How Does Learning Occur?
EDU 490-Interdisciplinary Capstone
January 24, 2011
In ensuring that genuine learning transpires in the classroom, there are various issues that educators must concern their selves with. Understanding and responding to these issues require extensive knowledge of various theories in education as well as in the application of such theories. One such issue which is the focus of this paper is that on how learning occurs. Student learning is the primary goal of any academic institution, and leading students to achieve learning is the purpose of every educator. However in order for teachers to be able to lead students to learn, it is only logical to consider that teachers must know how learning actually transpires. Towards the goal of helping teachers develop a strong understanding of the different theories that attempt to explain how learning occurs in an educational setting, Marlowe and Canestrari (2006) present excerpts from the writings of different educators and education researchers which explain the dynamics behind being able to learn. These include the work of B.F. Skinner on behaviorism, of Bandura, Ross, and Ross on imitation of aggression models, of David Willingham on cognition and memory, and of Witte-Townsend and Hill on relational consciousness. The importance of these theories on how learning occurs is expounded on by Sontag (2009) in her discussion of learning theories that are applicable to students in the 21st century. According to Sontag (2009) being able to explain how students learn take teachers is a critical step that an educator must make in order to be able to help students learn. By understanding the mechanism involved in the transfer of information from the lesson to the student, teachers would be able to modify the learning environment and their own teaching techniques such that these would be most suitable for the learners. Thus in the succeeding sections, different theories on how students learn are explored through responses made to each of four letters from teachers regarding their experiences in their practice. In each response, one theory of learning is examined in detail. This essay forwards the thesis that different learning theories provide different ways for understanding how a student is able to assimilate information, and must be utilized in order to help ensure that effective learning outcomes are reached. Response to Michael Lopes
Michael, based on your narration, it seems that you have two concerns. One, you are concerned that the teaching style of your coordinating teacher is unorthodox or even detrimental to students and two, you do not think that giving out rewards constantly and in all activity is a sound idea. Allow me to answer these concerns. First, I do not know if you have come across this in your study of educational psychology, but the strategy that is being employed by your cooperating teachers actually has firm grounding in learning theory. Your cooperating teacher explained to you that we learn by being told or shown or made to feel that what we are doing is correct. This is precisely the position that was forwarded by Skinner (2006) when he talked about the science of learning. For Skinner (2006) as well as other educators who follow the behaviorist theory of learning, operant conditioning is the key to the learning dynamic. As explained by your cooperating teacher when a student does something and he or she is rewarded for it, the student will learn to do it again, thereby reinforcing the action. It is when the action is reinforced that we can say the learning has occurred. At least, that’s according to behaviorists. Furthermore, behaviorists hold that how a student learns cannot be explained by looking inside the student’s mind but rather by looking at the student’s actions. Thus, what matters is that when students are given something to read, they respond by reading it correctly. Whatever happens in the mind in between these...
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