Unit 4 Theories and Principles for Planning and Enabling Learning Level 4 Theory Assessment Introduction The purpose of this assignment is for me to demonstrate that I can identify and discuss the significance of relevant theories and principles of learning and communication; select and critically analyse the impact of two theories of learning on the planning and delivery of teaching in my own setting; and reflect on the impact that these insights have had on my own practice and professional development. What is a theory? To me a theory is an idea of how something works.
It is a way of explaining to others the concept of the how and why of something. What is a principle? To me principles are my beliefs about something. It is my feelings on a given subject. Geoff Petty (2004 pg 486) states that, ‘every teacher and every learner has a theory about learning. ‘ To be able to develop my own theories and principles on planning and enabling learning I need to learn what they mean to others. Through research and reading I know that there are many different theories relating to teaching and learning. Those that I have looked at are Behaviourist, Cognitivist, Humanist, Gestalt and Motivation/Communication.
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They are not new concepts. Some Theorists have been dead many years but their theories still prevail. The two theories of learning that I am going to use for this assignment are Behaviourist and Humanist. Behaviourist Theory Behaviourists believe that individuals respond to stimuli found in their environment and from things that they have seen. Pavlov (1849-1936) dealt with conditioned learning (classical conditioning) using experiments on dogs for his hypothesis. We have all read about how he linked a specific sound e. g. a bell to feeding which made the dogs salivate. Over time just the sound of the bell caused the dogs to salivate.
Thus the stimulus response conditioning had taken place. Pavlov like many other theorists worked with animals and not humans. Watson (1878-1958) believed that we are not born with instincts but react through reflex actions. His work developed the concept of ‘trial and error. ‘ He felt that stimulus occurred in one part of the brain and the response came as a result of that stimulus in another part of the brain. Watson firmly believed that habit forming was a fundamental part of the learning process. He took Pavlov’s ideas and applied them to humans. He suggests that the way a human learned could be related to the ‘formula’ used e. . (UCS) unconditioned stimulus (food) plus a neutral stimulus (bell) caused an (UCR) unconditioned response (salivation). Over time the neutral stimulus became a (CS) conditioned stimulus causing a (CR) conditioned response i. e. that the presenting of the bell caused the dog to salivate. Watson demonstrated this when he experimented on ‘little Albert’ an 18 month old boy. Noise was the UCS which caused anxiety (UCR). He then introduced the rat which was the NS. This developed into UCS + NS = UCR and further into the experiments the rat became a CS and the anxiety a CR.
Everyone has an experience they can recall where a song or smell makes them remember an incident, be it a good memory or a bad memory, the stimulus response conditioning we had remains with us. I personally have a learner who when you ask about legislation and requirements shouts ‘VASCR’ because she has studied it until she can tell you verbatim what it means. Thorndike (1874-1990) demonstrated in his research that good experiences seemed to reinforce the stimulus-response bonds, whereas negative experiences tended to reduce these bonds.
He felt that ‘there was a need to maximise the strength of a bond’ (Reece and Walker 2000 pg 105). The way this could be done was by increasing the number of times people were exposed to the stimulus and to increase the intensity of that exposure. This can be seen as ‘rote learning’. Most of us have been taught in this way at some time or another. For me personally, it was how I was taught my times tables and French vocabulary. Within my own teaching practices I use this theory especially when carrying out induction and introducing learners to the award (appendices 2 and 3).
One of the activities I use to inform learners about VASCR (valid, authentic, sufficient, current and reliable assessment practices) can be used in this way. By asking the learners to complete a form they through repetition quickly learn what the acronym means (appendices 1). This is using programmed learning approaches e. g. telling them what I want them to learn, arranging the test in various stages that allows them to learn the information I want and making sure that I give them positive feedback when they have completed the test correctly (appendices 4).
As behaviourists developed and their ideas and concepts became more people related, we enter the Neo-Behaviourist phase. Neo-Behaviourists Neo-behaviourists ‘provided a more human perspective in that they considered the human mind to be selective in its actions and not simply responsive to stimuli’ (Reece and Walker 2000 pg 107). Tolman (1886-1959) believed that organisms were purposeful and selective in their responses to their environment. He felt that in order to study behaviour he had to look at behaviours as a whole sequence. This would allow him to understand how they related and worked together to reach the end goal.
