Importance of understanding of how different students learn

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Learning can be defined in many different ways. Wikipedia defines 'Learning' as acquiring new knowledge, behaviours, skills, values or preferences. Each individual learns in distinctively different ways. Answering the above question depends on the way you define the nature of which one learns. Cognitive psychologists might claim that learning is how information is sensed, stored, elaborated and retrieved. However, Behaviourists think differently. They might argue that learning is the modification of behaviour brought about by experience. Others would stress the importance of learning as a reflection on experience, or learning to learn. Constructivists argue that learning is predominantly concerned with how people develop different constructions and impressions of reality. Humanistic psychologists believe that at the heart of learning lays personal growth and development. Some Educators argue that learning is always active and therefore students must do more than just listing (Chickering and Gamson 1987). Something that would assist the student in this regard would be engaging in higher-order thinking tasks such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. This suggests that strategies promoting active learning may be defined as instructional activities involving a student doing certain tasks and thinking about what they are doing.

Students learn, with altering degrees of success, through thinking, reading, writing, memorising, note taking in lectures, observing and listening to and talking with others. By doing these things they may learn in controlled situations such as lectures, courses or learning packages; in informal situations, such as looking through books or browsing the Net; and through conversations with fellow students.

These different outlooks of learning bring about implications for course design, classroom tasks, methods of teaching, the construction of learning opportunities and methods of assessment. Hence it is necessary for teachers to have knowledge and understanding of how different students learn.

Therefore, a thoughtful approach to skilful teaching requires that the teacher becomes well informed about the many strategies promoting active learning; all having been effectively used.

Section 2 - Theories of learning

Provide a concise outline of at least two different theories of learning.

There are three sets of learning theories generally used in educational circles, under the headings of behaviourism, cognitive psychology and constructivism.


A few of the most important behaviourists were Thorndike and Skinner. Other learning theorists such as Pavlov, Watson, Guthrie, Hull, Tolman had similar views for learning. Behaviourism is concerned with observable and measurable behaviour. For behaviourists, learning is the modification of behaviour brought about by practice. Watson (1913) and his next great advocate Skinner (1973), both held the view that processes such as memory, thinking and feelings had no place in scientific psychology. To understand learning, all that was necessary was an analysis of the inputs (stimuli) and outputs (responses). All behaviour was learnt and anyone could learn anything provided they are under the right conditions.

For Thorndike the connections between stimuli and responses were controlled two laws of learning, the most important being "law of effect" and "law of exercise". For example the fro the presentation of 2 + 5 an individual response is 7. This is called stimuli-respond bond. A response to a stimulus is reinforced when it is followed by a positive rewarding effect. This occurs automatically without interference from any conscious activity. Positive feedback from the teacher, for example "that's correct", strengthens the stimulus.

In contrast to Thorndike, Skinner found the difference between behaviour elicited by external stimuli and operant behaviour initiated by the individual. Human nature is the product of one's environment. Change the environment to change the behaviour. Reinforce good behaviour and punish bad behaviour.

Behaviourists' view of locus of learning depends on stimuli in the external environment. The teachers' responsibility would be to arrange the environment to draw out the desired response.

Cognitive Psychology

The cognitive revolution was the result of the shift from behaviourism to cognitive psychology (Gardner, 1985). As Chomsky remarked, defining psychology as the science of behaviour was like defining physics as the science of meter reading. If scientific psychology were to be successful, mentalist ideas would have to incorporate and explain the behavioural data. According to Simon (1979) this development was influenced by the emergence of the computer as an information-processing tool. The behaviouristic metaphor of learning was replaced by the knowledge-acquisition metaphor (Mayer, 1996). Learning was seen as the acquisition of knowledge, learner was an information-processor who absorbed information, performed cognitive processes on it and stored it away in memory. The learner is the recipient of knowledge seen as a commodity handed out by the teacher (Sfard, 1998). The most important cognitive psychologists were Koffka, Kohler, Lewin, Piaget, Ausubel, Bruner, and Gagne who view the learning process as an internal mental process involving information processing, insight, memory and perception.

Cognitive psychologists' view of locus of learning depends on Internal cognitive structuring; they see the purpose in education to develop capacity and skills to learn better. The teachers' responsibility would be to structure the content of learning task. The teacher may employ cognitive development, intelligence, learning and memory as function of age.


