Educators have the responsibility to facilitate learning for their students. The transfer of knowledge, behaviours and attributes. Understanding how learning occurs however is a complicated issue. Reece and Walker (1997) argue that a teaching strategy is defined as a combination of student activities supported by the use of appropriate resources to provide a particular learning experience and to bring about the desired learning. Historical classrooms were dominated by learning through repetition, a concept of behavioural learning theory where students would spend their time copying information over and over again until they 'learned'.
Understanding of a multiply disciplinary approach should be considered, referencing recognised empirical evidence from social sciences such as neuroscience, linguistics, anthropology, linguistics, communication and psychology to better inform decisions that might influence the design of a learning of an inclusive educative programme. This report will set out to identify the paradigms of behaviourism, cognitivism and humanism by explaining the underpinning theories and analysing examples used in a specifically designed course of study that will employ a combination of these approaches.
Consideration is given to the learning outcomes and incorporation of learning styles that will allow for differentiation whilst addressing the requirements of the criteria set out by the accrediting body. Each of the challenges requires that students work together in designated roles in order to build a collaborative community; drawing from aspects of the critical skills model of teaching during the planned sessions. The sessions are designed to gradually build this collaborative community by encouraging students to work together in roles such as: spokesperson, timekeeper, facilitator and a person responsible for the materials used be during the tasks. Overall however challenges will also require a variety of other skills and will provide the opportunity for learners to be involved and learn in ways that they can choose such as research using IT skills, drawing, presenting information plus construction of quality statements that require the employment of factual and concise written skills. Self initiated learning which involves the whole person of the learner - feelings as well as intellect - is the most lasting and pervasive. This kind of learning may occur in the discovery of a new, self-generated idea or in the acquisition of a difficult skill. (Rogers 2002).
The intention is that students begin to recognise challenges when they are presented so that they develop an expectation that they will then be required to exhibit desirable behaviours. Pavlov recognised in his famous experiments with dogs that they would salivate on the arrival of food. He later introduced a stimulus such as ringing a bell to signify that food would be followed. This yielded the same result of dogs salivating before the arrival of food. Essentially a response was produced by providing stimulus that would result in a behaviour although involuntary. This was further studied by Watson (1913) who concluded learning as a sequence of stimulus and response actions in observable cause and effect relationships. By carefully attempting to manage the educational environment and with appropriate reinforcement techniques; cues and habits, students will then display the desired behaviours. Some of the tools and strategies used to facilitate this are; the design of handouts by using coloured paper, counting down from five to one when a quite classroom is required to deliver instructions as well as also checking for understanding by using signs and symbols such as thumbs up and thumbs down.
Behaviourism is a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge based on the assumption is that if the right stimulus is present then a desired behavioural response will be the result suggesting that desirable human behaviour can be the result of design rather than accident. Much of the design and delivery of vocational learning lends itself very well to the behaviourist view of learning. Learning objectives are broken down into small components through a model of delivery which will involves initial instruction in some form followed by practical exercise. The outcomes are standardised, observable and measurable which makes for a logical and progressive path to be followed that is assessed throughout the learning journey. The notion being the sum of all the smaller parts will contribute to the whole.
Initial assessment of students current knowledge is required at the outset of the course of study, not only for the tutor but for the students also. The first session begins with a general knowledge quiz based on the subject of study including health and safety; critical when working with any electrical equipment. Providing learners with a quiz will allow them to organise their own knowledge and begin to construct a picture of their own individual awareness and understanding. This initial session requires students, not to individually feedback answers, but to discuss them in a group allowing them to externalize their thoughts and decide which answers will be offered during the feedback stage. "Education should train one's powers of reflective thinking" (Dewey 1933).
Dewey explored thinking specifically focusing on reflection and suggested five steps of recognition, suggestion, clarification, hypothesis and reasoning followed by testing. By asking students to work from the outset on their answers in a group is the establishment of guiding them to work as a collective plus I'm asking them to construct their own knowledge, then reflect on this as part of the groups objective. This may or may not change what they originally thought in the construction of their knowledge. It will however contribute to achieving another learning condition with regards to incorporating humanist approach. Maslow stated that the aim of a teacher is to create an environment where the students feel part of a group and that whatever contribution they offer has worth (Reece and Walker p109). During this particular session a similar strategy is used where learners are required to rely on each other's knowledge to further build on collaboration. A humanist approach where "Learning is facilitated when the student participates responsibly in the learning process. Participative learning, in which students decide their own course of action is more effective than passive learning" Rogers (1980). This also links into my desire to introduce critical skills and form the basis of collaborative self-reflective inquiry that plays a part in this and subsequent challenges undertaken by the participants and myself.
