My first step to learning starts in April 2013 when I enrolled in the Professional Teaching Certification at the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) through the Distance Education Mode. One of the 2 subjects I undertook is EDS 103 – Theories of Learning.
EDS 103 is a challenge since this is the first time that I have to learn the different theories, concepts, laws and principles to describe how individual learn. The subject became more difficult because I do not have any education subject before as I took Business Administration in college. The anticipation, excitement, anxiety and even fear interplayed while I browsed over the different modules and requirements in the Study Schedule. I did not know how to cope with the demands of the course because of the limited time I had to share between my two subjects.
The sequence of the module was indeed well prepared and integrated. The concepts, theories, principles and laws of learning were inherent in every module. The recommendations and instructional designs of every theory in learning and teaching were manifested in almost every page of the reading materials to accommodate every learning style of my classmates.
The first approach to learning began with the introduction and importance of metacognition and self-regulation in learning in addition to self-efficacy. These three terms were indeed new to me. They were not introduced or taught during my high school and college days. At first, I thought that our teacher or could I say facilitator, made this a part of our lesson so that if somebody failed in the course, it is he/she whom to blame. It was not the case though as I realized that these inherent, internal or personal attributes or awareness were necessary not only in this subject but also in other learning endeavor and in the real world. Self efficacy became a sort of motivation as I observed that I was not alone in this battle. My classmates and I shared the same challenge of limited time to read unlimited materials and hopefully to learn much out of it. As I understood and learned metacognition and self-regulation, I began to control my learning and allocate my time appropriately based on the aims of the modules and study schedule.
As different theories and styles of learning were unfolding one by one, I was beginning to describe the different methods I used before that remained nameless prior to this study. I came to realize that I am a Read/Write learner when I took the VARK (Visual, Auditory, Read/Write and Kinesthetic) Questionnaire of Neil Fleming. My learning style that I used before did not change over time. I remained a Read/Write learner up to this day. This style is really time-consuming as I have to read the material and write afterwards. The problem was I tend to copy almost all of the modules. I tried so many times but I could not understand the lessons when I only read them. I had to transfer all the materials on my notebook and re-read them. This is the method I knew that remains to be so which describes best how I learn.
Realizing that individuals do not possess a single general ability but a multitude ways to express their thoughts and feelings, it is imperative on my part to provide my future learners means and ways to address individual differences in thinking and learning. I shall be fair in recognizing the talents of my students whether they are manifested mentally, logically, visually, musically, naturally and practically. These different expressions of knowledge shall have equal weight in students’ assessment.
I considered the behaviorist approach to learning the easiest to understand because It was somewhat introduced to me and I had prior experience to the application of rewards and punishment. Both Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner, the proponents of behaviorism, underscore that learning is the consequence of conditioning and can be enhanced or eradicated by reward and punishment. Spanking was one of the punishments I received in childhood that I could not forget not because I was so horrible or frightening but it made me realized that it was the best method of stopping undesirable behavior. Nowadays because of the law against child abuse, disciplining children by spanking is a no-no. As a result, children are growing up to be hard-headed, disrespectful and very difficult to discipline. Words are not enough to guide them in the right direction. Having said this, I am against excessive or brutal punishment.
The lesson on reinforcement and punishment was manifested in our company here in the Middle East. The sad part was they were applied interchangeably. There were occasions that those who performed less were given more and vice versa. Instead of giving punishment to employee who did not do his job well, that job was taken away from that employee and was given to another employee (that’s me). The low performing worker was rewarded with fewer jobs while the high performer was punished with more jobs. Other people will surely take this scenario differently but the point was punishment was not applied to modify behavior. Contrary to the principles of behaviorism, the reinforcement and punishment was applied inconsistently and unfairly. At any rate, the practical lesson and the theory learn on behaviorism was a good starting point in teaching. I learned when and how rewards and punishment be applied in classroom setting. Disciplinary actions must be the consensus of the school administrator, teachers, parents and students. Everyone has the say to their application to be more effective.