Constructivism is an educational methodology, which declares that learners should be taught in a way that allows them to create their own understandings about a subject. The purpose of the teacher is not to cover material but to help the child "uncover" the facts and ideas and to help them to 'construct' new ideas.

Section 3 - Evaluation of Theories

Describe the strengths and limitations of each theory of learning


One of the main strengths of the behaviourist approach is that it focuses only on behaviour that can be observed and controlled. Therefore, this approach has proved very successful in experiments under laboratory conditions where behaviour can be monitored and manipulated, especially in relation to the independent variable and dependent variable. The behaviourist principles of learning have been, and continue to be, tested where learning can be impartially calculated.

The strength of instructional design grounded in behaviourism is that when there are specific goals to be met, the learner is focused clearly upon achieving those goals whenever there are cues to prompt the learner's behaviour. Kuchinke (1999) briefly states, "The strength of this framework lies in its ability to find quick responses to well-defined problems." However, since behaviourism is stimulus, response based, instructional design is heavily relied upon the workplace or classroom having the appropriate stimuli to continue the intended behaviour. Consequently, if a certain incentive is not present then the expected and desired performance may not take place.

A weakness that comes to mind is that the approach ignores human beings' complex and complicated thought processes. In the Social Learning Theory, Bandura (1977) revealed that cognitive factors couldn't be ignored if learning is to be understood. Bandura pointed out that certain behaviours would be rewarded or punished. This shapes behaviour just as much as the rewards or punishments themselves. For example, Little Johnny knows he will be smacked for touching the electric fire, and that is why he does not touch it.

Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive-focused instruction has the potential to provide more meaningful learning to the learner with a long-lasting impact. Ausubel states "learning is meaningful only when it can be related to concepts that already exist in a person's cognitive structure. Rote learning behaviourism-based, on the other hand, does not become linked to a person's cognitive structure and hence is easily forgotten." Furthermore, Ausubel (1968) also stated "cognitive objectives are well suited for describing higher levels of learning."

A major weakness of cognitive psychology lies within its strength. Whereas schemas help to make learning more meaningful, a learner is noticeably at a disadvantage whenever relevant schemas or prerequisite knowledge do not exist. To account for this, one would need to ensure that the instruction is appropriate for all skill levels. Designing such instruction could be costly and time-consuming.

One additional weakness of cognitive psychology is similar to that of behaviourism in the belief that there are only pre-determined goals. Having pre-determined goals may be in fact desirable for an organization since it offers clear purpose but such a fixed set of prospects can often hinder the potential of learning. Learners and instructors may become content with obtaining minimum competencies or carry the attitude that "if it's not broke, then don't fix it!" however the design of the learning experience could be improved.

Section 4 - Links to Teaching Area

Show how each of the different theories of learning can be applied in one of your teaching areas. Provide specific examples to show the link.

Behaviourism in mathematics teaching and learning

Mathematics, in the behaviourist theory, is seen as an absolute structure of knowledge. Behaviourists are not worried about what is happening inside the learner, as that is not accessible from direct observation. The behaviourist conception of mathematics as a fixed hierarchical structure creates a model of teaching in which it is mostly telling and showing. That means, if we want someone to know what we know, we tell him or her and/or show him or her.

According to Burton (1989), the pedagogical process denies the influence of the individual or the social context and presents an artificial world of exactness, which is associated with power and control. Burton also declares that by authenticating a depersonalised model of mathematics, which rests upon 'expertness', we reinforce this hierarchical view and ensure that mathematics remains uninteresting for most people of society (Burton 1989). Textbooks have a high status in learning environments, which are described by direct instruction. The standard mathematics lesson often begins with some examples from a textbook and then follows with new mathematical content presented by the teacher. After this, students work on their exercises in their textbooks, and homework is a further exercise. Thus, the textbook constitutes an authority in the classroom.

