Section A: Learning Theories in the Big World
During the course of this semester, the process of gaining insightful information regarding the different learning theories allowed me to appreciate the different techniques used to facilitate learning. During the first part of the course, I was able to learning five learning theories which enable me to see how learners process insights and gain knowledge from them through the techniques proposed in the theories.
Under the Radical Behaviorism Theory I was able to gain an understanding on how important reinforcement is to facilitate learning. Reinforcement is the use of a stimulus to strengthen the drive that constitute to learning (Kaelbling, Littman, & Moore, 1996). Based on research, a stimulus can either be positive or negative. It can come in the form of a reward or a punishment. A negative behavior can be reversed if the learner can draw inference from a stimulus that trigger a positive feeling or initiates motivation. This was exemplified in the film of entitled Akeelah and the Bee (Atchison, 2006). From the video, it revealed that Akeelah was able to change her mind and decided to join the spelling bee because she was motivated by an incident when she experienced victory. That event boosted her confidence and motivated her to push further.
The theory on radical behaviorism is exactly like what is practiced at home. Parents would typically introduce the concept of reward and punishment to get their children motivated or to at least influence them to do what they would want them to do. At an early age when children are being potty trained, parents would offer praises as positive reinforcement every time the child would go to the bathroom to do their thing. At the same time, as the child goes to school to motivate them to study and good grades parents would say they will get something for bringing home an “A”, otherwise an “F” would be equivalent to being grounded. In the academe, the practice of radical behaviorism can be rooted from same principle. Using the example of Akeelah and the Bee, however, on the opposing aspect is utilizing a negative situation. For example, cutting class would create an impact if the students were discovered cutting class and had gotten reprimanded for doing it. The change in behavior has been introduced because of the negative reinforcement or punishment.
In another theory, it proposed that learners are often selective in the process of acquiring knowledge. This theory can best be explained by the Cognitive Information Processing Theory. The best argument that can be derived from this theory is relevance. The reason for selective learning is because the learner is only able to process and retain the information that is most important to them, or they find most significant (Hanten, 2012). In addition, a study conducted by Adler and Orprecio entitled, The eyes have it: visual pop-out in infants and adults, the researchers tried to use the manner from which the infant identifies and recognizes objects. In the same manner that learners are able to process information utilizing visual aids and other assistive learning medium. According to them, infants are able to recall objects base on their color and shape . In their study they concluded that most infants relate more favorably to color red and other bright colors like yellow and orange, while colors black, brown and gray has the tendency to blend in with the rest of the other objects (2006, p.193). Applying this in a classroom setting, we have students who performs really well in one subject but does very poorly in others. In a usual statement, there is a cliché in the academe which states that if you are good with numbers, you’re most likely poor in words. Specifically, a student who is interested in numbers would most likely excel in Math, Algebra, and similar subjects. However, they might not necessarily do well in History or Literature. Some find it extra difficult to understand why a Math genius has trouble memorizing dates and names in World History or constructing a decent formal composition for Technical Writing class, but has no trouble memorizing complex mathematical and algebraic formula. This can be explained by how much the student values the formula over the dates and the name, thereby allowing the learning to process only the information that is related to numerical and mathematical values. While the dates could include numbers, this cannot be manipulated as with in Math where numbers can be manipulated to assume a value.
In Chapter 4, Driscoll tried to explain David Ausubel’s learning theory was called Meaningful Learning and Schema. Meaningful learning and schema supports that learners learn through the use of objects that the learning relates with or finds significant . Ausubel suggests that students might find it effective to memorize nonsense words but associate them with something significant. For example, in memorizing the orders of the planets students use the mnemonics My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos. The first letter in each word in the sentence stands for the planets in the solar system—i.e., Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. This can prove why working with mnemonics is effective. Associating the object with something that is significant or interesting to the learner makes the processing of information more effective because there is something significant about it that triggers recall of information. In the case of the mnemonics for planetary order, the sentence is funny and although it might appear nonsense, that very reason triggers the recall. Another perfect example of this would be the television series Revenge. In this film meaningful learning and schema can be related to how the film’s plot development is based on activating prior knowledge. Emily Thorne/ Amanda Clarke whose father is murdered while young seeks to avenge his father’s death. As a result he gathers photographs, letters and other things that could provide information on his father’s killers and uses them to make connections as she seeks for the mysteries behind her father’s death. In season 1 for instance, Emily uses the knowledge that her father used to work for the Grayson family, to begin investigating if they had anything to do with the death of her father. Investigation in this case helps Emily learn of new secrets and connections leading towards his father's murderers. The prior Knowledge received through letters and photos helps her learn how to plan her revenge mission. In the film, she keeps on referring to the letters from her dad in a way to remind herself of her mission.
