Term Paper: Learning Theory Several Theories

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Learning Theory

Several theories are suggested for the best way to help students learn in a classroom setting, such as constructivism, brain-based learning, attribution theory, emotional intelligence and multiple intelligences. There is also the concept of "learned helplessness" that places a barrier on learning. It is important for teachers to consider each one of these methods and how if fits into their own educational gestalt. The students need to be motivated to gain as much knowledge as possible, yet the teacher has to feel comfortable about that style of learning to attain the maximum results.

The theory of constructivism (Piaget, 1950) is based on observation and scientific research and the way that people learn. It recognizes that individuals construct or build their own understanding and knowledge of the world by the way they experience situations and reflect on them. When individuals face something new, they have to somehow find a means of placing that occurrence in line with their previous thoughts and experiences. It may confirm what they already believe, or completely change their previous ideas. Regardless, in constructivism, people create or develop their own set of knowledge by responding to observations, asking questions, exploring and assessing.

The constructivist view of learning in the classroom includes a variety of teaching methods. Generally, it consists of motivating the students to actively utilize techniques, tools and processes, such as experiments, teamwork and problem solving, to gain additional or confirm already known knowledge and then to review and discuss what was learned how it impacted earlier beliefs or information. The teacher ensures that the students' concepts are understood and guides them through the activities, so they can build on their knowledge base.

Students in a constructivist environment are encouraged to continually assess the way in which activities are helping them gain knowledge. The goal is that through this constant questioning of themselves and their strategies for understanding, they become expert learners and acquire the ever-expanding techniques for ongoing learning -- or learning now to learn. Instead of spewing facts, the teacher provides an environment that is conducive to design, develop and expand.

Another theory, brain-based learning (Branford, 2000), actually comes from the results of research by neuroscientists that suggests how the human brain acquires, processes and retains information at different stages of development. It is a biologically driven structure for teaching and acquiring learning behaviors. As with constructivist education, there are a variety of different techniques that can be used with this theory, many where the teacher helps students connect learning to real-life experiences. It is an all-encompassing theory that includes such educational innovations as mastery learning, learning styles, multiple intelligences, cooperative learning, practical stimulations, experiential learning, problem-based learning and movement education.

Some of the principles guiding brain-based education include: 1) as a parallel processor, the brain can perform several activities at once; 2) the brain simultaneously perceives parts and whole; 3) the brain stores and retrieves information in multiple areas and neural pathways; 4) the desire for learning in humans is innate; 5) learning involves the whole body, not just the mind; 6) emotion is critically linked to gaining meaning and memory; 7) understanding occurs most when it is not by rote, but integrated into spatial memory; 8) learning is much more than just the acquisition of facts. 9) the human brain is socially inclined and develops better with others; 10) every brain is unique. (Caine, 1997)

Based on these principles, certain teaching techniques work best. Orchestrated immersion, for example, submerges students into a learning experience, such as a room transformed into a jungle setting. Relaxed alertness consists of a motivational yet non-threatening environment, for example, listening to soothing music while perceiving emotional reactions. In active processing, the students internalize information already acquired through group learning, stimulating environments, or rich activities such as art or dance. In this theory, students are assessed by a variety of ways, and they often maintain portfolios for self-assessment and to determine how they have improved.

Attribution theory (Weiner, 1974) incorporates behavior modification, where students are motivated to learn, because the results make them feel more self-confident. It also includes the cognitive and self-efficacy theories, in that the students' present self-perceptions will significantly affect how they will interpret their efforts and the ability to once again perform these results in the future. Students look at their learning in terms of success and failure. They believe they may succeed or fail due to factors within themselves or in their external environment. The cause of success or failure can be stable, where the outcome will most likely be the same when performed in the future, and unstable, if the outcome will most likely be different. Success or failure may be either controllable, or possible for a person to alter, or uncontrollable, or not easily altered.

Students will interpret their environment in a way to maintain a positive self-image, or attribute their successes or failures in ways that support their feelings of self-worth. Thus, if teachers want students to appreciate their educational activities, they need to help these students believe they are competent learners and that their failures are due to some other controllable factor.

Students should not attribute their successes completely to their ability. They need to be continually challenged and believe that additional effort is required. The ideal attribution for success is, "I succeeded because my efforts made me a competent person and worked hard." On the other hand, if students fail, they will most likely continue to do so, because they attribute this failure to a lack of appropriate effort. Teachers must then help students redefine their successes and failures. In the classroom setting, therefore, teachers need to find areas in which the learners perceives themselves as successful and show connections between the area of success and the topic currently under consideration.

The concept or theory of emotional Intelligence (Goleman, 2006), EQ, states that IQ, or the traditional manner of measuring intelligence, needs to be expanded into other areas of learning capability. Successful learning requires more than intelligence. Emotional Intelligence includes research gained from behavioral, emotional and communications theories, such as neuro-linguistic programming, transactional analysis and empathy. In this theory, the success of learning is based on five premises: 1) knowing one's emotions; 2) managing these emotions; 3) motivating oneself; 4) recognizing and understanding other people's emotions; and 5) managing relationships or the emotions of others. A person's emotional awareness and ability to handle feelings will determine success in the future relationships and employment.

Teachers can promote EQ through the acquisition of personal characteristics. Self-awareness provides students with the ability to recognize personal feelings and the relationship among thoughts, feelings and actions. Managing emotions helps students realize what is motivating personal feelings, such as fear, anxiety or anger. Empathy allows students to observe a situation in terms of the feelings of other people. Communication provides a means of relating these feelings with one another, and cooperation enhances this ability and to determine what steps to take next. Conflict resolution allows students to know how to respond when their own beliefs are different from others. As part of a learning activity, for example, students may discuss such thoughts as what communication skills were required to discuss the issue, how was nonverbal communication incorporated into the transfer of information, is active listening required more in some situations that others, and how do self-image and feelings about others impact communication.

The theory of multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1983), similar to the theory of emotional intelligence, recognizes that students learn in different ways and excel in varying areas. There are eight areas of learning: linguistic intelligence or word smart, logical-mathematical intelligence or number/reasoning smart, spatial intelligence or picture smart, kinesthetic or body smart, musical intelligence or music smart, interpersonal intelligence or people smart, intrapersonal or self smart and naturalist intelligence or nature smart. Schools mostly put their attention on linguistic and mathematical intelligence, which excludes students who are proficient in these other areas.

These eight intelligences thus promote other means for teaching than the traditional approaches. Students are given the opportunity to learn through looking at charts and graphs or spatial intelligence, or through music or by self-inspection. With linguistics, students can do crosswords or jumbled word puzzles, or study prefixes or suffixes; with math, they can translate numerical codes, identify patterns, rank objects by different parameters; for spatial learning, they can draw words as they sound, play word games, or put words into charts; for body kinasthetics, students can communicate with their body motions, play charades, clap out syllables or use sign language; with music learning, they can tap out words, write a song, or play music to accompany feelings; with interpersonal learning, the teacher can suggest to work in teams, help one another with learning, or play group games; with intrapersonal learning, students can set personal goals, keep self-assessments, and consider what encourages or discourages learning.

Lastly, teachers have to recognize whether or not students are in the right frame of mind to want to learn. The concept of learned… [END OF PREVIEW]

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