April 26, 2012
Customized Learning Theory
Many educators operate their classrooms using a “learning theory” that they feel optimizes the best learning environment for their students. As an educator it is very important to create your own customized learning theory to use in your classroom. A customized learning theory is developed to create an optimum learning environment for students. Educators have to research and put into practice the ideas that they feel may work best in their classroom. In this paper, I will be discussing my own customized learning theory incorporating theoretical perspectives that I believe make an ideal learning environment.
Using differentiated instruction and learning styles in the classroom are two very important topics to accomadate for in an early childhood classroom. In simple terms, differentiated instruction pertains to teaching a child based on their individual needs. Learning styles refer to the methods educators use in their lessons to help children learn, including audio, visual, and hands on methods.
Romans 12:6 states, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them”. In this verse, God is emphasizing that all of his children are given different gifts. If all students have different gifts, then they have varied abilities in all areas of life, including learning. Teachers need to address the individual “gifts” that students have been incorporating differentiated instruction and learning styles into his/her classroom.
Slavin (2012) defines differenentiated instruction as, “an approach to teaching that adapts the content, level, pace, and products of instruction to accommodate the different needs of diverse students in regular classes.” Landrum and McDuffie state in their article, “by differentiating instruction, teachers can A) challenge all learners by providing varied levels of difficulty, B) vary the degree of scaffolding, and C) vary the way in which students work.” Differentiated instruction could relate to part of the constructivism theory. Slavin (2012) states, “ Modern constructivist thought draws most heavily on Vygotsky's theories, which have been used to support classroom instructional methods that emphasize cooperative learning, project-based learning, and discovery. Four key principles derived from Vygotsky's ideas have played an important role: social learning, the zone of proximal development, cognitive apprenticeship, and mediated learning.” Differentiated instruction and the zone of proximal development go hand in hand. The zone of proximal development refers to the ability that a child has to learn specific content at a given time. For example, multiplication is in a child's zone of proximal development if he/she has already mastered addition. If a child has not mastered addition, then multiplication is not yet in his/her zone of proximal development but could be in the near future. To stay within this child's zone of proximal development, the teacher would need to use differentiated instruction to adapt the content being taught to the student. If the teacher does not use differentiated learning, then this child could fall behind in mathematics and the results could be negative.
Piaget's theory would also support differentiated instrucion. Piaget believed that, “the development occurs through a continuous transformation of thought processes. A developmental stage consists of a period of months or years when certain development takes place. Although students are usually grouped by chronological age, their development levels may differ significantly as well as the rate at which individual children pass through each stage. No two children learn at the same pace, level, or process information the same way, which makes differentiated instruction a very important aspect in an ideal learning environment. ( Ojose, 2008)” Piaget...