Although the curriculum in mathematics is based on the constructivist view of learning behaviourism has still a large influence, especially in mathematics teaching (Magne 1990; Kupari 1999; NCTM 1991; 2000). It is therefore relevant to ask why behaviourism is so deeply entrenched in mathematics education. Skemp (1976, 13) has reflected on some advantages of instrumental teaching of mathematics. Their students' test scores often determine teachers' success, if it is measured at all. Success on such tests usually requires more instrumental knowledge than higher-order thinking. A growing importance on standardized tests also influences teachers' practice-sometimes they modify subject matter to teach just for the test (Rowan 1990), or use 'direct instruction' methods in order to 'get through' material quickly. Also, teachers' conceptions and beliefs of mathematics, mathematics learning and teaching bring about habits concerning mathematics teaching, which are not easy to change (Pehkonen 1994, 1998a, 1998b, 2001). As Battista (1992; cf Leino 1994) states, teachers are interested in students' learning of mathematics but teachers' limited conception of mathematics are barriers to instructional changes.

Cognitive Psychology in mathematics teaching and learning

Cognitive processes involve operations on mental illustrations, which are internal mental structures that correspond to a part of the world. Mental representations are often viewed in terms of networks of unified ideas (Hiebert & Carpenter, 1992). As Hiebert and Carpenter remarked, the notion of connected representations of knowledge provides a practical means of thinking about mathematical understanding. It provides an effective relation between theoretical cognitive issues and practical classroom issues.

Cognitive science has also had a major bearing on our knowledge of mathematical problem solving and reasoning. Most of the popular theories of problem solving are derived from the early information-processing replicas of human cognition, such as Newell and Simon (1972).

Cognitive studies of problem solving behaviour encouraged mathematics educators to supply students with a repertoire of general problem solving. The seminal work of the well-known cognitive psychologist, John Flavell (1976) touched on the vital role of metacognitive processes in learning and development. These processes have since been recognized as a major component of mathematical problem solving (e.g., Lester & Garofalo, 1982; Schoenfeld, 1992; Silver, 1985; Silver & Marshall, 1990).

Cognitive science has led to a greatly extended knowledge of intelligence. Its importance to mathematics education is that it supplies the most detailed insights that are currently available into the way concepts are represented. It provides the most scientific method yet invented for analysing the real psychological processes that lie beneath mathematics.

However, although the thorough models and databases of cognitive science are a great benefit, the hypotheses it proposes for mathematics education are necessarily subject to verification by research and by actual application in the classroom and at home. The link between cognitive science and mathematics education is therefore bidirectional, because the feedback provided by the application of scientific principles in the classroom can help expand the science that produced those principles. Mathematics education and cognitive science can provide a useful stimulus to each other.

Section 5 - Links to Teacher Practice

What do you anticipate will be your role as a teacher in supporting the learning of students?

Many teachers believe that traditional instruction may be more effective for students with lower academic abilities (Talbert & McLaughlin 1993). This suggests that teachers are less likely to use innovative instructional. However, the model of learning on which traditional teaching is based is not explicit. Teachers' conceptions of effective teaching in this model have expanded in the context of thousands of hours (Simon 1997). Burton (1989) describes the model by using the two metaphors-'the filling of the empty vessel', that means the transfer of knowledge from teacher to student, or 'the peeling of the onion', the uncovering process previously described. These two metaphors are linked by the conception that transmission of knowledge to students is possible. Freire (1971) called this conception of teaching a 'banking' perspective. One consistent in this teaching model is a heavy emphasis on rightness, both on solution and method. The teachers' duty in this tradition is to transfer knowledge to the learner on the most effective way (Skinner 1938; von Wright 1992).

Unsuccessful teaching tends to be remedied by go over the curriculum content and finding different ways to express the idea to be grasped. Knowledge, in this situation, is symbolic and isolated; learning does not stimulate students or provide them with problem-solving skills they can apply to other circumstances.

The purpose of school education is to develop young people who can prosper in a modern, globalised world. The role of the system is to help develop a culture of continuous improvement in schools that also offers teachers and leaders with opportunities to contribute in high quality learning.

Hence, it was a requirement for students to take the leading role in the teaching and learning process. Ng (2005) argues that the best students' participation in the teaching and learning process is vital to ensure the students are able to effectively practice self-regulated learning strategies.

As a conclusion, this topic highlights the imperative role a teacher shoulders in shifting students from a passive to an active role in a teaching and learning procedure.

