October 11, 2010

PLENK Week 4: Learning Theory

Posted in PLENK2010 at 4:56 pm by kristibroom

Week 4: Learning Theories. The Daily on 10/4/10 said this: “At first glance, learning theory discussions have all the excitement of watching rocks break down into soil: the process is long and tedious and often seems to produce little value.” I was prepared to be overwhelmed with content and underwhelmed with interest. And, I was surprised, in both respects.

In terms of content, I appreciate the efforts to provide both comprehensive lists of theories, and also manageable summaries. Instead of being overwhelmed and, quite frankly, ignoring everything, I was drawn into the content. And, while I cannot claim to begin to understand everything, I did make connections that will help me sort through the knowledge.

In terms of interest, I go back to the 3 perspectives I bring to this effort, and that I included in my first blog post. From the viewpoint of my first perspective, the personal interest and knowledge, I was intrigued, and do feel that I gained something. The second viewpoint, the one that applies to my work, brings a bit of concern. I have seen examples in my corporate experience of overuse of a particular theory to the detriment of learners. We have a model based on a theory; we use that model, and it’s hard to gain acceptance for anything else. I think the combination of many techniques (and the learning theories that ground the techniques we use) enable a rich learning environment. I don’t think the problem is in the theories; I think the problem is in getting stuck on one theory applied to all situations. And then there’s the third perspective: my children’s education. I read with interest Jenny’s post on learning theories. I agree with the flexibility to give the student what is needed.

Next month, I have the opportunity to chaperone an experiential learning trip with a class of 5th graders. As a chaperone, one of my responsibilities is to teach daily lessons to the students, both in a classroom, and while hiking through the woods or suspended 60 feet in the air on a ropes course. I’m sure that I will smile as I reflect on the Social Constructionism (is that right?) that will underly our lessons of winter animal tracks in the woods. But, I doubt that I will mention Vygotsky, Wittgenstein, or Papert to the kids, nor the many others that will influence the learning during that week.

As I continue through the PLENK experience, I appreciate all that I’m learning and discovering. I have a new appreciation for those who study and know learning theories. I hope that each time I have an opportunity to learn about learning theory, I pick up a few additional nuggets of knowledge, or new connections to resources where the knowledge exists. Now on to evaluating learning!


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