In modern day teaching, the onus is shifting further and further away from teacher dictated methods of educational delivery, to methods that ensure the learner is placed at the heart of teaching, and every individual within the classroom is considered and catered for. Advances in technology available to teachers has contributed to a broadening of teaching styles, but this has mainly come about through the need to differentiate teaching more effectively and break down the barriers that exist between teacher and learner. Engaging every learner is a difficult task and requires the teacher to have a plethora of knowledge of teaching methods and theories. Learners may differ in terms of age, gender, ability level, communication skills, confidence, learning styles and many other factors. The job of the teacher is to ensure these factors do not hinder individual learning and that success and achievement within the group is widespread and at a high level.
Planning and implementing learning is paramount to this process. To effectively plan and deliver to diverse and varied groups of students, teachers can draw upon a number of teaching theories and principles put forward by educational academics. Theories of teaching and behaviour are themselves, in general, varied and diverse in the way they approach the dissemination of learning and the bringing about of desired responses. Similarly, different theories of communication have been put forward that document methods through which we as teachers can effectively converse with our students. All of these theories can provide a vital insight or tool for teachers to improve their practice and ultimately promote inclusive learning for all students.
Many examples of different teaching theories are evident across academic literature. Examples of these include Classical and Operant conditioning, Kolb’s learning cycle, Gagnes 9 events of instruction, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Knowles’ Pedagogical and Andragogical approaches. An example of a communication theory is Berne’s (1970) transactional analysis. It is concerned with ensuring that control and understanding occurs through communication between groups or individuals. Berne believes that transactional analysis represents “a theory of social intercourse and used it to help people understand and improve their behaviour towards others” (Huddleston & Unwin, 1997, p115). This theory also suggests that communicating effectively will directly impact on success, motivation work rate and behaviour through increased understanding of the nature and demands of a task or the content of the message itself that is being communicated. If we also also consider the effectiveness of communication in the classroom and relating theoretical concepts, i.e. behaviourist and humanistic theories, these have some distinct differences which affect greatly the approaches and techniques adopted by teachers.
Behaviourist theories suggest all behaviour is ‘learned’ or that these theories bring about a recognisable ‘change’ in behaviour (Armitage, 2003). Examples of Behavioural theorists include Pavlov (Classical conditioning), Thorndike (Operant conditioning), Skinner and in terms of early behaviourist studies, Watson. These theorists along with others have over the past 100 years put forward a number of different behaviourist theories that are concerned with changing or ‘conditioning’ behaviour.
Classical conditioning was pioneered by Pavlov who looked at learning by association. His famous study involved the use of dogs as a medium to facilitate associative learning. Pavlov rang a bell every time a dog was to receive food, the presence of food elicited a saliva response from the dog, which over time it associated with the sound of the bell. After a period of time, the stimulus of food was no longer produced, but the dog continued to salivate at the sound of a bell, as...