Section 6 - Appendix

Bibliographic Details week-1

Gatto, J.T. (2002). "The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher", Chapter 1. In Dumbing Us Down: TheHidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. Gabriola Island, Canada: New Society Publishers.


The central message in this essay is that, contrary to what educators might claim they are doing, the national curriculum consists of teaching children

Provoking Points

1. Confusion. Everything is taught out of context. Rather than following a child's pace and interests.

2. Class position. He conflates two things in here. First, that in a school, you have to be in the assigned class, like it or not. If all your friends are 11 years old or 6 years old, but you are 9, then tough luck, you have to spend most of the day in a room with the other 9 year olds. No freedom of association. Second, that exam results and grading are seen to be very very important, even though actually future employers, or future customers if you are going to set up a business, are probably considerably less interested in your portfolio of exam results than the schools claim they will be. I was feeling quite resistant to this one, thinking "surely nowadays teachers aren't constantly grading children's work?" and then I remembered the SATS tests. So I guess it is still operational, though I'm certain that all teacher trainees nowadays read the stuff about how summative assessment is a demotivator (well, duh).

3. Indifference. Schools teach children to be indifferent to everything because of the constant interruptions of lesson change and bells ringing. We teach them that it is never worth while to spend the length of time on a task that the task requires, but instead that external factors like bells ringing are more important than finishing a train of thought.

4. emotional dependency. Teachers mostly operate through carrot and stick, punishment and rewards, however sugar coated. The way a child is treated is conditional on the way they behave in school. Children have to learn to keep the teacher happy in order to be treated kindly.

5. Intellectual dependency. School children don't often go into the building and get going on learning. They enter the classroom and a teacher tells them what to do. The teacher then judges whether or not they did it adequately. There is little space for self-motivation and self-criticism when someone else controls the timetable.

6. provisional self esteem. Gatto says that the self-respect of a school child depends on the judgement of the teacher, who tells people what they are worth.

7. no hiding place. In school, a child is under constant surveillance - and privacy is vital for creativity The surveillance continues at a distance, through homework - some of a child's "free" time at home is tied up with tasks for school.

One question about it

What Gatto tries to prove in this paper?

My Response

Gatto tries to prove that it is not facts he is teaching, that he is actually teaching the "facts of life".Gatto is saying not all students are privy to opportunities that public schools say they can provide. Student achievement IS directly correlated to the socio-economic status of the student and the surrounding community. Some communities use allocations of funding better than others, however, the majority of lower functioning schools are operating at economic levels that are about 10% of their needs. Gatto's not degrading lower paying work as a non-essential for society, he's arguing that powers could be in effect to limit a person's self-worth in order to perpetuate a lower class. No, this isn't a rosy opinion of schooling but using encompassing words such as "hate" and "anti-capitalist" are unfair. Gatto is only saying the education that is provided by public schooling may not give everyone the same rights for the pursuit of happiness.

Bibliographic Details week-2

''Mullin' the Yarndi'' and Other Wicked Problems at a Multiracial Early Childhood Education Site in Regional Australia Barbara Maria Kameniar, Alia Imtoual and Debra Bradley Educational Policy 2010 24: 9


In this article, Grint's model of leadership is used to shape discussions of how "problems" are responded to in the context of a preschool in an Australian regional town. Authority styles are described as command, management, or leadership. These authority styles result in approaching problems as "crises," "tame problems" or "wicked problems" and approaching racial difference in terms of computed "essentialism," "evasion," or "cognizance." This article engages with the approach to "wicked problems" by arguing that framing complex issues, such as race differences, as "wicked problems" allows for multiple ways of thinking through issues which are not possible if they are framed as "crises" or "tame problems." In this article, we examine a number of examples from the preschool of how "wicked problems" occur in daily practice.


Provoking Points

Australian education has a long history of failing to adequately meet the needs of Aboriginal students.

Making education work in a racially, culturally, socially, and economically diverse context is challenging.

Keith Grint (2005) outlines three forms of authority that can be taken up in any context: command, management, and leadership.

many problems in educational institutions are not so easily defined nor do they lend themselves to clear and simple solutions.

conception of leadership differs from traditional "trait" and "situational" approaches which tend to essentialize either the individual (traitapproach) or the context (situational approach).

