Learning and Applying the Theories of Learning: A Synthesis

Reaching the final week of my first term in UPOU is bittersweet. I felt relieved that I would be resting in terms of studies for two to three weeks before enrollment, but at the same time, it made me realize how much I’ve learned not just as an educator, but also as a learner.

As someone who is in the academe, I was able to practice and apply immediately the modules that I learned here in my work. Especially in the constructivist theories, I was able to make my classes more student-centered and more skill-based, rather than pure concepts and lecture input. I was also able to integrate more collaborative techniques for students to engage in constructive discourse with their classmates, and maximize the learning experiences not just for them, but also for me, as someone who is new in the industry.

Since I am taking this simultaneously with Principles of Teaching (EDS 111), I was able to make connections between the two, and apply both in practice. The teaching profession, when grounded in theories, becomes a tool that we, educators, should value. When we ground our profession with good foundation, we become better in practice, and in delivering the best pedagogy for our students.

I am also excited for the next subjects that I will be taking so I could also apply my learnings there. In my first term, I have so much realizations and learnings that I could apply to my next subjects so I wouldn’t have to be as stressed as I was with work, studies, and other commitments. Lastly, I am very much excited to take the licensure examination next year! I hope to finish the program the way I started it – with full enthusiasm, optimism, and excitement.

To more learning experiences!

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Application of Epistemology through the Theory of Knowledge Course in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program

Epistemology is thoroughly applied through the Theory of Knowledge subject in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. It answers the question “How do we know?” and encourages critical thinking to be applied in different subject groups and areas.

Below are videos that explain what Theory of Knowledge is and how it is an application of epistemology in the classroom. Enjoy learning while watching!

Successful Learning: A Compilation of Videos

For the last module, I have decided for it to be a more carefree post compared to my previous ones which are mostly reflections and commentaries. For this post, I want to show a compilation of videos that show different pedagogical strategies that constitute successful learning. I hope you take time to watch them and learn a thing or two for our future classes!

This video shows integration of technology in pedagogy for students to have more avenue to construct knowledge and reflect on lessons. It also allows more collaborative learning.

The second video shows us the power of using Socratic Seminars in the classroom. It is a way to have a more student-centered, less teacher input learning. It allows the students to critically think about certain topics and relate it to broader aspects of the subject matter. Aside from this, the students are given the chance to constructively critique and comment on their peers’ observations which leads to a more effective discourse in the classroom.

The third video shows us an application of visible thinking routines inside the classroom. These routines might seem simple, but they contribute to the learning experience of the students greatly. It becomes an avenue for the teacher to have more interaction with the students. Moreover, it allows the teacher to gauge where the students are currently at, adjust her pacing to suit the learning styles of the students, and even input additional topics to capture the interest of the students.

The final video shows us the Harkness Table Discussion Method. It allows the teacher to give each student a chance to speak out, and at the same time, monitor the activity of the discussion. The teacher will be able to monitor who says who, who speaks to who, who says what, and even who said the most/least. It is also a way to have a more critical discussion on various subject matters and to a certain extent, reflect on the topic at hand.

These four different pedagogical strategies are ways of executing successful learning to students. As teachers in the 21st century, we should be able to facilitate the learning experience of students in a way that they will maximize their learning, reflection, and evaluation of a certain subject area.

Constructivist Theories of Learning: Implications to Teaching

Constructivist Theories of Learning views knowledge as a dynamic process – it can be constructed by the learner. It brings together the different backgrounds, contexts, and even experiences of the learner and from that, they incorporate new information that they can construct as knowledge throughout their learning experiences. The constructivist view of knowledge and learning is good for 21st century learning, where students are not viewed as empty voids to be filled, rather, co-creators of knowledge, concepts, and facts. In this ever-changing environment, constructivism makes the learning process more student-centered and less teacher-focused.

Because of this view, different schools now have subscribed to 21st century learning goals. There are different Approaches to Learning (ATL) skills that could guide us not in inputting knowledge, but in facilitating the learning process of the students.

Different methods that give emphasis to the environment, background, and experience of students include the Socratic Circle and Harkness Table Discussion. These two methods give students an avenue to reflect on different learnings and actually incorporate them with their existing schema. It also gives them the chance to make judgments and evaluations of the concepts and facts, and not just accept whatever is taught to them. These classroom techniques give the students more opportunity to voice out opinions and comments, and at the same time, make the discussion more fruitful by being highly involved.

Harvard University also made famous the different visible thinking routines that could help the teacher assess the background of the students. “I used to think… But now I think…” is one example. In this technique, students write what they used to think about the subject matter being discussed. After the lesson, they write what they have learned. As simple as it may sound, it helps teachers assess formatively where the students are coming from, and what changes did the discussion make in their schema. “See, Think, Wonder” is also a routine that is good for observation of different materials such as readings, videos, and other tools. It helps teachers gauge the level of observation of the student, and what they want to know about the subject area being discussed. In that way, the teacher can adjust to the needs and wants of the students, and make them more interested in the lesson.

These are just a few of constructivist teaching styles that we could employ as 21st century educators. It helps us become more critical, reflective, and better facilitators of the learning process. As the students learn from us and themselves, we also learn from them. By applying different constructivist learning theories, we make the classroom more conducive for a symbiotic learning experience.

Cognitive Theories of Learning: Classroom Applications

Cognitive theories of learning deal with information processing and mental activities, rather than changes in behavior which is the primary focus of the previous theories we have discussed in class. Because they deal with mental processes, they cannot be seen abruptly in learners’ behaviors and knowledge, rather, applied more into strategies and techniques to facilitate learning more effectively.