Tolman’s work recognises the importance of a curriculum and lesson plan built around the needs of the learner. ‘Students,’ says Tolman, ‘must be granted a variety of opportunities in which to test hypotheses. The teacher should assist by formulating a variety of hypotheses, arranging conditions for testing, and providing confirming experiences when the hypotheses are shown to be accurate’ (Curzon 2003 pg62). This can be seen in my own schemes of work and lesson planning. My learners are studying to be assessors or quality assurance advisors and must make decisions based on their learners’ environment and resources available to them.
Through decisions and experiences they can discover what methods produce the best evidence and modify and alter their assessment methodology to reach their end goal and ensure their learners reach their own end goal. I had to make sure that what I was teaching them was generic for all learners and could be reproduced by them in their own areas of expertise. A good example of this is the Quality Assurance activity whereby they were given information and asked to work in pairs to devise a sampling matrix to meet JAB (joint awarding body) requirements and the functional skills exercise (appendices 5).
I give constant positive reinforcement at every stage and rely on simulation to help the learners gain the competence and expertise they need to perform their roles effectively. Skinner (1904-1990) believed that it was ‘important to reward the learner frequently in the early stages of learning, then at random or at a fixed interval subsequently’ (Reece and Walker 2000 page 108). He is known for developing the theory of operant conditioning whereby ‘…. behaviour is a response to previous experience, praise or punishment’ (Wilson 2009 pg 352).
By asking the learners to give me their opinion of what they feel about their activities they begin the feedback process for me. Most learners will concentrate on what they feel they did not do well which allows me to come in with a positive response highlighting what they have done well and asking them to identify what they could have done differently to give more evidence of competence. This also encourages them to take ownership of their qualification. This leads me in to my next theory, Humanist. Humanists
Humanists believe that learning should be personalized and child centred. Learners should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning and agree their own goals. ‘Teachers are encouraged to help each learner choose what knowledge and skills they want to learn, negotiating a unique ‘learning contract’ or ‘action plan’ for each individual’ (Petty 2004 pg 17). This is a requisite for my learners. We meet for an induction which includes informing them of the requirements of the course, their involvement, my involvement and the involvement from their managers and peers.
I get them to complete a training needs analysis (TNA) based upon their unit standards (appendices 6) which I then use as a base line to produce an individual learning plan (ILP) and an assessment plan which they will use throughout their course. After each assessment they receive feedback and the assessment plan and ILP are updated. Humanists feel that for learning to take place the learner/child needs to feel good about them self, be in a place of self actualization. Rogers (1902-1987) informs us that ‘the job of the teacher……. s to generate the conditions and environment for students to develop their own self concept’ thus promoting experiential learning (Reece and Walker 2009 pg 112). It is part of my role to provide a positive, safe environment for my learners, where they feel that they can learn and want to learn. The use of simulation and role play can encourage socialization and learner interaction. By using group or paired activities the less confident learners are encouraged to take part and get involved knowing that they can nominate a peer to give out the information at the end of the task (appendices 7).
Reece and Walker (2000 pg 112) tell us that ‘the key to effective, long term learning is based upon experiential learning…. ‘ Kolb (1939) developed an experiential learning cycle which begins with the learner having experience of an activity, then they reflect on their experiences, they then think about the experience and develop their own theory about it before finally planning how they will test that theory or plan for a forthcoming experience. The activity that I use for this is the use of simulated functional skills testing during the lesson on the assessment process.
My learners need to know the importance of intial and diagnostic testing (appendices 9). From this theory Kolb was able to identify four specific learning styles. Divergers, learners who like to think about what they have experienced and ask why and enjoy watching others and collecting a wide range of information. Convergers, who like to think about things and ask how things work. They enjoy trying out their own theories to see if they work. They work most effectively solo being methodical and practical and adjusting their theories using facts to ensure efficiency.