Almost in the same light as selective learning is the theory on situated cognition. This theory thrives in the idea that the instructor must be able to establish the relevance or the practicality of learning an insight or a principle or a concept which the students can relate to and find important to them in order to motivate the students to study and learn the subject being taught. The theory of situated cognition asserts that learners need to experience and get engage with the actual process for learning to be facilitate effectively (Driscoll 2005, p.177). Most often than not, students complain of the irrelevance of studying a particular course. As a result, these students failed to learn the necessary insights associated with the subject. For practical application, the TV series The Apprentice can best represent this theory. The Apprentice was a real-life television series that covers the process of learning by experience of some selected participants. During the duration of the series, each apprentice will be taught of a concept in business which they necessarily have to master. Failing to master the concepts or principle that was tasked for the week or days would result to the elimination of the participant from the game. The theory of situated cognition fosters the entry of a newcomer into the learning process and eventually leaves the process fully equipped with the necessary insights.
Finally, the Cognitive and Knowledge Development Theory is the most socially-motivated if not entirely the most interesting theory of learning learned during the course duration of the semester. Naturally, it is not only through the use of technology, research, experimentation and other learning methodologies that an individual can actually learn. In fact, by actively engaging in social interaction and fostering interpersonal relationships, the transfer of knowledge can also be possible. The technical basis for this assumption is through immersion. In order for one person to truly learn about a given culture, the theory of Cognitive and Knowledge Development asserts that the learner would learn best if it is facilitated through personal interaction. The best example for this is the movie entitled, What to Expect when Expecting (2012). In the film, when Holly decides to adopt a child who had Ethiopian origin, she decided to travel to Ethiopia to learn the culture of the Ethiopians. There she was able to learn their culture, their ways and their behavior. By becoming immersed in the community Holly was able to learn and actually lived-out the life of an Ethiopian. This made her fully understanding of the needs of the child as well as the personalities and behavior of the child.
Section B: Illustration of the Learning Theory in the Curriculum
It was Jean Piaget’s concept of pattern that provided the necessary framework to form the Cognitive Information Processing Theory. This theory of learning supports that every individual has an existing set of knowledge which they have acquired in the past. Piaget argues that almost all learners have pre-existing knowledge that has been formed in an individual’s psyche or mind as a product of experience or previous insights and generalization .
Piaget explained this theory through two psychological concepts—accommodation and assimilation. Assimilation is the process how humans acquire knowledge and retain it to blend with their existing learned insights (Block, 1982). However, since the world is dynamic it is not impossible that new things are discovered, and things are modified to fit the new insights and discoveries. The process of taking these new sets of information to alter or change previous stored information is called accommodation (Block, 1982). These concepts creates balance or equilibrium that is increased by development. The state of balance or equilibrium allows for mental processing of operative intelligence to be generated (Driscoll, 2005, p.199).
Assimilation is applied when the learner tries to blend new information from pre-existing cognitive information to create a respond. In the same manner, the application of a debate in which the students will not be given the opportunity to choose their side allows for the process of accommodation to takes place. Given this activity, those who are not in favor of the position of their group will be forced to reason and modify their existing cognitive knowledge with the new information so they can argue effectively the position of their group. Accommodation accounts for the process in which the learner tries to modify their existing cognitive information to make way for the new learned insights.
