How excitement! Started my online Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Teaching and Learning this week through USQ. Most of my coursework is centred around critical reflective practices. These posts of critical reflection of my learning experiences have a twofold purpose:
1. To become aware of how I engage with materials to develop as a professional.
2. To model to other students how to undertake a critical reflective journal.
And so to begin…
The reading that I am focusing on for this post is Understanding Learning, for my EDU5713 class. The goal for the week is simply to reflect upon, “What is learning”…to me.
And I will note my definition of “learning”: Learning is building on prior knowledge to create meaning so I can navigate this world with a purpose. It is the ability to apply new knowledge, not just to “know” stuff. Learning is an exciting adventure of discovery about myself, others and the world I live in so that I can contribute better to my community~ local and global.
Ok~ now to the reading; what are some nuggets that I am drawing from this well (the title of the book is Understanding Learning, and although the reference is not given on the pdf I anticipate it is listed elsewhere on the site which I have yet to learn to navigate effectively ~:-);
- Learning approaches need to be considerate of organisation and delivery for learning experiences that meet the needs and expectations of a diverse range of learners and their ways of learning.
- Learning takes place when: I take on a new skill; acquire new knowledge; understand a concept previously not made sense of; and/or seeing an issue from another perspective.
I hadn’t considered the importance of organising material in my definition of learning, and it’s an obvious step really. How can I engage another in a learning activity if I do not know where they are starting from. Organising learning materials so that they build on the previous delivery was something that I expected of teachers, lecturers and students in my education. My definition of learning also neglected to mention the differences between people, which, for a psychologist is quite remiss ~:-) Though, considering that we are each individuals it may be too much to expect one style of organisation and delivery to suit all.
My definition of learning did not take into account the comprehension of a concept that I did not understand before, or of seeing something from a different perspective. Evidently I need to broaden my definition.
- Change: understanding and/or behaviour
- Inherently linked with motivation.
- Knowledge construction and meaning making
It makes sense to me that learning is linked with motivation. When I am bored it is very difficult for me to concentrate on a topic~ like calculus or physics. I need the topic to be relevant to my life. Currently I am learning Spanish because my housemate is Spanish and some of the EFL students I help speak Spanish. I tried to learn it over 10 years ago because I have Spanish heritage, but that just wasn’t enough relevance to my life. Especially with a subject like statistics I encourage the students to become aware of what they hope to do with their degree, and how statistics plays a part in this. I then help them find everyday situations in which they use statistics; keeping score at sport; planning a household budget; observing their child or pet to change behaviours that will enhance safety and socialization etc.
That knowledge builds on knowledge is exciting to me~ it is what I love about being a scientist. One builds-and-bounces of others. It is so artistic; lifting a rift; juxtaposing phrases; mixing styles or materials. Knowledge construction emphasises the creative aspect of learning. Magic in action, something within me, not external. And meaning making~ sigh, what is a life without purpose…? It is what fills me with joy and puts a skip in my step, to get going on something or to finish a project. Sometimes people will bag my sense of excitement about learning~ methinks perhaps their lives do not have much meaning to them~ would explain why they focus on mine.
- Joyful engagement with new discoveries
- Communication= meaning making
Ahh yes~ the process aspect. Though I think such a linear model oversimplifies it. But, one must start somewhere… And what is the point of having meaning in ones life if it isn’t shared/communicated with others? Like a neuron not connecting to other dendrites~ pointlessness (Though, if I were a sadhu/true hermit, would it be pointless? Would I still not be sharing in some way…hmmmm).
- “Essentially experimental”
- Day-to-day we unconsciously learn.
- Therefore, the everyday can inform academic learning.
I totally agree with the day-to-day being brought into the classroom. How else to practically apply what one is learning? “Essentially experimental” just buzzes with creative potential, risk taking and paddling away from the known shallows to deep waters of unexplored horizons. Must leave one to reach the other.
- Constructivist learning theory= inclusiveness
- My beliefs –> construction of my teaching –> learning experiences of students in my class
- Relationships b/w learning approaches and learning tasks/context
As a female in the West I have had my experiences of marginalisation based on the organisation of my generative and pleasure organs. So, inclusiveness is something that I advocate for passionately. It was weird to be in a 21st century university and to have people tell me I was only interested in a topic because some bloke was~ Hello..? Why don’t you tell me when I first dipped my toe in this pool [sarcasm intended]. Or better yet, that when a woman is interested in learning a topic it is no different to when a monkey is learning~ isn’t actually capable of undertaking the task at hand and is simply mimicking what it sees. So, my value of inclusiveness will play a dominant role in my delivery of learning materials. Currently I am learning more about the challenges for student’s with a disability (or two) or a non-Western and non-English background. It’s not about being politically correct, it’s about recognising the agency and dignity of others and respecting that.
