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Jerome bruner's theories

Questions in Regard to Jerome Bruner's Theories of Education

While reading Jerome Bruner's work, I found myself asking questions as to how theories in education are developed, how they inspire other's work, practical applications of the theory, and what other implications theories may have. Therefore, as I began reading The Process of Education, by Jerome Bruner, I found that I needed to read his previous work to determine some of the answers to my own personal inquiry.

What Prior Experiences Played a Role in Developing the Theory?

The first question that I had about Bruner's theory of the process of education was how his prior experiences played a role in developing his theory of education. Therefore, I read Perceptional Theory and the Rorschach Test (Bruner, 1948). In this article, one of Bruner's findings was, "The world appears to use in varying vividness. Some things and events stand out, others are in 'the background,' scarcely seen." Later, Bruner concludes that the events that stand out are more relevant to the individual until it is seen as neutral, in which case, the event shrinks back down to its original size. I found this article to be rather interesting as it shows how Bruner focused on the perception of different events or items, which appears to be a good lead in to his future work with the cognitive aspects of learning.

The next two articles that I reviewed are Perception, Cognition, and Behavior (Bruner & Postman, 1949b) and On the Perception of Incongruity (Bruner & Postman, 1949a). I found that both of the articles were focused on perception. However, they were both going into the cognitive realm. In which case, Bruner was beginning to develop different ideas of learning, such as how people handled incongruity. Bruner (1949a) found that people are slightly more likely to deal with incongruity better if they had prior exposure to it. After reviewing these works by Bruner, I can see how his background in Psychology naturally progressed into the education realm as much of his focus on research dealt with the cognitive aspects of learning.

Did any Theorists draw Inspiration from this Theory/Theorist?

After reading through much of Bruner's work, I was able to determine a prominent theorist who had drawn much inspiration from Bruner. A theorist that drew inspiration from Bruner's work was Howard Gardner, who developed the theory of Multiple Intelligences. I found it fascinating that Gardner had worked with Bruner early on in his career (Smith, 2002). Gardner originally worked with Bruner on the MACOS (Man: a course of study) project. Therefore, I feel that it is important for theories and theorists to branch out and draw inspiration from one another. In my opinion, by branching out, either drawing inspiration from or inspiring others, we are able to advance educational theory.
I also found that Bruner's work may have also inspired some of the work of Gagne. As I reviewed much of Gagne's work, I found that the Ninth Event of Instruction, which is the transfer of knowledge (Gagn‚e, Briggs, & Wager, 1992) was reminiscent of Bruner's contention that general principals should be taught so that latter learning and transfer can be made easier.

What are Practical Applications of this Theory?

In Bruner's book, The process of education, his main points were the role of structure in learning, readiness for learning 'difficult' material, and motives for learning (Bruner, 1960). Bruner's contentions were that teaching should be practical in the sense that students should understand the general picture of what should be learned so that transfer of learning can occur. This will allow the learner to make an easier transition to more difficult concepts in the future. Bruner also argued that schools wasted much time postponing more 'difficult' topics when they could have been presented earlier to give them the general picture of what the students need to know. Bruner also argues that learning should not go to a 'passive' state, but should ideally arouse the interest of the learner.

One example of educational practice that encompassed Bruner's ideals was one that was discussed in Oakes' book, Becoming good American Schools (Oakes, 2000). In Becoming good American schools a teacher used a practice that was very reminiscent of Bruner's contentions. The teacher was a middle school math teacher who taught his class higher-level probability concepts. The teacher used the example of baseball and had his students create a statistics wheel which would have the probability that a batter would walk, strike out, groundout, get a hit, etc. After the students developed the probability wheels, they would create their teams (in which case, they had to create probability wheels for each of their players). Then they would create their lineups and orders to see if they could create the best lineup against the opposing teams. In this case, the teacher was able to make his instruction general, he did not postpone 'difficult topics', and ensured that the students were able to transfer their general knowledge by playing the game time after time.

What other theories can complement the theorist's work?

After reading through Bruner's articles and book, I found that his theories are generally based on the cognitive aspect of learning. From my own practice, I found that most students will not care how much I know until they know how much I care. In this sense, no matter how strong your practice is and how practical it is, if you as an educator do not care about the learners, they still may not succeed to their highest potential. Therefore, I would recommend that practitioners take into consideration a model like Keller's ARCS model of motivation (Keller, 1987) to further deepen their instruction on an affective level to ensure that the learner's needs are taken into consideration in conjunction with their cognitive needs.

