One theory, two theories, three theories…four

I found the readings this week very interesting and thought-provoking.

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When I sat down to read, I knew that I was trying to identify what theory of learning most closely resembled my own teaching philosophy and classroom practice. So, I started with Ertmer and Newby. The first theory that is discussed is behaviorism. As I read through this section, I kept thinking “Yes, this is totally me!”

ryan newman yes GIF by Alexander IRL

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The behaviorist puts an emphasis on environmental conditions and “assesses the learners to determine at what point to begin instruction as well as determine which reinforcers are most effective for a particular student”(p.48). As “the” high school mathematics teacher in a very small school, I understand the importance of getting students to master certain early concepts before progressing to more complicated levels of performance. I also arrange lots of practice situations that gradually become more complex, so that students can demonstrate their understanding of new concepts.

I continued to read. As I read through the cognitivism section, I once again thought “Yes, this is totally me!” My student learners are active participants in their own learning process. When I’m teaching new concepts, I try to activate students’ prior knowledge, and I emphasis the meaningfulness of the lessons.

Was I both a behaviorist and a cognitivist?

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I continued to read. Not surprisingly, I also made lots of connections with the constructivist theory. As a mathematics teacher, I often must present information in a variety of different ways, and I need to bring my students to use their problem-solving skills to go beyond what was explicitly taught in class.

So which theories of knowledge and learning underpin my own teaching philosophy and classroom practice?

I can’t really say that one theory transcends the other two. And I agree with Scott, who says in his blog this week that “by “mixing it up”, I know I’m doing my best to ensure that every student has an opportunity to both succeed while also improving in areas where they need the practice.” Kelsey also agrees that there isn’t a “best” approach. The important thing is that we’re aware of what each of our students needs.

The article by Siemens on connectivism was very interesting for me and made me reflect on technology in my household. I have three small kids and the screen time I allow them to have is limited to a couple cartoons in the morning on weekends. I didn’t grow up with very many video or computer games, so I suppose I just don’t see the value in them. I often wonder if I’m doing a disservice to my kids by not providing them with opportunities to develop technological skills. I know I must change my perspective on this. Siemens suggests that there is so much informal learning that happens outside of the classroom and technology is rewiring our brains. What does this mean for the next generations of children? How do we know how much is too much (or too little) technology for our kids/students?

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