Another cognitive psychologist Vygotsky (1978) stated that learning involved social interaction where individual's co-construct experiences that are internalised and then become part of the thought process. he also suggested that a zone of proximal development exists where the ZPD is the distance between a student's ability to perform a task under adult guidance and/or with peer collaboration and the student's ability solving the problem independently. In the second and subsequent sessions my intention is to progressively stretch the students so that the level at which they are working at is just above their current knowledge and understanding and not so far above or too far below as to cause them to become frustrated.
By session three the difficulty of the task increases in the required challenge by asking students to create a training document that would be suitable for users with little or no IT knowledge as a resource this resource, which is different for each of the group is collected by the tutor for use in the last session. In this third session time is spent with the students in discussion about the challenge, and in this case the final product, what it will look like and the elements required for success. Cognitivism theory looks the ways in which the brain manages and organises information. Instructional design is laid out by describing what the outcome should look like with help to organise the information and what we understand about what we should be learning. This concept can be really useful in the design of learning materials because it can tell us about the ways in which people learn and the sort of strategies that make us aware of what will improve or inhibit learning. Humanism emphasises the need for freedom, choice and personal responsibility. with this in mind the success criteria is sessions two, three and four are negotiated and become an integral part to the reflective and assessment process where students are required to constructively and positively feedback their thoughts at the end of the session as each group presents their findings.
Around the turn of the century Thorndike's had formulated his notions on law and effect. Animals were used in experiments introducing positive stimulus to illicit a desired response Thorndike (1967). Skinners operant conditioning, which builds on the work of Thorndike looked at voluntary behaviours and how they might be acquired as opposed to the work of Pavlov who looked at involuntary behaviours. The consequences of behaviour determine the probability that the behaviour will occur again (Skinner 1953) Skinner studied what happens before a behaviour which he called the 'antecedent' and after behaviour, 'consequence'. Skinner suggested a cue in the form of stimulus or a prompt to signify the expectation of a desired behaviour. If the desired behaviour is then displayed. This is then followed with a consequence after the behaviour in the form of positive reinforcement. This could also take the form of remove a stimulus or even introducing a punishment. Skinners theory showed that a voluntary behaviour can be learned by strengthening or weakening either the antecedents or the consequences. Skinner places great importance on the highly structured style of what is known as neo behaviouristic teaching. He believes that teachers identify what learning is to take place and then 'reinforces' this learning with rewards, eventually reducing the frequency of the reward as the learning becomes conditioning, but he does stress that rewards should not be completely withdrawn. (Reece & Walker p104).
During the set tasks positive praise is given to students when the desired behaviours are employed during the feedback and assessment process. Further stimulus in the form of praise is encouraged from the whole class observing the group performances. Since the success criteria is created by the students, relevance and responsibility are incorporated as an intentional outcome. Humanists such as Maslow and later Kolb, believed the traditional style teaching reduced the students to a concept and not a person. They believed this behaviouristic style did not increase a person's self esteem and self worth and therefore the humanistic philosophers endorsed a style of teaching that was student-centred. It believed in encouraging students to think for themselves by actively searching for meanings and to promote an environment where active learning can take place, believing self evaluation and positive stimulation can promote lifelong learning and the desire for self actualisation. (Reece & Walker p109)
Students are also asked to monitor their own time as part of the challenge and factor this information in producing an invoice for work carried out. They will be aware also that their work will be tested and assed by their colleagues. Consideration has been given here to put the activity into context. Lave (1990) stated that learning as it normally occurs is a function of the activity, context and culture in which it occurs (i.e. it is situated) with social interaction as a critical component of situated learning and that learners will acquired certain beliefs and behaviours based on social interaction and collaboration.