Accomodators, who enjoy more hands on experiences, and practical learning rather than exposition and rote learning. They work well solo and like to experiment to test their theories. Assimilators are thinkers and they like things to be structured and organized. They are ‘serious’ learners who prefer lectures and reading materials to hands on or activities. The Humanist theories were developed to include theories of motivation and communication. Motivation/Communuication Maslow (1908-1970) was one of the forerunners in motivational theories.
He felt that if the learner was tired, cold, hungry, frightened they would not learn effectively. He developed a hierarchy of human need which is still used widely today. Maslow developed a pyramid of needs which can be related to learners starting at the bottom with: Physiological needs e. g. breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis and excretion. Applying this to the classroom situation is making sure that the room is warm and well lit, has adequate ventilation, accessible bathroom facilities, appropriate seating and desks, providing comfort breaks where needed (appendices 2 and 3) Safety needs e. . security of self and family, job security, adequate finances, and good health, somewhere to live. This is imperative and helps in forming trusting relationships with the learners. I make sure that all information about them is kept confidential and private, that learners have access to private space if they need it, that all learners are treated equally and that the environment meets with health and safety requirements including college protocols. Love and Belonging e. g. via friendship, family and sexual intimacy. It is very important for learners to feel as though hey belong. At the beginning of the course we as a group agree ground rules and learners are encouraged to work together frequently. I change the pairings and the sizes of the groups to give everyone the opportunity to work together and to help create inclusion. Through praise and discussion I show the learners that I am interested in what they say and do and encourage them to make comment and ask questions so that they know their opinion is valued (appendices 2 and 3). Esteem e. g. self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others and respect by others.
By using the TNAs at the beginning during induction I am able to gauge the level of knowledge and understanding of each individual learner (appendices 6 and 7). This allows me to include differentiation in my activities and resources. Learners are praised for their involvement in the activities especially when the achieve something valuable. By offering praise they seem to be accepted within the group. Self-actualization e. g. is the need for morality, creativity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts and liking oneself.
This can be promoted through acknowledging their contributions, showing enthusiasm, being positive and open and ensuring that they have the facilities and resources to achieve their personal goals. Rogers (1902-1987) ‘….. places emphasis on feeling and thinking, on the recognition and importance of a student’s personal values, on interpersonal communication, and on the development of positive self concepts’ (Curzon 2003 pg 116). Keeping learners motivated and involved in their learning is an important part of the teacher’s role.
Incorporating the motivation/communuication theory into teaching by encouraging them to be independent and take ownership of their learning and have an active involvement in the process of change so that they are learning to learn can often motivate learners. Whilst this may work for the learners who are able to work alone and enjoy pursuing their own learning others may still need some guidance and support, so a mixture of learning theories is needed. This promotes equality of opportunity for all learners and recognises their diversity.
It encourages social interaction and inclusion as well as making sure that all learning styles are met. Conclusion Educational theories are vital to our teaching practices. They help us to reflect on the methods and styles we use and recognise our achievements and our failures. They help us to focus on our learners and use strategies to identify their individual learning styles so that we can ensure our schemes of work and lesson plans acknowledge and accommodate those styles so learners have access to a varied and learner centred educational programme.
Throughout this assignment I have noticed that my own teaching style incorporates mostly the Humanist, Cognitivist and Behaviourist theories. I have made a conscious effort to revisit my schemes of work and my lesson plans and add in the theories I used (appendices 2, 3, 9) to help me to devise activities that incorporate a more diverse array of teaching theories. Because of my teaching background the complexities of lesson planning and devising appropriate schemes of work were rarely discussed and often bypassed.
Since commencing the course I have learned so much about the importance of effective planning to ensure good quality learning and learner achievement. It is my responsibility as a teacher to continue to update and improve my knowledge and skills so I can be effective and efficient in my teaching. This I do through attending staff development, researching relevant sites, reading books on teaching and watching media programs including the news to keep myself abreast of any changes. I also find having a coffee with a colleague is one of the best ways to learn about how to be a good teacher.