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The aim of this essay is to identify and discuss the significance of relevant theories and principles of learning and communication. I will analyse the impact of theories of learning. I will aim to identify and discuss the correlation between my own teaching practices and learning theory and develop new strategies to improve my teaching. Also, I am going to write about the impact of these approaches to promote inclusive learning.
TEACHING AND LEARNING STRATEGIES
As stated by Wilson, L (2009), a theory is "something which either attempts or has been proven to explain something" Wilson, L, (2009), pg 350.
As confirmed by Wilson, L (2009) in the psychology of learning there are three main schools of theory that relate the study of human behaviour:
The Behaviourist School
The Cognitivist School
The Humanist School.
Each 'school of thought' attempts to explain why people behave in a certain way.
Behaviourism learning theory
Behaviourist psychologists have studied learning in animals by teaching them simple tasks and following it up with a reward when they did well. Behaviourist psychologists believes that "behaviour is learned from things seen around them or from the environment, or that individuals respond to stimuli and that learning and the ability to learn requires a change in behaviour" Wilson, L, (2009), pg 351.
Behaviourism originated with the work of John B Watson, an American psychologist whose work was based on experiments of Ivan Pavlov. Watson claimed that psychology was not concerned with the mind or with human consciousness but rather with behaviour learning which focuses on the physical actions of the learner. This depends on the environment and is based on the idea that people learn to behave in particular ways because those behaviours have been rewarded in the past and hence can be repeated. As long as the individual perceives that the behaviour is rewarded, they are likely to repeat it. Skinner, 1974, confirms "Giving immediate feedback whether positive or negative will enable a learner to behave in a certain way".
If the consequence is satisfying, the behaviour will be strengthened in the future; if it is dis-satisfying the behaviour will be weakened.
Thorndike stated "when particular stimulus-response sequence are followed by pleasure, those responses tend to be 'stamped in'. Responses followed by pain tend to be 'stamped out' ". This is now known as 'The law of effect'.
Skinner, 1974, believed that behaviour is a function of its consequences. Skinner developed the theory of 'operant conditioning', the idea that we behave the way we do because this kind of behaviour has had certain consequences in the past. This reinforces the reasons my learners will react the way they do to certain situations in the classroom due to their previous negative experiences with the education system.
"ultimately, of course, it is all a matter of natural selection, since operant conditioning is an evolved process of which culture practices are special applications" Skinner, 1981, pg 502.
Another way to look at behaviourism is the 'ABC' which stands for Antecedent - behaviour - consequences.
Behaviour psychologists suggest that "inappropriate behaviour is triggered by a situation they call the antecedent, and behaviour usually has desired consequences for the misbehaving student. Behaviour can be changed by changing either the antecedent or the consequence or both".
Petty, G, 2004, pg 119.
I will now discuss the teaching and learning strategies in terms of
Behaviourist who is works in my practice and support inclusive learning.
The behaviourist theory allows positive behaviour to be reinforced. It is important to reinforce positive behaviour right from the start as this sets standards for all learners including those with learning difficulties
The behaviourist theory allows acknowledgement of good behaviour choices
It reminds students of classroom rules, as bad behaviour in the classroom will be followed by negative consequences, such as disciplinarians or stoppage of EMA payments. (EMA stands for Education Maintenance Allowance given to young people in post 16 education)
This theory also allows students with time and space to rectify their behaviour
The behaviourist school of thought confirms the importance of:
Using positive reinforcement to get students back in task,
Carefully re-explaining tasks, and
Setting targets which can be measured.
Behaviourist theory confirms that some sort of reward or 'reinforcement' is crucial. "Human learners are motivated by an expected reward of some kind (such as praise);learning will not take place without itâ€¦.effective teachers put huge emphasis on rewarding their students with praise, attention and other encouragementâ€¦..a student whose work is usually marked immediately is more motivated than one who expects to wait weeks for reinforcement in the form of praise, or knowledge of successâ€¦.effective teachers continuously reward and encourage students while they are working, so reinforcement is almost immediate" Petty, G, 1998, pg 7
I believe positive reinforcement is very important with the Btec group I teach as confirmed by Petty, G, above. The types of positive reinforcement I use through my teaching is:
Reward of some sort, i.e., chocolate, or allowed to leave a few minutes early,
Recognition by using the students work as an example to the rest of the class,
EMA bonuses upon achieving a objective target on ILP,
Day trips for the whole group
The chance to get a good reference in order to progress onto a level 3 course.
Behaviourism is about 'conditioning' the learner to respond to external stimuli (i.e. teacher). Positive reinforcement encourages learning.
On the other side Behaviourism theory does not take into account any differences between students, therefore, individual learner needs may be compromised. Not all learners react to situations (stimuli) in the same way. The behaviourist theory does not give students an individual way of developing as confirmed by Petty, G: "weaker students in some classes are set work that is so difficult for them that they never experience genuine success. Partly as a result some students rarely, or never get praise or encouragementâ€¦as a result many learners simply give up". Petty, G, 1998, pg
I will now discuss the Cognitivist school of thought and the Humanist school of thought.