I could say that the social learning theory of learning encompasses all the other theories because it involves the continuous interplay of the cognitive, behavioral and environmental or social approach to learning. I realized that individual learns through observation, modeling or vicarious consequence, and by enacting the observed behavior to achieve the same goals of the model. In this part, my models and mentors are my parents, aunt, an adviser and two math teachers. They somewhat shaped by being. Because of this, I need to be an effective and appropriate role model and mentor to my future students. I shall master my craft and uphold the highest morality that one can possess and at the same time to be successful in all my undertakings so that my example can be emulated by others.
The main focus of the social cognitive theory of Albert Bandura is self-regulation –the capability of the learner to set his own learning goals, monitor, evaluate, and modify his/her approaches or strategies if the goals were not met in the first try. Coupled with this self-system, I shall also emphasize to my students self-efficacy, the belief that they can successful complete and achieve every learning task in any situation. This will be their motivational factor to address simple or challenging situations ahead.
The constructivist view of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky although with slight difference in approach shall be one of my by guiding principles in teaching and learning. I shall prepare lessons and activities that will value individual effort as well as collaborative or cooperative creation of knowledge and skills. I shall do this by making sure that the students can relate and apply the concepts that I am teaching to their everyday life. Activities such as group research and report and individual project shall be given equal importance. I shall see to it that in some situations the students shall control the discussion and the pursuit of their own learning goals. However, in some instances that students do not have the instructional materials and gadgets to pursue their learning or the concepts are so difficult to comprehend, I have no choice but to mediate and lecture the necessary important information or steps for their immediate understanding especially in sciences.
The cognitive processing information theory of learning focuses on how environmental stimuli passes through the sensory memory, processes in the working memory of the short-term memory (STM) and recorded in the long-term memory (LTM) to become stored knowledge. There is no learning if the knowledge in the LTM cannot be retrieved. I am not immune to forgetting. Although view as common, it is still frustrating when the name of the person or an important word is only at the “tip-of-the-tongue” and yet you cannot get it. Critical thinking and creativity were also discussed as part of the cognitive approach because they reside in the human mind. Benjamin Bloom’s hierarchy of knowledge tries to explain this concept as the top of his ranking is creating. Critical thinking is very important for learners to acquire because of the numerous pieces of information that are available in
the mass media and internet that need to be judged and evaluated. Selecting what is true and what is not is a big challenge because even popular and high regard personalities occasionally give misleading information. In this regard, I see to it that the most important concepts shall be taught during the first few minutes of session and shall be repeated at the last part. I shall teach my students mnemonics devices and other tools to remember information and how to retrieve them when necessary. More importantly, I shall teach them how to source and identify credible knowledge and information as well as how to cultivate their creativity in thoughts and in deeds.
It is noteworthy that the focus of the current K to 12 Program of the Department of Education is on constructivist view of learning and the spiral method in achieving it. As such, the mother-tongue based multilingual education (MTB-MLE) in kindergarten up to third grade is being implemented. In the program, the role of the teacher has been changed from lecturer, instructor and teacher to facilitator or guidance of learning. From teacher-centered, K to 12 becomes student-centered. With this guiding principle, it is now easier for me to adopt some of my constructivist approaches to teaching based on the students’ stages of development and Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).
At this journey, I can say that I did not and could not change my perspective of learning because my learning style proved to be successful in my learning goals. Since I am not currently teaching, there is nothing to change in terms of my teaching methodology. However, I can say that I will implement some of the aspects of the different learning theories and adopt them to what is appropriate in a given situation. Any one of the theories has its pros and cons and applicable only to certain conditions. Some government restrictions might hinder the implementation of any aspect of any theory. Therefore, the main focus of my future teaching career is to utilize the best combination of the theories that fits the learning style, motivation and orientation of my students while emphasizing the importance of metacognition, self regulation and self efficacy, which I would gladly teach them as well, as you teach us Ma’am Malou!
This is not my last step because my journey has just began and yet it is about time to say thank you to all my group mates and classmates that make this learning fruitful and enjoyable. Big thanks to my boss who is understanding and supportive and to my friends and colleagues who were sidelined once in a while. But most of all, I would like to give a happy heart to our facilitator-Ma’am Malou Juachon who guided me (us) in every step of my (our) journey. Happy learning everyone!
(Multiple Intelligences) http://www.thedish.org/TheDISHv14no51_files/image007.gif
(Reinforcement and Punishment) http://classofmotivation.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/picture1.png
(Social Learning) http://talenttools.es/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/social-learning.png