Teaching and learning is a process that includes many variables. These variables interact as learners work toward their goals and incorporate new knowledge, behaviours, and skills that add to their range of learning experiences.
Over the past century, various perspectives on learning have emerged, among them —cognitive (learning as a mental operation); and constructivist (knowledge as a constructed element resulting from the learning process). Rather than considering these theories separately, it is best to think of them together as a range of possibilities that can be integrated into the learning experience. During the integration process, it is also important to consider a number of other factors — cognitive style, learning style, the multiple natures of our intelligences, and learning as it relates to those who have special needs and are from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Constructivism is a learning strategy that draws on students' existing knowledge, beliefs, and skills. With a constructivist approach, students synthesise new understanding from prior learning and new information.
The constructivist teacher sets up problems and monitors student exploration, guides student inquiry, and promotes new patterns of thinking. Working mostly with raw data, primary sources, and interactive material, constructivist teaching asks students to work with their own data and learn to direct their own explorations. Ultimately, students begin to think of learning as accumulated, evolving knowledge. Constructivist approaches work well with learners of all ages, including adults.
A major theme in the theoretical framework of Bruner is that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current/past knowledge. The learner selects and transforms information, constructs hypotheses, and makes decisions, relying on a cognitive structure to do so. Cognitive structure (i.e., schema, mental models, etc.) provides meaning and organisation to experiences and allows the individual to "go beyond the information given".
As far as instruction is concerned, the instructor should try and encourage students to discover principles by themselves. The instructor and student should engage in an active dialogue (i.e., Socratic learning). The task of the instructor is to translate information to be learned into a format appropriate to the learner's current state of understanding. Curriculum should be organised in a spiral manner so that the student continually builds upon what they have already learned.
Bruner (1966) states that a theory of instruction should address four major aspects:
Good methods for structuring knowledge should result in simplifying, generating new propositions, and increasing the manipulation of information.
In his more recent work, Bruner (1986, 1990 and 1996) has expanded his theoretical framework to encompass the social and cultural aspects of learning as well as the practice of law.
Scope / Application
Bruner's constructivist theory is a general framework for instruction based upon the study of cognition. Much of the theory is linked to child development research (especially Piaget). The ideas outlined in Bruner (1960) originated from a conference focused on science and math learning. Bruner illustrated his theory in the context of mathematics and social science programmes for young children. The original development of the framework for reasoning processes is described in Bruner, Goodnow & Austin (1951). Bruner (1983) focuses on language learning in young children.
Note that constructivism is a very broad conceptual framework in philosophy and science and Bruner's theory represents one particular perspective.
Example: This example is taken from Bruner (1973):
‘The concept of prime numbers appears to be more readily grasped when the child, through construction, discovers that certain handfuls of beans cannot be laid out in completed rows and columns. Such quantities have either to be laid out in a single file or in an incomplete row-column design in which there is always one extra or one too few to fill the pattern. These patterns, the child learns, happen to be called prime. It is easy for the child to go from this step to the recognition that a multiple table, so called, is a record sheet of quantities in completed multiple rows and columns. Here is factoring, multiplication and primes in a construction that can be visualised.’
Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) provides a holistic model of the learning process and a multilinear model of development, both of which are consistent with what we know about how people learn, grow, and develop. The theory is called ‘Experiential Learning’ to emphasise the central role that experience plays in the learning process, an emphasis that distinguishes ELT from other learning theories. The term ‘experiential’ is used, therefore, to differentiate ELT both from cognitive learning theories, which tend to emphasise cognition over affect, and behavioural learning theories that deny any role for subjective experience in the learning process.
Experiential learning theory defines learning as ‘the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience’.
Rogers distinguished two types of learning—cognitive and experiential (significant). The former corresponds to academic knowledge such as learning vocabulary or multiplication tables and the latter refers to applied knowledge such as learning about engines in order to repair a car. The key to the distinction is that experiential learning addresses the needs and wants of the learner. Rogers lists these qualities of experiential learning: personal involvement, self-initiated, evaluated by learner, and pervasive effects on learner.