Cognitivist learning theory
Many ideas and assumptions of cognitive psychology can be traced back to the early decades of the twentieth century; Edward Tolman's cognitive theory (1932), Jean Piaget's cognitive development theory, and in some way challenges the limitations of behaviourism on the basis that behaviourism reduces human behaviour to simple cause and effect. In more recent times, the two theories have tended to merge into a comprehensive cognitive - behavioural theory in as much that they both consider that new learning must be built on existing learning, which can only benefit the learner. Where they do disagree is on how the learning should be conducted.
The cognitivist believe that learning is a process of acquiring knowledge through thought, sense and experience.
Most educationalists believe that useful learning:
Is not the same as remembering facts and techniques, it is making contructs or personal meanings,
Must be organised by the learner and then integrated into the learner's existing knowledge,
Involves developing cognitive skills such as the ability to reflect critically, to evaluate, to analyse, to think creatively and to solve problems.
Petty, G, 1998, pg 303
Cognitivists believe that the learner should be asked difficult or searching questions which will encourage the learner to think things through which in turn will help the learner make their own sense of what they are studying.
So I encouraged the learners to think for themselves and build upon the knowledge and confidence through the extra workshop session.
Although the two theories have tended to merge, the cognitivist school still looks at the thinking processes involved with learning, whereas the behaviourist theory ignores these.
Cognitivist focus on the student and how they gain and organise their knowledge. Students should be taught to think for themselves. The teacher facilitates a process of 'inquiry training'. www.theoriesoflearning
Humanist learning theory
Humanist theory works on the thought that the learner takes control of their own learning and the teacher becomes more of a facilitator within this learning environment. The following extract from my Btec Unit 7 verbal and non verbal lesson plan evaluation is how the learners took control of their own learning.
"Once the power point was finished I then demonstrated the importance of non verbal communication in interviews. I did this through demonstrating examples of negative body language and posture and eye contact. Whist I was doing this learners were thinking for themselves and asking questions" (Btec level 2, unit 7)
It stands to reason then that I should not have to make my students want to learn but the emphasis is really on the 'natural desire' of them to want to learn. The Humanist approach also believes that it is essential to have a good working environment. This encourages the learners then to consider new ideas and not to be afraid of making mistakes as making mistakes can also be evaluated by self assessment. The ongoing self assessment by the learner means that they can continue to enhance themselves and form a belief in one's ability to improve.
"Learning is not an end in itself; it is the means to progress towards the pinnacle of self development, by which Maslow terms 'self actualisation".
Although there is a vast diversity with the three learning theories they do have some common ground with each other. Cognitivist and Humanist theory having the most common ground. They all agree that learners respond better with positive reinforcement and praise is given when the learners have completed their task, thus, achieved. They also consider that new learning must be built on existing learning.
MEETING INDIVIDUAL LEARNING NEEDS
To be able to use individual learning strategies successfully teachers will need to know the individual needs of each learner in their group.
For the same purpose it is important that initial assessment process is carried out in the context of knowing about a learner's aspirations and learning goals.
This is not simply 'us needing to find out more about you' but 'us working with you to see how we can best respond to your aspirations and goals'.
Practitioners need to discuss with learners whether they feel they have
any particular areas of strength and areas that they find especially difficult.
When doing this they need to be aware that learners are likely to require
a confidential setting in which such discussions can take place. Often, when this assessment takes place in a supportive environment, learners will readily share this information. Practitioners also need to find out whether there are specific approaches to teaching and learning or any types of support which have helped a learner in the past. These may be quite simple adjustments, for example, a learner who has a slight hearing difficulty might need always to sit at the front of a group while those teaching her need to be careful not to turn away from the group while speaking.
Following the above process as an Practitioner when I produced assignment briefs for different units I must consider my learners preferred style of learning aptitude and strength mapped up with the awarding body criteria's. I have to be very careful about covering the learning outcomes as well as producing the different variety of tasks which covers different learning styles to make my learners able to complete the passes, merits and distinctions grades.
For the college and regulatory requirement each of my assignment briefs has to be internally verified by the fellow member of the staff to maintain the standard. And this process repeated again when I marked learner's work, to internally verify my marking to check whether it is up to the standard and consistent with every learner.
Functional skills again support inclusive learning as it is mandatory to use different functional skills (English, maths and ICT) during my delivery. I achieve this by following the functional skills mapping criteria provided by Edexcel. This ensure and support me in my scheme of work that there is mixture of delivery for the learners in my lessons to improve their real life skills and make them inclusive in the lesson.
According to the Warnock Report:
The purpose of education for all learners is the same; the goals are the same. But the help that individual learners need in progressing towards them will be different.
