Understanding the Elements of Learning

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Definition Learning

Abstract: What is Learning? Does a new term need to be coined for learning? One hundred and four students undergraduate and graduate were asked to respond to the question. Their responses were coded using the five levels researcher designed rubric which was modeled after Bloom‘s Taxonomy for depth of knowledge. Of the responses coded fifty-one were from Pre-Service teachers and fiftythree were from graduate students enrolled in the Principals Masters Program. The effects of understanding learning include the preparation of lesson plans, classroom instruction, the guiding of student learning, and the professional development of teacher leaders.

Introduction: Learning is a term that is being used with great frequency in Education. Learning is a critical event today, because if a child has learned, then doors are opened to the world. If the student has not learned then their opportunities for success have been narrowed. Teachers are heard to say, ―my students learned their multiplication tables today.‖ It is concrete and measurable, either they can recite them from memory or they can not. Can they recite them today and a week from today? Other teachers are heard to say, ―my students learned to write an essay.‖ They learned the parts of an essay. They learned the parts of an essay, but can they write an essay? The question of ―What is Learning‖ has become critical in the lives of children, adolescents, and adults. In some states children cannot move from one grade to another without passing a criterion referenced test which is given on one day of the year. If on that day the child can answer an appropriate number of the given questions they can pass on to the next grade. Should the student fail the test, then he is given the test repeatedly-until he/she ―passes‖ and then he is permitted to move on to the next grade. If the student does not pass, then the student is retained, to try to learn again (Texas 726

Education Agency, 2010). When the student reaches High School they may face end of course exams that determine whether or not they are able to graduate or the level of the diploma that can students receive. Scores on one test determine whether or not a student is required to take remedial classes before entering the regular college program, even if the student ―passed‖ the course in high school. If the student received a passing grade and then can not perform on the designated test, did they really learn? No, by our measures they did not learn. When then, has learning occurred? It is often said, ―when I can teach someone else, when I can apply the information, when I can make ―learning‖ connections of content across conceptual areas.‖ All the responses and many more may be correct. The question still remains, when has learning occurred and to what degree has that learning been embedded for connections to new learnings? ―What is Learning?‖ It is no longer acceptable to say, ―I know that the students are learning as they all are smiling and giving positive body language of acceptance during the lesson‖. This was at one time considered a ‗check for understanding‘ however, understanding is also a vague term which is not measurable unless ongoing formative assessments are given by the teacher (Popham, 2008). Schlecty (2002) identifies the behavior of smiling and nodding on the part of the teacher pleasing student as either 1) Ritual engagement, or 2) Passive compliance. According to Schlecty (2002) ritual engagement occurs when the student is undertaking the task or assignment because of the end result which is often identified as a passing grade. Passive compliance serves to identify the necessary effort that student will expend in order to avoid negative consequences, which can include a bad grade or not passing the ―test.‖ Again, the question emerges did learning occur? Can you ―pass‖ a test and not have learned the information; is the ‗learning‘ only in short term memory to be dumped when the...
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