the structure of a person learning "by vicarious reinforcement (modeling, imitation...), symbolic activities (language and gestures), forethought activity, self-regulatory capabilities (goal setting...), self-reflecting capability (self-evaluation), self-efficacy (confidence), and self-reinforcement."

And while Glasser "eschews" Bandura's notion of reinforcement (watching others' actions and witnessing the consequences of those actions), and doesn't embrace rewarding one's self for correctly predicting/projecting a positive outcome (as self-efficacy does) to a task, this paper points to research that champions and fully describes Bandura's important work, in particular Bandura's learning… [END OF PREVIEW]

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