To Rogers, experiential learning is equivalent to personal change and growth. Rogers feels that all human beings have a natural propensity to learn; the role of the teacher is to facilitate such learning. This includes:
According to Rogers, learning is facilitated when—
Experiential learning can be a highly effective educational method. It engages the learner at a more personal level by addressing the needs and wants of the individual. It requires qualities such as self-initiative and self-evaluation. For experiential learning to be truly effective, it should employ the whole learning wheel, from goal setting, to experimenting and observing, to reviewing, and finally action planning. This complete process allows one to learn new skills, new attitudes or even entirely new ways of thinking.
Remember the games we use to play when we were kids? Simple games, such as hopscotch, can teach many valuable academic and social skills, like team management, communication, and leadership. The reason why games are popular as experiential learning techniques is because of the ‘fun factor’ - learning through fun helps the learner to retain the lessons for a longer period.
Most educators understand the important role experience plays in the learning process. A fun-learning environment, with plenty of laughter and respect for the learner's abilities, also fosters an effective experiential learning environment. It is vital that the individual is encouraged to directly involve themselves in the experience, in order that they gain a better understanding of the new knowledge and retain the information for a longer time.
Human beings can learn efficiently by observation, taking instruction, and imitating the behaviour of others. ‘Cognitive learning is the result of listening, watching, touching or experiencing.’
Cognitive learning is a powerful mechanism that provides the means of knowledge, and goes well beyond simple imitation of others. Conditioning can never explain what you are learning from reading our website. This learning illustrates the importance of cognitive learning.
Cognitive learning is defined as the acquisition of knowledge and skill by mental or cognitive processes, the procedures we have for manipulating information 'in our heads'. Cognitive processes include creating mental representations of physical objects and events, and other forms of information processing.
How do we learn cognitive?
In cognitive learning, the individual learns by listening, watching, touching, reading, or experiencing and then processing and remembering the information. Cognitive learning might seem to be passive learning, because there is no motor movement. However, the learner is quite active, in a cognitive way, in processing and remembering newly incoming information.
Cognitive learning enables us to create and transmit a complex culture that includes symbols, values, beliefs and norms. Because cognitive activity is involved in many aspects of human behaviour, it might seem that cognitive learning only takes place in human beings. However, many different species of animals are capable of observational learning. For example, a monkey in the zoo, sometimes imitates human visitors or other monkeys.
The 6 E's and S (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate, Extend, and Standards) lesson plan format was developed by teachers in consultation with faculty from schools of education and is based on a constructivist model of teaching. The lesson plans are based on constructivist instructional models with activities and sections of the plan designed to have the students continually add (or construct) new knowledge on top of existing knowledge.
Each of the 6 E's describes a phase of learning, and each phase begins with the letter ‘E’: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate and Extend. The 6 E's allows students and teachers to experience common activities, to use and build on prior knowledge and experience, to construct meaning, and to continually assess their understanding of a concept.
Engage: An ‘engage’ activity should make connections between past and present learning experiences, Anticipate activities and focus students' thinking on the learning outcomes of current activities. Students should become mentally engaged in the concept, process, or skill to be learned. Each lesson plan has an 'essential question' that is the basis for their inquiry. Normally the section will include a few key questions to help direct some of the research in the Explore section.
Explore: Here the student investigates the topic more thoroughly. What is important is that the students are given the opportunity to ‘free wheel’ their way through the materials and not be over directed. They will need some direction and the teacher can circulate, asking important questions, listening to their interactions and ensuring that they remain on task.
Explain: This phase helps students explain the concepts they have been exploring. They have opportunities to verbalise their conceptual understanding or to demonstrate new skills or behaviours. This phase also provides opportunities for teachers to introduce formal terms, definitions, and explanations for concepts, processes, skills, or behaviours.
Elaborate: Here the students are expected to work directly on the given assignment. It is their opportunity to demonstrate their application of new information and to present their findings or conclusions to others. It is a good time for submitting materials for evaluation, doing presentations and completing the project or assignment.