It makes sense to me that a correlation would exist between particular learning tasks and learning theories. I love that this is so as it reflects the multi-dimensionality of learning. There is not just one road; or one way of doing something; it’s just that a particular way can be more useful in a certain context. It’s like having a utility belt or toolbox or kit bag with gadgets and resources for every occasion. And some of them can work in tandem together (insert click, clip and beep sounds here).
- Aristotle, Plato and Locke: newborn is tabula rasa.
- Current debate continuum: Learning is due to…
Experiences Experiences and How Mind Works How Mind Works
The idea that we are born as blank slates does not gel with me. I prefer to align with readings that talk about our brains sculpting back after we are born. So in a sense we are born knowing and then this is refined through development and socialisation. For me there is a spiritual aspect to all that a person is, so a lot of what we know may not align with predominant concepts of knowing at this time on earth.
I love a continuum~ they are so un-capitalistic, so non Aristotlian and all others that want me either in or out of the box. Though I think the above model needs refining and would be better represented as a circle.
- Behaviorist= Experiences
- tabula rasa
- Conscious learning = Classical conditioning
- Unconscious learning= Operant conditioning
- Stimulus–> Response –> Reinforcement/Punishment
- Watson, Thorndike, Pavlov, Skinner
- Vicarious learning= Social modeling; Bandura
- Step-by step and observable change
- Only explains simple skills
I can see the value of a step-by-step approach for learning to use an SPSS program or the formula for an equation, learning to ride or a dance style etc. However, I find the ideas of early theorists very disturbing, such as experiments on Little Albert and Skinner boxes and use of electro shocks. Viewing humans through the metaphor of the machine really takes away from what essentially makes us human~ our ability to choose.
Bandura I think was taking a step in the right direction by being more inclusive of the cognitive aspects of learning.
- Cognitvist= Biological structures (How the mind works)
- Information processing theory; mirrored computer
- New knowledge–> Organisation–> Schema
- Schema = large units of knowledge (ideas/pictures)
- Enhanced retrieval via triggers/catalysts
- New builds on old; thus schema expand
- Hierarchies of learning
- Complexity built from simplicity
- Previous knowledge –> Storage of new knowledge
- Connectionist; more recent; neural networks
- Brain= Multiple locations of storage
- Active engagement of learner
- Teach metacognitive process-> Awareness of how we learn
- Computer metaphor oversimplifies
- Ignores context: Culture and Affect
Whilst I enjoy aspects of cognitive theory, again I find it’s metaphors too grounded in that of the machine. However, the emphasis on memory and connectivity is exciting to read about. Though some of the metaphors again become mechanical. Which is fine when I am trying to understand a robot I am building. That the theorists recognised the agency of the person was a boon for this school of thought as it has opened up the way for technologies that seek to understand the differences between people. Though again, there tends to be a large focus on wetware and structure and an ignoring of the spirit~ the ghost in the machine. As evident in the ignoring of context and culture etc.
- Individual/Personal/Cognitive Constructivist= The middle way
- Sequential stages–> cognitive development
- Sensorimotor= reflex behaviour
- Preoperational= thought and language
- Concrete operational= logical thought and simultaneous perspectives
- Formal operational= speculative reasoning; abstract thought
- Intellectual readiness
- Current technology questions his timeline
- Autonomous and active learner
- Developmentally appropriate learning activities
- Ignores role of social interaction
- Ignores context
I like the emphasis on autonomy and active learning.
- Social constructionist= The middle way
- Learning is a collaborative process
- Opposite of Western individualist/competitive classroom approach
- Community of learners; situated learning
- Embedded in social relationships/cultural practices
- Culture/social mediates learning
- Shared interaction; collaboration; negotiated meanings
- Language development–> learning
- External knowledge internalized through social relationships
- Language–> Thinking–> Behaviour
- ZPD= Zone of Proximal Development= Distance of actual development and potential via adults and peers
- Opposite of Piaget; Learning–> Development
- Scaffolding–> Teacher’s role
- Support before standing alone–> Moved elsewhere
- Enables construction
- Facilitator nor Transmitter
- Appropriate resources + Activities + Probing questions
- Reciprocal teaching; guided instruction; teacher feedback along the way
- Designed in scaffolding= considerate planning
- Point-of-need= spontaneous in-the-moment
- Signs and symbols mediate psychosocial processes
“Community of learners”~ sends shivers down my spine; community, social, negotiation, facilitation, signs and symbols to mediate. There is an inherently spiritual and humanness element to this theory methinks. A deep respect for another’s journey and the idea that our interaction with the wider world contributes to our inner growth intellectually (as well as spiritually for me). Constructionism is collaborative in its learning and I think, for an individual, we can discover how we construct our worlds through the use of narrative~ such as critical reflective journaling.
What are your reflections on one or more of these topics? Of my narrative?