Learning, for me, is the reason for living. Learning is very personal. We “learn” everyday whether it’s in a formal educational setting or just in our daily interactions. We learn new skills, new ideas and new ways of doing things that helps to keep our sense of curiosity, joie de vivre and sense of self fresh and alive. Learning is instrumental is the development of ourselves; we become better people as we learn. We are more open to new experiences, to appreciate the diversity of people and ideas in our lives. For me, each day I want to be able to do something that I couldn’t do before. I don’t know that I would go so far as to say “Experience is the best teacher” but I would say “Experiences teach us best”. My overall favorite theorist was Paolo Friere, “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” – Paolo Freire, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”.
Having written the above, I would have to broaden my inclusion of additional theories and theorists:
- Rogers – Experiential Learning – Learning occurs in academia and daily life as it is self-directed and chosen activity because we want to develop a particular skill – like cooking.
- Maslow - Hierarchy of Needs – Self-Actualization should be the goal of all learning.
- Kohlberg – Stages of Moral Development – Pre-Conventional, Conventional, Post-Conventional – this stage is based on higher moral guidelines or principles
- Gardner – Multiple Intelligences – Eight intelligences – Each of us possess them with varying degrees of abilities
- Dewey – Learning by Doing – We learn through our experiences.
- Bruner – Constructivist Theory – We “construct” or build our body of knowledge by comparing “new” information with already acquired information.
- Bandura – Observational Learning Theory – We can learn by observing others.
- Vgotsky - Social Development Theory and ZPD - We need social interaction to develop our cognitive skills. Finding a learner’s ZPD enables us to plan experiences to build or “scaffold” on what is known.
How does my philosophy align with the 10 Core Learning Principles?
Core Learning Principle #1 – Every Structured Experience Has Four Elements with the Learner at the Center Designing instruction, whether it’s online or in the classroom, must have four sections. The learner, the mentor/instructor, the knowledge and the Environment – LeMKE, for short. (Boettcher 2003) This describes the instruction process succinctly and helps us to keep all those parts in mind as we are planning instruction. However, the learner is first, foremost and center as we focus on great instructional design. Maslow and Rogers
Core Learning Principle #2: Every Learning Experience Includes the Environment in Which the Learner Interacts
We choose and create the environment for our learners. From this flows the rest of the teaching. In an online course, we use the four stages to foster students’ learning:
- First stage – Course Beginnings – Course expectations, getting acquainted, navigating the online environment and community building is the focus
- Second stage – Early Middle – Students begin to interact with the core concepts and are familiarizing themselves with suggested tools in the course
- Third stage – Late Middle – Students are much more self-directed and completing projects and collaborating with others
- Fourth Stage – Course Wrap – Students participate in activities that solidify new concepts learned and take time for reflective activities to internalize the learning and affect the learner’s future studies
No matter the theory, the environment can be constructed and set for active learning.
Core Learning Principle #3 – We Shape Our Tools and Our Tools Shape Us
For those of us that love our technology and its gadgets, we identify as one. However, this core learning principle includes, besides our tools, other resources and people that we include in our instructional design. The environment has changed greatly because of the power and availability of our digital tools. I think it’s our power of communication and the instantaneous nature of our “messages” today that has done the most to break down the solitary nature of academia. Our tools have fostered inclusion, community building and we are far more able to discuss, share and reach a plan for action as we tackle teaching and learning objectives. We, as mentors, are stepping to the side to let our students choose and decide how to learn, what to learn and, even how far to learn based on interest. Vgotsky and Bransford (community building)
Core Learning Principle #4 – Faculty Are the Directors of the Learning Experience
Teachers play more of a mentoring or coaching role in online learning. So, I will be using “mentor” for teachers. Mentors design their courses keeping in mind that they are directing and supporting learners throughout the course and assess that learning. This is a real shift from the traditional face-to-face classroom. Most accepted theories today acknowledge the active role a learner must take.
Core Learning Principle #5: Learners Bring Their Own Personalized Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes to the Learning Experience
Our learners come with a set of learning concepts and experiences already. Trying to discover them, mentors must be able to match activities with learners’ ZPD for maximum effectiveness of learning. Also, each learner is unique and will interact and respond to course material differently. All theorists, except for those supporting behaviorism and Tabula Rasa, Locke’s theory that learners are like “blank slates” for mentors to “write on”.
Core Learning Principle #6 Every Learner Has a Zone of Proximal Development That Defines the Space That a Learner is Ready to Develop Into Useful Knowledge
Each learner has a Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) which is the space that the learner can use to develop learning. That’s why pre-assessment is important; we are looking for the ZPD that the learner can participate with assistance and thus develop knowledge through the experience. Vgotsky, Bruner and Knowles Core Learning
Principle #7 Concepts are Not Words; Concepts are Organized and Intricate Knowledge Clusters
When learners are creating, discussing, writing, solving problems and analyzing, etc., students are learning and “clustering” concepts for more meaningful and deeper learning. Reflective activities like forums, blogs, journalling and working in small groups fosters development of these knowledge clusters. Vgotsky and Bruner Core Learning
Principle #8 – All Learners Do Not Need to Learn All Course Content; All Learners Do Need to Learn the Core Concepts
This principle asks us to look at our content or knowledge to be gained from our instructional design. We have our course concepts and our course content. Course content can be divided into that which is absolutely necessary for core concept development and content that is enriching the core concepts. We need to design our course content so that students are getting a wide array of information, experiences, activities, and problem solving to learn the core concept knowledge. After that, course content will encourage students to further develop and expand their core concepts by developing more expertise and customizing their learning. Bruner, Maslow, Vgotsky and Rogers Core
Learning Principle #9: Different Instruction is Required for Different Learning Outcomes
Everything that we do – from design, environment, content, resources and assessment – affects our learners. We need to formulate definite learning outcomes and that our activities address and evaluate learning. Gardner, Maslow and Bruner
Core Learning Principle #10: Everything Else Being Equal, More Time-on-Task Equals More Learning
This focuses on what we’ve known for a long time: Time-on-Task increases learning, confidence and the pure joy of learning for its own sake. Mentors need to be creative in developing activities for concept development, implementation and problem solving. Maslow, Vgotsky, Bruner, Rogers, Dewey and Kohlberg .
Boetccher, J.V. 2003. Design levels for distance and online learning. In Distance Learning and Online Effectiveness: Changing Educational Paradigms for Online Learning, ed. R. Discenza, K. Howard and R. Shenk, 21-54. Hershey, PA: Idea Group
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