Take for example, attention allocation. I have described the four different strategies in allocating attention and how they can be seen in real life situations. I said,”Selective attention occurs when a person selectively focuses on a specific stimulus in the environment, ignoring the others. It is effective in large classes because sometimes, teachers tend to have difficulty in managing the class in large quantities. Some students might get distracted by others who are talking amongst themselves, or by outside noise or environment, or even by their things. By having selective attention, they will be able to focus on the important matter at hand, which is the lesson or activity being conducted by the teacher. In this case, learning is enhanced. Divided attention, on the other hand, is having to pay attention to more than one event at once. This might work to some people, but from the point of view of a teacher, I believe that a subject is best learned if focused on. Multitasking could be done if the activities and lessons are related, but if entirely different, it would be difficult to have recall on both subject areas. Learning could be impaired if one is not a natural multi-tasker. Sustained attention is keeping focus over a period of time despite distractions and boredom. As a teacher, it is important to sustain the attention of students by having variations in teaching strategies and activities. I personally encounter difficulty with sustaining attention so I make sure that I don’t give all the input class, rather, conduct other activities that will elicit responses from my students to make sure that their attention is maintained. There are some cases that when I notice that students get bored, I give them break which I call “disconnect to connect,” so they will be able to revert their attention back to what is important after being given time to also look at distractions. If attention is sustained for the right purposes and through proper techniques, learning could be enhanced. However, if attention is sustained for the sake of just sustenance, the students might not take it seriously and attention might get divided. Lastly, executive attention is probably the most complex of the four. It occurs when there is selection of particular information from among many to effectively engage in cognitive tasks. It gives us control over situations, where we select appropriate information and tasks and disregard the unnecessary ones. This is evident in group activities where before submitting the final output, all the members of the group are consulted one last time to make sure that they arrived at a consensus. In this case, consultation with the whole group is an intervention to the normal routine which is submission of the finished output. Learning could be enhanced if executive attention is done in the right manner.”

As you would have noticed, attention allocation is more applied to techniques in learning rather than seen in the behaviors itself. This goes the same for dual coding theory, which suggests that learning could take place easier if there is use of both verbal and non-verbal media.

The different cognitive theories discussed in class can be applied to my students so that I will be able to provide them with the best fit teaching strategy to facilitate their learning process more effectively and efficiently.

Self-Efficacy: Most Important Discipline in Distance Learning

In an online classroom setting, it is difficult to find the time and motivation that you normally get in the traditional class setting. More than anything, discipline is needed to be able to accomplish tasks in online classes, where there is minimal to no supervision of the professor.

In a distance learning environment, I believe that learners should acquire a strong sense of self-efficacy. By believing in their capabilities, I believe that they would have more intrinsic motivation to help them get through the tasks on their own. Even though there’s minimal supervision, the students could still develop a deeper interest in the subject, view challenging problems as tasks to be mastered, and recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments, among others. It is also important for the learners to develop a strong sense of self-efficacy so that they could also minimize unnecessary stress, and be more optimistic when it comes to deadlines and challenging tasks.

These skills are the reasons why I view self-efficacy not just as an attribute, but more than that, a discipline. To develop one’s self-efficacy is to develop his way of learning. To have a strong sense of self-efficacy is to have a more fruitful learning experience. Most importantly, self-efficacy makes us better learners, striving to be the best version of our selves.

As a teacher who is also currently studying, I believe that self-efficacy is really a crucial discipline in learning. I, myself, have times where I doubt myself as an educator. During times where I have difficulties controlling the classroom, or even answering students’ questions, I can’t help but doubt myself. If self-doubt overpowers me, I believe I wouldn’t be where I am right now. That’s why it is important that I have a strong sense of efficacy because I can rise up to the challenges of being a teacher and at the same time, provide my students the best learning experience I can give them. On the other end of the classroom, as a student in a distance learning environment, self-efficacy is still one of the disciplines I rely on. I believe that without it, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish modules required. Without self-efficacy, I wouldn’t have participated in discussion fora as much.

To have a strong sense of efficacy is a good stepping stone towards a fruitful learning experience in the distance learning environment. If it is partnered with observational learning through imitation and modeling of good and exceptional students, an online classroom can become as efficient, effective, and utilized as that of a traditional classroom.

Behaviorist Approaches to Learning: A Reflection

Behaviorist approaches to learning are more apparent in the real world than we think. As a teacher, I have witnessed several behaviorist theories at work whether deliberately or implicitly. Say for example, in Xavier School, where I teach, we practice operant conditioning in the form of reinforcements and punishments. We give “green slips” to misbehaviors which is equivalent to detention. This is practiced in all units – from Kinder to Senior High School. There is an opposite of this which is called the “Happy Gram”. It is given to students who display good and applaudable behavior. However, the happy gram is just practiced up to Grade 6. When boys reach Middle School, they are not given a happy gram for good behavior anymore. Why is this so?

I believe this is where the limitations of behaviorist theories can be seen. It does not consider environmental factors in learning – conduciveness of environment, presence of distraction, support system – as well as the unobservable changes in behavior such as thought processes, emotions, mood, and motivation. In my example, age can also be a factor in the effectiveness of operant conditioning.

Despite the limitations of behaviorist approaches to learning, we could not deny the influence it has made on teaching practices we know today. We see a lot of educational institutions making use of reinforcements, punishment, and even classical conditioning through association. More importantly, they are not just present in education, but also outside the academe. We have policemen to apprehend us and give us appropriate sanctions when we violate the law, and even our parents adapt practices from behaviorist theories.