Learning Theories Every Teacher Should Know


by TeachingThe Staff Of Thought

The theory of learning – and related research – is a topic frequently discussed in universities and teaching curricula, and then less frequently once teachers start practicing in the classroom.

Why this is true is complicated. (If you’re teaching, you might have more pressing concerns than being able to define obscure learning theories that don’t seem to have a place or role in what you’re teaching tomorrow.) We thought it might be helpful to get a quick overview of many of the most important learning theories teachers should know in a single graphic, which is why we were thrilled to find Richard MillwoodIt’s great graphics.

Millwood is a Visiting Fellow at Trinity College Dublin and Director of Core Education UK. (You can read her blog here.) Although the chart is necessarily brief (and has a few typos), we found that it did an excellent job of bringing together many of the most critical and common learning theories in one place.

If you get nothing else from an article like this, perhaps the most important takeaway is that there are dozens of theories that already underlie what and how you teach and that the better you understand them, the more likely you are to master your current course. come closer and start bringing new possibilities into your classroom as your “teacher brain” makes room for this kind of thinking.

Some definitions were a bit too brief, so I added language for clarity or depth (although we need to backtrack on a few, expand on them, and explain them further, like “Interpersonal Relationships”).

For related reading, see our Dictionary for 21st Century Teachers.

A visual summary: 32 learning theories every teacher should know

1. Instructivism

The principle of “instructivism” is that teachers play a central role in the learning process and transfer this knowledge directly to students.

See also Transfer and direct instruction.

2. Multiple Intelligences

We have many different ways of learning and processing information, but these methods are relatively independent of each other: directing multiple intelligences as opposed to a (single) “general intelligence” among correlated abilities.

3. Experiential learning

Knowledge is continually acquired through personal and environmental experiences. The learner should be able to reflect on the experienceuse analytical skills to conceptualize experience, make decisions, and solve problems using insights gained from experience.

4. Learning Styles

Optimal learning requires that students receive instruction suited to their learning style. (And stop learning styles don’t work.)

5. Unschooling Society

School harms education: “The student is thus “educated” to confuse teaching and learning, academic promotion and education, diploma and competence, ease and ability to say something (good) or new. »

6. Homeschooling

Homeschooling: characterized primarily by the fact that the family is responsible for the “education” of the child. There is a range of approaches available, from replicating school at home to project-based learning in authentic, self-directed and organized learning environments, to complete ‘unschooling’.

7. Unschooling

The underlying assumption of unschooling is that children will learn naturally if they have the freedom to follow their own interests and a rich assortment of resources.

8. Critical pedagogy

An educational movement driven by passion and principle to help students develop an awareness of freedom, recognize authoritarian tendencies, and connect knowledge with power and the ability to act constructively.

9. Interpersonal relationships

Types of teachers: lion tamer, entertainer and new romantic – the problem of self-judgment in assessment

10. Montessori Education

Montessori principles:

Mixed classes, with classrooms for children aged 2.5 or 3 to 6 years old.

Choice of activity by the student from a prescribed range of options

Blocks of uninterrupted working time

A “constructivist” or “discovery” model in which students learn concepts by working with materials rather than through direct instruction.

11. Scientific pedagogy

A science based on education that modifies and improves the individual

12. Experiential Education

The process that occurs between teacher and student instills direct experience of the learning environment and content.

13. Constructionism

The underlying principle of constructionism as a theory of learning is that the learner is not a passive ‘container’, but must actively participate in their own learning. This forces learners to build on existing knowledge when acquiring new knowledge.

14. social constructivism

A theory of learning based on the idea that meaning is socially constructed and negotiated through interactions with others.

15. Constructivism: radical constructivism

Knowledge as a mental representation:

1a. Knowledge is not received passively, neither by the senses, nor by communication;

1b. Knowledge is actively constructed by the knower;

2a. The function of cognition is adaptive, in the biological sense of the term, tending towards adequacy or viability;

2b. Cognition serves the organization of the experiential world of the subject, and not the discovery of objective ontological reality.

16. Project-Based Learning

A framework for unifying otherwise disparate ‘strands’ of teaching and learning. In ‘PBL’, students learn through the design, realization (and often continuous iteration) of ‘projects’. One way of looking at pedagogical learning is to compare it to traditional “teaching” “units”.

17. Genetic Epistemology

A human being develops cognitively from birth throughout his life through four main stages of development: sensorimotor (0-2), preoperative (2-7), concrete operational (7-11) and formal operational (11+). ). Assimilation (occurs by) the incorporation of new experiences into an existing mental scheme; accommodation changes the mental pattern.

18. Zone of proximal development

The area of ​​ability that learners can demonstrate with the support of a teacher.

19. Scaffolding

Scaffolding is the support given during the learning process, which is tailored to the needs of the student with the aim of helping him achieve his learning goals.

See also Gradual release from responsibilities.

20. Discovery Learning

Learners acquire knowledge by forming and testing hypotheses.

21. Meaningful Learning

The new knowledge acquired is linked to previous knowledge.

22. Mastery Learning

In Mastery Learning, “students are helped to master each learning unit before moving on to a more advanced learning task. »

23. Educational objectives

Taxonomy of learning objectives that educators set for students in three “domains”: cognitive, affective and psychomotor. Learning at higher levels depends on reaching lower levels (first). Designed to motivate educators to focus on all three areas, creating a more holistic form of education.

24. Radical Behaviorism

Learning as the process of forming associations between environmental stimuli and corresponding individual responses. Reinforcement reinforces responses and increases the likelihood of another event occurring when the stimulus is present again.

25. Communities of Practice

Groups of people who share a concern or passion for something they do and learn to do it better by interacting regularly.

26. Situated Learning

According to Northern Illinois University, Situated learning is “a pedagogical approach developed by Jean Lavé and Etienne Wenger in the early 1990s and follows the work of Dewey, Vygotsky and others (Clancey, 1995) who claim that students are more inclined to learn by actively participating in the learning experience. Situated learning is essentially about creating meaning from the actual activities of daily life (Stein, 1998, para. 2) where learning occurs in relation to the teaching environment.

27. Conversation Theory

A cybernetic and dialectical framework that offers a scientific theory to explain how interactions lead to “knowledge”.

28. Competency-Based Learning

Competency-based learning is an approach to learning that focuses on real, observable skills (or “skills”) rather than an understanding of concepts as measured by traditional academic assessments. While mastery of skills obviously requires understanding of concepts, it does not aim for this end.

29. problem-based learning

An approach to learning in which solving important ‘problems’, often through inquiry and project-based learning, catalyzes the learning experience.

30. Place-Based Education

The focus on a meaningful (i.e. meaningful to the learner) ‘place’ in the learning circumstances.

31. Question-Based Learning

A formal inquiry process where questions are formulated and then improved based on the revelation of relevant, meaningful and accurate data.

See also, the Question formation technique.

32. Blended learning/combined learning

An alternative to traditional academic “lessons”, learning combinations are combinations of learning ingredients (e.g. topic, audience, outcome, applications,


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