This week, I had the chance to study learning theories as I constructed my own philosophy of learning. One of the resources I examined was a Ted Talk by Sir Ken Robinson. In the video, Sir Ken Robinson makes a very bold assertion: we live in a time that is experiencing a “crisis of human resources”. He further elaborates on this assertion by stating that we live in an age where people are not making use of the talents they possess; rather, they are moving through their lives by simply “getting on with it.” I know that over the past few courses, many of us have discussed how much the children we teach have changed over the past ten years. We’ve discussed a decrease of support at home, a lack of motivation or drive to learn, and even a sense of complacency with their current knowledge or performance. While home life undoubted plays a significant role in one’s life, our observations lead me to think about the bigger picture. What are we doing to help our students develop into their most authentic self? This led to the development of my learning philosophy.
According to Maryellen Weimer (2014), the terms “teaching philosophy” and “learning philosophy” are often interchangeably used. However, “teaching philosophy” statements tend to put the emphasis on teaching strategies and have very little to do with the actual learning process. A learning philosophy is focused on how one view makes sense of the world around them. To determine my philosophy on learning, I asked myself the question, “What does learning mean to me?”
In life, learning is a word that becomes part of our vocabulary at a very early age. All over the world, children are “learning” new things each day. However, learning can mean different things to different people. When a parent says “Johnny learned to tie his shoes today!”, what do they really mean? Are these parents speaking to the child’s cognitive ability or motor skills?
In order to truly understand what it means to learn, we must start with an inclusive definition that touches upon the most important components of the learning process. I believe that learning is best defined as “the lifelong process of transforming information and experience into knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes” (Cobb, 2017). The foundation of my understanding of learning is tied directly to the constructivist principles of Dewey, Bruner, Lave and Wenger, and Vygotsky. Learning is a product of creating meaning through experiences we have in our lives. According to Bruner, learning is an active process through which learners build new ideas that are connected to ideas or concepts they’ve previously examined. Learners select and transform knowledge, build new theories and hypotheses, and then make decisions based upon their schema (Culatta, 2018a).
In order to facilitate learning in the manner I’ve just described, learners must be supported by a significant learning environment. This learning environment should provide students with choice, ownership, voice, and authentic learning opportunities. It should teach students the value of autonomy, mastery, and purpose (The RSA, 2010). In the words of John Dewey, “Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results” (Goodreads, 2018). Learners must be surrounded by a culture that allows them to play, use their imagination, and experience inquiry. The learning environment must provide learners with access to a digital information network, as well as provide boundaries/structures that support inquiry (Thomas & Brown, 2011).
Another key element to the learning process is social interaction. As learners make sense of the world around them, interaction with peers opens up new avenues for inquiry. This fusion of knowledge and experience can enhance the understandings of all learners in the environment. This notion is supported by the ideas of Lev Vygotsky (1978), when he stated: “the range of skill that can be developed with adult guidance or peer collaboration exceeds what can be attained alone.”
Learning is almost always tied to the concept of teaching. According to Merriam-Webster (2018), teaching is defined as “the act, practice, or profession of a teacher.” Traditionally, a teacher is an adult with college experience in both child development theories and instructional strategies. However, within a significant learning environment, “teaching” is best defined as the process of attending to people’s needs, experiences, and feelings (Smith, 2018b). One does not need to be an adult to be capable of teaching. Rather, every member and everything inside of a significant learning environment can be viewed as a resource in the learning process (Thomas & Brown, 2011).
As a teacher, I believe it is my job to facilitate the learning process. It is my job to coach my students in their exploration of the world around them by setting boundaries that motivate. I believe in engaging in students in a meaningful dialogue that helps them to connect their prior knowledge and understandings to new content. I believe in helping my students to use technology in meaningful ways that transcend the confinement of the walls of a classroom. Like Thomas & Brown (2011), I believe that providing my students with opportunities to learn by doing, watching, and experiencing, I will facilitate the development of “tacit knowledge- knowing that is assumed, unsaid, and understood as a product of experience and interaction”. This tacit knowledge is the key to shaping the process of inquiry, which is essential to lifelong learning.
The final component of my learning philosophy is that I am a passionate, lifelong learner. I will always seek to collaborate with those around me to further my understanding of the learning process. I will seek to find the best ways to frame and organize activities that motivate students to ask questions and explore the world. Finally, I will use digital learning to continue to grow my own knowledge base and share my understandings with others. In the words of Sir Ken Robinson (2010), I will strive to be part of “ a movement in education where people develop their own solutions but with external support based on a personalized curriculum.”
Achmat, Waasefa. (2017, August 17) Learning Theories.
[Blog Post Image] Retrieved from http://information
The featured image of the four major learning theories that
accompanies this post is found at the link above.
Cobb, J. (2017). Definition of learning. [Blog Post] Retrieved from
This is a short blog post that clearly defines the author’s views on lifelong
learning. He discusses what learning is and is not, while offering his
perspective on how learners seek and obtain information in the world today.
Culatta, R. (2018a). Constructivist theory (jerome bruner).
Retrieved from http://www.instructionaldesign.org/
This website provides detailed information on the Constructivist
theory of Jerome Bruner. It offers an overview of the basic
components, as well as ideas for application and real-world
examples of the theory at work.
Culatta, R. (2018b). Social development theory (lev vygotsky).
Retrieved from http://www.instructionaldesign.org/
This website provides a summary of Vygotsky’s Social Development
Theory, In addition to a summary of the basic principles, it provides
a graphic to illustrate the overall theory.
Goodreads, Inc. (2018) John dewey quotes. Retrieved from
This website provides a plethora of quotes from John Dewey
that center around his Progressive Education theory, as well
as his ties to Constructivist theory.
Merriam-Webster.. (2018, August 26). Definition of teaching.
Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/
An online dictionary that provides two options for
defining the term “teaching”.
Smith, M. K. (2018a). ‘Learning theory’; The encyclopedia of
informal education. http://infed.org/mobi/
An article that provides an in-depth look of the learning theory
models. It offers links to additional information about each
theory, as well as links to other articles connected to the topic.
Smith, M. K. (2018b). ‘What is teaching?’ in the encyclopedia
of informal education. Retrieved from http://infed.org/
This article discusses options for fostering learning in a variety
of settings and subjects. Scaffolding in subject areas and the
importance of having a growth mindset is highlighted.
Ted. (2010, May 24). Bring on the learning revolution!:
Sir ken robinson. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/
This video highlights the importance of supporting the
dreams of our students and personalizing education to
meet the needs of all learners.
The RSA. (2010, April 1). Rsa animate: The surprising truth
about what motivates us. Retrieved from https://youtu.
This video discusses the true reason behinds what motivates
people to be productive.
Thomas, D., & Brown J. S. (2011). A New Culture of Learning:
Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant
change. (Vol 219). Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.
This book references the need for a shift in education from
the industrial model to a more personalized approach. It discusses
the importance of creating a significant learning environment, as
well as the type of learning that our students deserve to experience.
Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in Society. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press.
This book discusses the principles and beliefs of Vygotsky. It
discusses his beliefs about the importance of social interaction
in the learning process.
Weimer, M. (2014, March 26). What’s your learning philosophy?
Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/
This article discusses the differences between a teaching and learning
philosophy, as well as the need to think about ourselves as learners.