1. There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem.

2. Wicked problems have no stopping rule.

3. Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, but better-orworse.

4. There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a

wicked problem.

5. Every solution to a wicked problem is a "one-shot operation";

because there is no opportunity to learn by trial-and-error, every

attempt counts significantly.

6. Wicked problems do not have an enumerable (or an exhaustively

describable) set of potential solutions, nor is there a well-described

set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the


7. Every wicked problem is essentially unique.

8. Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of

another problem.

9. The existence of a discrepancy representing a wicked problem can

be explained in numerous ways. The choice of explanation determines

the nature of the problem's resolution.

10. The planner has no right to be wrong. (Rittel & Webber, 1973,

pp. 161-166, italics added.)

race can be approached in one of three ways: essentialism, evasion, and cognizance/ engagement. essentialism is a form of racism in

which race difference is understood in hierarchical and biological terms of

essential inequality. evasion is a form of racism in which racial difference

is evaded and sameness emphasized.

race cognizance emphasizes difference but on terms

set by "people of color," where inequality is understood to be the result

of social structure rather than "ascribed characteristics" of individuals

One question about it

What is wicket problem?

My Response

Bibliographic Details Week -3

Dewey, J. (1902). "The Child and the Curriculum". Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.


Our school methods, and to a very considerable extent our curriculum, are inherited from the period when learning and command of certain symbols, affording as they did the only access to learning, were all-important. The ideals of this period are still largely in control, even where the outward methods and studies have been changed. We sometimes hear the introduction of manual training, art, and science into the elementary, and even the secondary, schools deprecated on the ground that they detract from our present scheme of generous, liberal culture. The point of this objection would be ludicrous if it were not so effective as to make it tragic. It is our present education which is highly specialized, one-sided, and narrow. It is an education dominated almost entirely by the medieval conception of learning. It is something which appeals for the most part simply to the intellectual aspect of our natures, our desire to learn, to accumulate information, and to get control of the symbols of learning; not to our impulses and tendencies to make, to do, to create, to produce, whether in the form of utility or of art. The very fact that manual training, art, and science are objected to as technical, as tending toward mere specialism, is of itself as good testimony as could be offered to the specialized aim which controls current education. Unless education had been virtually identified with the exclusively intellectual pursuits, with learning as such, all these materials and methods would be welcome, would be greeted with the utmost hospitality.

Provoking Points

1Profound differences in theory are never gratuitous or invented

The fundamental factors in the educative process are an immature, undeveloped being; and certain social aims, meanings, values incarnate in the matured experience of the adult.

According to Dewey , efficient education is contingent on an intrinsic

understanding of human nature and how they have the experiences they do ,

as well as the unique differences between each student .

Dewey thought that inquiry being an

observable behavioral process , training in its techniques is essential

in the education (of young children , and especially in the course of

life-long learning . In this context , we can also easily understand

Dewey 's strong opposition to institutionalized education , in which

learning took place in an artificial educational environment , where

pre-ordained knowledge was delivered , not inquired for and interacted

with .

One question about it

What John Dewey tries to prove in this paper?

My Response

Dewey believed that education should not be of facts and

figures . Rather , education should teach skills and knowledge which can

be fully integrated into their lives as humans and citizens (of a

democratic society . It should broaden the intellect , and impart problem

solving and critical thinking skills , as the earlier passage on inquiry

demonstrates .

Bibliographic Details Week-4

Kozulin, A., & Gindis, B. (2007). "Sociocultural Theory and Education of Children with Special Needs: From Defectology to Remedial Pedagogy". In The Cambridge Companion to Vygotsky. Edited by Harry Daniels, Michael Cole and James V. Wertsch. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Kozulin and Gindis describe in great depth Vygotsky's study of defectology and his desire to promote

the need for a systematic and dynamic approach to teaching children with special needs.

Provoking Points

1. -Vygotsky is thought to have come come up with Defectology in Moscow in the 1920s, on the back of

a revolution in Russia, affecting many children.

-Vygotsky: the principal problem of a disability is not the sensory or neurological impairment but its

social implications.

