TEACHING AND LEARNING ARE INTERRELATED
There are many facets of learning today. Teaching has a small role to play in how children learn, but it is a role nonetheless. Learning is multifarious and neuroscientists would argue that learning begins about eighteen days after conception. Many theories have been put forward that suggest learning is made up of several different perspectives as well as individual development and maturation. Once the child has reached school it is up to the teacher to decide which perspective to relate to each individual child to help them learn to their full potential. “Understandings of each [perspective] help teachers become reflective practitioners – to continually examine and critique their own beliefs and how those beliefs and practices affect their students’ learning.” (Churchill et al., 2011, p.100) An understanding of the pedagogy involved is integral to becoming an effective teacher. The process of learning, up until recently, has been a question mark. Very little was known about how the brain learns. “Even as late as the 1970’s, developmental psychologists believed that newborn babies were not able to think.” (Churchill et al., 2011, p.82) Research conducted in the last thirty years has shown, that from a neuroscientific perspective, learning starts around 18 days after conception. This is when neurons begin to be produced in the brain. “Neurons are integral to behaviour and learning.” (Churchill et al., 2011, p.82) A neuron is a cell in the nervous system and a core component of the brain that processes and transmits information by electrochemical pulses. Neurological development begins just after conception, while other theorists believe that development, or learning, does not begin until birth. "This passing of information leads to the development of long-term hardwired neural circuitry which, for neuroscientists, is the essence of learning.” (Churchill et al., 2011, p.83) After birth, learning is facilitated by environmental stimuli. The connections are effected by individual experiences that influence their development. The brain is more apt to learning when then experience is stimulating, as these encounters activate certain connections and the regions of the cerebral cortex increase in size. Recent discoveries have shown that the longer the exposure the greater the growth. “While a great deal of the brain’s architecture is put into place in utero, it is after a child is born that learning really begins to flourish with a prolific rate of growth in neural connections.” (Churchill et al., 2011, p.83) The process of learning has been extensively researched and there are many theoretical perspectives. If teachers are to be effective then they need to understand these five theories and put them into practice every day. Each must be individually recognised and taken into account. These include behaviourist orientations to learning, cognitive orientations to learning, humanistic orientations to learning, social/situational orientations to learning and constructivist orientations to learning. The behaviourist approach to learning is described by Skinner (1953) as “enduring change of behaviour resulting from external events, be they conscious or unconscious.” Therefore learning occurs when there is an increase or decrease in the likelihood of some behaviour as a result of the consequences.
“For learning to occur in an educational context the role of the teacher was to create an environment of optimal conditioning: provide the appropriate stimulus vis-à-vis curriculum and follow with some form of reward or punishment.” (Churchill, et al., 2011, p.74) The main focus of the cognitive orientation to learning is “how learners manipulate information during learning and how learners make meaning out of information and experience.” (Churchill, et al., 2011, p.75) Cognitive development is how children learn and process information. It is how they develop their thinking and the organising...
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