Evaluate: While it is expected that evaluation will continue throughout the process, this is the section where the teacher evaluates the learning that has occurred. Students normally submit their work or assignments at this point. It is very important at this stage that the students be encouraged to engage in self-evaluation, group evaluation and develop their own tools to do so.
Extend: This section contains some suggestions for taking the students beyond the lesson. The purpose is to examine ways in which they can bring their findings to others or apply their understanding to new and unfamiliar circumstances. Normally, this type of activity will grow out of their excitement for what they have accomplished. This section is highly student driven, though teachers may want to gently suggest that the students enter their work in a competition or take their displays to other locations outside of their own school.
Standards: Standards are currently in the process of being integrated, lesson plan by lesson plan. In this section, the lessons are matched with state, provincial and/or national standards. It is primarily for the information of the teacher and should provide the information necessary to incorporate the lesson into the local board, district or school curriculum.
Interactive teaching strategies like role playing and simulations work best when they are presented spontaneously to students. Effective use of role playing, however, requires preparation, a well-defined format, clearly defined goals and outcomes, and time to debrief after the simulation. Role playing and simulations require students to improvise using the information available to them. In the process, they encourage critical thinking and cooperative learning. These teaching tools can also be effective in helping students clarify attitudes and ideologies and make connections between abstract concepts and real-world events.
In a multi-age class, learning is promoted by taking advantage of the diversity of the learners. Units are organised thematically, and students at each grade level work on different assignments within the unit. Students are encouraged to help each other in a nurturing environment and to value differences between students of different ages and ability levels. In cooperative work, older students become role models and mentors to the younger learners.
Teachers in multi-age classrooms are encouraged to use a range of teaching and assessment strategies to address the different ages of their students, implement flexible patterns of grouping, accommodate specific learning goals, engage all students in active participation, and promote a climate of respect for oneself and others.
Cooperative learning is one of the best researched of all teaching strategies. The results show that students, who have opportunities to work collaboratively, learn faster and more efficiently, have greater retention, and feel more positive about the learning experience. This is not to say that students can just be put into a group and assigned a project to complete. There are very specific methods to assure the success of group work, and it is essential that both teachers and students are aware of them. Recently there has been criticism of this process largely as a result of its misuse. To be perfectly clear, this is not a way for teachers to ‘get off the hook’ as students work in groups while the teacher corrects papers! It is not a way for teachers to address the needs of ‘gifted’ students by continually putting them in charge of learning groups. It is a way for students to learn essential interpersonal life-skills and to develop the ability to work collaboratively—a skill now greatly in demand in the workplace. It is a way for students to take turns with different roles such as facilitator, reporter, recorder, etc. In a cooperative group, every student has a specific task, everyone must be involved in the learning or project, and no one can ‘piggyback.’ The success of the group depends on the successful work of every individual.
Students work together on academic tasks in small groups to help themselves and their teammates learn together. In general, cooperative learning methods share the following five characteristics.
Learning styles are simply different approaches or ways of learning.
What are the types of learning styles?
The types of learning styles are as follows:
Visual Learners: learn through seeing... .
These learners need to see the teacher's body language and facial expression to fully understand the content of a lesson. They tend to prefer sitting at the front of the classroom to avoid visual obstructions (e.g., other learners’ heads). They may think in pictures and learn best from visual displays including: diagrams, illustrated textbooks, overhead transparencies, videos, flipcharts and hand-outs. During a lecture or classroom discussion, visual learners often prefer to take detailed notes to absorb the information.
Auditory Learners:learn through listening...
They learn best through verbal lectures, discussions, talking things through and listening to what others have to say. Auditory learners interpret the underlying meanings of speech through listening to tone of voice, pitch, speed and other nuances. Written information may have little meaning until it is heard. These learners often benefit from reading text aloud and using a tape recorder.
Kinesthetic Learners / Tactile: learn through, moving, doing and touching...
Kinesthetic / tactile persons learn best through a hands-on approach, actively exploring the physical world around them. They may find it hard to sit still for long periods and may become distracted by their need for activity and exploration.