-Feuerstein: standard psychometric tests are unable to distinguish between children with mental

retardation and educationally and socially neglected immigrant children.

-There are parallels between Vygotsky's cultural primitivity and Feuerstein's notion of cultural


-Kozulin suggests that psychological tools (Vygotsky) and mediated learning (Feuerstein) should be

integrated into one matrix.

-Vygotsky: the importance of social mediation and the acquisition of symbolic tools.

-The natural and social aspects of the development of a child with a disability are important.

-Vygotsky: physical and mental impairment could be overcome by creating alternative but essentially

equivalent roads for cultural development.

-The importance of specially trained teachers, a differentiated curriculum, special technological

auxiliary means, and simply more time to learn •- creates a problem/contradiction.

-Integration of children with disabilities into the social and cultural life of their communities.

-ZPDs three interconnected (yet separate) contexts:

1.Development Theory: emerging psychological functions of the child.

2.Applied Research: the difference between the child's individual and aided performance.

3.Concept-formation Studies: the interaction between "scientific" and "everyday" concepts in school


-The methodology of ZPD:

Ishow child how a problem must be solved and watch to see if he/she can do the problem by

imitating demonstration.

2We can solve the problem and ask the child to finish it.

SPropose that the child solve the problem and ask the child to finish it.

4Pair child with more developed child to solve problem that is beyond his/her mental age.

SExplain to the child the principle of solving the problem, ask leading questions, analyse the problem


Interesting points:

-The research that Vygotsky completed in Russia on children with special needs was largely ignored

by his home country. However the U.S later implemented many of his findings into their educational

system, as have we.

-Teachers do not really deal with the biological factors of children's disabilities but with the social


-How do we distinguish the culturally different children from the cultural deprived when the

standard test performance of both groups is equally low? Feuerstein proposed that the degree of a

child's cognitive modifiability is a differentiating matter.

-Children with a disability must be accommodated with experiences and opportunities that are as

close as possible to the mainstream situation. This would help prevent secondary defects.

One question about it

My Response

Bibliographic Details -Week 5

Groundwate-Smith, S. et al . (2009) Communication and relationships in, Secondary Teaching in a changing world (pp.95-115). South Melbourne, Vic. : Cengage Learning Australia.


Author argues that on one chapter could not capture the range of communicative practices that are part of a school culture, but the paper capture some of the communicative practices central to teachers. And pose some dilemmas that occur as part of these practices. The dilemmas in many ways demonstrate clearly how communication and the relationship that develops with in a school, with students other members of staff or members of community are very complex and demanding. Intellectual, emotional and physical dimensions of teaching are clearly represented. Personal and social dimension are important developing practical strategies and courses of action that sustain a clear ethical and educational agenda.

Provoking Points

Teaching is at heart a communicative activity and it is at heart about relationships that enable learning.

Paper structured into 3 sections; communication / relationship with teachers and students, communication/relationship with members of staff and communication with parents and others in the community.

How we communicate is also an expression of our identity and the social and cultural context in which that identity is created

Metcalfe and Game (2006) argue, the passions, emotions, commitments and enthusiasm that teachers bring to their work in schools are critical to the communication and relationships that sustain and support teaching and learning.

Burbules (1993), an educational philosopher, talks about trust, respect, tolerance, patience, willingness to listen, honesty and concern as communicative standards or moral concepts that are central to classroom communication.

The concern with values and the social dimensions of learning have implications for the roles that teachers have in schools, the ways in which they communicate and build relationships with students, and the types of communication practices they encourage in classrooms.

Discuss Dilemmas

One question about it

Do you think that relationship between teachers and students is an acceptable part of professional practice?

My Response

Good teachers don't dominate the classroom; instead, they engage their students in active discussion. It's important to practice clear communication strategies and establish a stable and constructive relationship with students in order to teach effectively. Teachers must have a willingness to accept differences in students; with that comes sincerity, friendliness, attentiveness, and an ability to be precise in their speech. Teachers should always strive for clarity in their wording when communicating with both students and parents. Teachers should always clearly communicate to students that high standards are expected in the classroom. From the beginning, teachers should be specific about learning goals and what is expected of students. Teachers should offer praises when expectations are met. Encouraging student helps to foster an environment in which they feel motivated