Educational Significance of the Work Then and Now

At the time Bruner was developing his theories of education, I found that it was really up-to-date as the cognitive aspect of learning was not fully investigated. His educational significance was great as many were surprised by his structuralist view of education. Now, I feel that his work is more important than ever as there is a large deficit in teachers. If many teachers are being pushed through the educational system too quickly and do not have a strong foothold on learning theories, much of the education now may be of lower quality. This would be very detrimental to society due to progression and advancement, where students are expected to learn more material in greater detail (i.e. computer education is becoming more of an expectation).

Interconnections between Readings in Curriculum Theory

After reading much about Bruner, I can see many of the connections between the different theories and views in education. In the past, I felt that there should be different theories from different theorists that are not interconnected. However, after completing the readings for this assignment, I can finally see why there are so many connections. It may be due to one theory leaving a branch for another theorist to follow and advance further. This leads to much more depth in educational theory which I failed to see in the past. For example, I started with Bruner, and found my way to Gardner, Oakes, and Gagne. I also found it interesting to see Bruner's work from early to later as I saw how he advanced his own research to come to the theories that he created. I can now see how research and academia are a journey as one branch could lead you in another direction.

Critique of Theorist

I find that Bruner's theory of education is very interesting as it takes into consideration the cognitive aspect of learning, a side that I did not investigate very thoroughly in the past. I also find that with his theories, many of the issues that he brought up still exist in education today. One of the issues that I feel has not advanced very far is the idea of not postponing learning 'more difficult topics'. I find that this is lacking in much of education today as many view education as a hierarchy as opposed to rhizomatic in nature. Many teach topics and stop at a certain point only to tell their students that they will further their knowledge in the next class as opposed to challenging the students with the problems now. I feel that this has both its detrimental and positive effects. It is positive in the sense that the students may be able to grasp the knowledge now and further their education. However, it could be detrimental if it is a challenge that frustrates the students and lowers their confidence and motivation. I feel that this aspect of the theory is sound if you take into consideration the affective portion of education, which I feel is equally as important as the cognitive aspect.

Bruner's theory helps to solve much of the issues in education which prevents students from furthering their knowledge at a pace in which they would like to learn. In this sense, it is in line with the idea of learning that is progressive in nature as opposed to traditional. However, problems with the affective aspect of education still remain if the focus is on developing the student cognitively.

I feel that many learners will benefit from teachers that teach using Bruner's theory of education as a grounding point for their instruction. However, I feel that they should also take into consideration Keller's ARCS model of motivation to ensure that they can further add to Bruner's original thoughts that education should ideally arouse the interest in the students. Using Keller's model in addition to Bruner's theory will definitely make for a strong grounding point which I feel will really enhance the instruction.

One of the hardest aspects of trying to use theory in practice today is the restrictions created by NCLB. In my opinion, the government is over regulating instruction in the United States, when it should be left as an open-standard. By restructuring schools, the government is taking away the freedom that those schools need in order to reach the learners to improve their learning experiences. This role of the government may be hard to work with, however, I feel that it is possible for the educator to be effective if they are creative enough to use these theories in practice while staying within the rules set forth by NCLB. Bruner's theory of learning definitely contributes to democracy as it allows the students to learn what they want to (even past their current curriculum). They are able to learn advanced concepts at an early age so that future transfer is easier. However, I believe that Bruner's model may not be very conducive to the affective aspect of education. In this case, I feel that too much is left to assumption on the part of the practitioner. In my opinion, practitioners should also employ other theories to ensure that they have a strong affective component in their teaching.

Assessment of my Learning and Progress Toward Generating my own theory Overall, as I reflect on this assignment, I feel that I took a big step forward in developing my own theory of education. I used this assignment as a learning experience and let the readings take me to different places. I found that many of the theories in education are linked to each other one way or other, which is very fascinating to me. Before I began this assignment, I did not think that it would 'stretch me' this far. I used the readings to guide me to one another as opposed to trying to find the ones that would be most relevant to me to start with. By doing this, it felt like the learning process was much more naturalistic in nature and helped to deepen my knowledge. I think that throughout the assignment, I was building my own theory by taking into consideration the cognitive and affective aspects of learning and combining them together. In this sense, I think that I may have found a small part of my final project for this class.