In the second session student engage in a carousel requiring them to use information created that is unfamiliar by another group whilst staying within their own group .In the final session students are asked to participate in a more complicated challenge building on their knowledge. In this session however what they have learned and produced as a familiar group in previous challenges is then itself challenged by posing a new challenge that will require shared knowledge to be employed in an unfamiliar group. Constructivist's theory is the individual and how they apply experiences to construct meaning. As an example the students in these sessions will all participate but have different experiences in the planned activities. It is true to say that they will be some commonalities but that does not mean that they will all leave the classroom with exactly the same understanding of what the content of the session was about; the same understanding of what the experience meant to them as individuals. They derive meaning from personal histories culture and backgrounds.
Social constructivists take into account that people live and interact in groups so the personal histories culture and backgrounds of individuals within a group influence the way in which a group of people as a collective will learn. Within the group setting the meaning is not only constructed by the collective but also by the individuals constructing their own meaning with influence occurring in both directions. The principles state that learning outcomes depend on what the learner already knows; learning involves constructing meanings; learning is a continuous and active process; meanings are evaluated and accepted or rejected; learners have responsibility for their learning; and some meanings are shared Driver & Bell (1986)
Most of the sessions are designed in such a way that participation and observation that includes assessment are a requirement. Bandura observed that humans can learn just through observation, imitation and modelling and without the need for any kind of direct reward. This theory is also a bridge between the behaviourist and cognitive theories of learning because it also encompasses attention, memory and motivation. Bandura is famous for an experiment where by a particular behaviour is demonstrated and then imitated later by young children. This pragmatic concept suggests that we learn when we pay attention in the observation of our peers and colleagues and not necessarily what we experience firsthand for ourselves. This strategy is employed throughout the scheme as students watch each other in the feedback and performance stages of the sessions.
In constructivism a facilitator of learning should identify with their students understanding and view learning as an active process in which learners construct meaning. In an attempt to encourage deep learning relevance for the learner must be incorporated. In session two students must think about practical examples of computer utilities and discuss their own successes and failures in their use from their own existing experiences. Session three and four are similar again discussing the scenarios suggested in work and in the students experiences of how knowledge is relevant and how it might be applied. Session four however requires students to apply their knowledge to retrieve the information resource created by other groups in the second session. This information is required as research and will be used later by all the learners to complete required assignment work applying further reliance and motivation to their situation. In this session students will have the opportunity to externalize their thoughts "Dialogue â€¦ is about a shared inquiry, a way of thinking and reflecting together" By attempting to use real world examples that the students recognize, this scheme incorporates constructive alignment. This is an approach to enhancing teaching was originally proposed by Biggs who claims it "represents a marriage between a constructivist understanding of the nature of learning, and an aligned design for teaching" (Biggs 2003) Learners should be able to engage in relevant learning activities that enable them to construct meaning for themselves, thoughts are not inculcated by the tutor but are a catalyst of the teaching strategy. 'If students are to learn desired outcomes in a reasonably effective manner, then the teacher's fundamental task is to get students to engage in learning activities that are likely to result in their achieving those outcomes... It is helpful to remember that what the student does is actually more important in determining what is learned than what the teacher does.' (Shuell, 1986: 429). The second aspect is in achieving the desired learning outcomes linked to curriculum by employing complimentary and appropriate teaching methods. This also encourages deep learning as opposed to surface learning to take place and makes it difficult for the learner under these conditions, once all have been fulfilled, to escape from learning without learning what he or she is intended to learn.
A course is said to be constructively aligned when:
-the learning objectives are stated clearly;
- the learning objectives are explicitly communicated to the students;
- the exam's assessment(s) match the learning objectives; and
- the teaching form(s) match the learning objectives
A broad understanding of these multi disciplinary theories and how they manifest themselves gives us insight to not only explaining how learning takes place but also why learning occurs in learning situations. This provides the educator with a empirical base with which to interpret the learning processes and focus attention to the variables that are important in achieving the creation, acquisition and transferring of knowledge. it is certainly true to say that dissimilar learning theories can be related and considered for use concurrently (the same strategy for different reasons) "Everyone responds to and needs the stimulus of all types of learning styles to one extent or another - it's a matter of using emphasis that fits best with the given situation" Kolb (1984).
Understanding behavioural approaches helps us to control learning environments and prepare students. It can be recognised when routine and repeated behaviours are introduced into learning design. Cognitive strategies are useful to help teachers understand students processes in which they construct meaning. Humanists are much more concerned with a person's development and looking at self development rather than what they can do or what they can learn. Being able to understand and employ these theories become essential guidance in the design, improvement and carrying out of an eclectic training programme.