In this activity, students become discerning when there is the need to modify or alter existing beliefs to accommodate the new insights. This can be the same with latest discoveries and the need to change our pre-existing knowledge to accommodate the results from latest studies. To be more concrete about this, our previous knowledge of the order of the planets in the solar system were as follow: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. However, in recent studies it was proven that Pluto is not a planet so it was removed from the order. Instead we now just have the following planets to form the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. This is an example of Piaget’s accommodation principle from his Cognitive Information Processing Theory.
Section C: Instructional Planning and the Situated Cognition Theory
In a curriculum for English Technical Writing class, students are required to learn how to construct a formal business letter. In this case, the proposed learning theory to apply for this special curriculum is Situated Cognition. This theory supports that an activity to foster knowledge and to ensure learning is facilitated requires the connection of the academic pursuit to practical application within a cultural, physical and social context (Shaw, Kadar, Sim, & Repperger, 1992). Usually, learners are not motivated to study or learn a concept because they find it unnecessary. For example, students could not see the logic why they need to study about molecular composition and the sub-atomic properties of matter because they do not see this as something relevant to their day-to-day activity. They also do not see the reason people have to spend time learning about trajectory especially since they plan to take a course and pursue a profession that has no use for such knowledge.Given this argument, the student needs to see the relevance of the activity through practical application.
The normal conversational language can be different from formal business language. This is the reason every year, and students have an English class that allows them to master the different skills and competencies in language. This includes grammar, syntax, vocabulary and technical writing. The said competencies facilitate for effective communication that is almost necessary for every career choice. Many students argue that they do not need to learn English anymore considering that they are using it every day. However, any business analyst and consultant could easily say that conversational English and entirely different from Business English. Business English is more formal and more direct to the point. In addition. Business English requires the use of certain keywords and key phrases not normally seen in conversational English. Among these words include transition words like whereas, however and nevertheless. Instead, conversational English would rather use, but or yet.
After studying several theories used in education for over the duration of the semester, my attention was caught by the most appropriate theory that could establish the relevance of taking a course. The theory utilizes real-life scenarios in applying the insights from a particular subject for the students to establish the relevance of understanding the insights being taught. This theory is called the Situated Cognition Theory. A perfect application of this theory relates to the subject of Basic English. Many native English speaker students could not see the relevance for studying something that they knew from the time they were born. Unfortunately, this is a shallow interpretation for the English language course. In fact, English is not introduced as part of the curriculum for redundancy or for the purpose of simply filling out a course in the curriculum. In fact, English is included to the K-12 curriculum to teach students of the proper syntax involved in using the English language.
In the case of the proposed curriculum in technical writing the instructor can connect the activity towards something that the students might find relevant to them or to the profession they intend to pursue. For example, in the 12th grade the instructor can ask the student to write a sales letter. However, instead of selling a product or a service, the letter can be drafted as if it were themselves they were selling to a company to hire them for example. The letter should be formatted in the proper business format. The content should have the proper salutation and signatories. In addition, the content of the letter should be formal and not conversational or slang. Following the activity, the teacher could ask for the student’s insights regarding the activity. The teacher could ask how each student responds to the activity and how they find it useful.
Adler, S., & Orprecio, J. (2006). The eyes have it: visual pop-out in infants and adults. Developmental Science, 189-206.
Atchison, D. (Director). (2006). Akeelah and the Bee [Motion Picture].
Block, J. (1982). Assimilation, accommodation, and the dynamics of personality development. Child Development , 281-295.
Driscoll, M. P. (2005). Psychology of Learning for Instruction. Boston, MA: Pearson Allyn and Bacon.
Hanten, G. (2012). Selective Learning. In N. Seel, Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning (pp. 2989-2992). New York: Springer Publishing, Inc.
Hawthorne, N. (2009). The Scarlet Letter. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications.
Kaelbling, L., Littman, M., & Moore, A. (1996). Reinforcement Learning: A Survey. Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research , 237–285.
Shaw, R., Kadar, E., Sim, M., & Repperger, D. (1992). The intentional spring: A strategy for modeling systems that learn to perform intentional acts. Journal of Motor Behavior, 3-28.