ACTIVITY AND RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT TO PROMOTE INCLUSIVE LEARNING
A resource is;
"Anything that you use to augment your teaching or learning strategy, or anything that you get your students to use, can be termed a learning aid or a resource". (Reece & Walker, 2000:195)
In this section I will be discussing all the activities and resources I use in my teaching.
I will be reviewing the range of activities and resources that are available to me in my place of work and curriculum area. I will also analyse the strengths and challenges of the resources, and, describe and evaluate how these resources are adapted to meet the needs of my learners to promote inclusive learning.
As Wilson highlights, resources are the equipment and aids that a teacher will use to promote learning. They can be classified in the same way that learner styles are classified and therefore a teacher will be able to choose resources to meet individual needs, thus differentiate to meet learner needs.
The purpose of using activities and resources for a teacher is;
"To improve the probability of maintaining interest, holding attention and increasing the rate of learning" (Walkin: 2000; 95).
"Teachers concerned with the facilitation of learning rather the function of teaching organise their time and efforts rather differently than conventional teachers. Instead of spending great blocks of time organising lesson plans and lectures, facilitative teachers concentrate on providing all kinds of resources that can give students experiential learning relative to the students' needs". (C Rogers; 186; 1996)
Resources are used to gauge the learner's interest as well as bringing some realism into the lessons.
The main resources and activities which I used in my teaching consist of:
Interactive Board (Group activities)
Workbooks/Worksheets (Individual activities)
Flipcharts (Group activities)
Games (Group activities)
Posters (Group activities)
Newspapers/Magazines/Books (Individual and group activities)
The learners I teach are encouraged to work on their individual assignment work making use of the audio, visual and kinaesthetic resources available to them within a facilitating environment. I will discuss the uses of some of these resources which I commonly used and how they are adapted to the learner's needs and promote inclusive learning.
These resources are as follows:
Games using Interactive board are generally seen as fun and have been very effective in building relationships and enabling the new learners to feel part of the team, encouraging audio as well as visual skills. Task based discussion cards on different topics have worked really well and have surprisingly been some of the sessions that have been the most constructive.
I was able to summarise the session by asking them how they felt about attending today's session, what assumptions they had previously made and how those may have changed. Similarly, in terms of media debate the TV has been used and we have discussed social and business issues via the use of films and chat shows.
Use of cameras has been a positive resource for the course and help me to promote inclusiveness in my sessions as some of my Btec learners give preference to practical activities like role play and presentation rather than report writing. The pictures and recording clips taken produce excellent evidence for folders, qualifications and to help them reflect on past experiences.
The Photocopier is another important resource as it is in constant use and is vital for copying learner's work for evidence and enables staff to photograph handouts and reading material. When using handouts it is vital to provide pictures and clear text to include learner's who are affected by dyslexia. Also, the teacher has to be mindful of stereotypical images, reading and understanding levels and negative terminology when providing handouts.
Flipchart is another resource which I frequently use in every day teaching. In a recent I used flip chart to discuss 'verbal and non verbal' communication.
I always make sure I have a good colour variety of marker pens and I securely attach the flipchart paper to the stand, facing the learners.
At beginning of this session, I asked the learners to explain what 'verbal and non verbal communication' means to them. The flipchart was written on by the learner's while in its standing position at the front of the group, which involved them getting up and walking to the front of the class. I found most learners, when asked, were happy to pen their ideas in front of the class. This is good for self-confidence and the flipchart used in this way can also help the students, empathise with the issue of classroom management. One girl especially enjoyed this and was very keen to use her leadership qualities to motivate the group to call out answers.
Dynamically, in the next task in this session, I used the flipchart paper and placed it onto tables, with newspapers, business magazines, glue, highlighters and scissors. I asked the learners to discuss with in group cut images and text out, and form their own verbal and non verbal poster. Using the flipchart in this way allows for kinaesthetic, visual and auditory stimulus. This encouraged other learner's to get involved. The use of different colour markers was also important for visual stimuli and helped all the learners feel involved. This promoted an interactive and autonomous classroom environment. I was able to facilitate this exercise by making vocal pointers to keep them alert, this seemed to work and kept them all engaged.
Differentiation is another very important aspect to consider when planning lessons and resources. Differentiation is "catering for the needs of all learners to reduce barriers to learning" Wilson, 2009;396
When considering differentiation, it is important to consider factors such as below, in order to ensure the resources and the lesson suit and meet the needs of all learners. These factors being;
Prior learning and experience
Specific learning difficulties; dyslexia, ADHD.
In my teaching I differentiate for different needs by doing the following:
Using coloured paper for special need learners when doing handouts/worksheets
Use of different fonts/font sizes
Assigning Learner Support Assistants to learners who require it
Having extension tasks/activities for more able learners
Different tasks/questions for lower/higher level learners
So finally, In planning and delivering lessons I use a range of inclusive activities and resources to promote and maintain an inclusive learning environment and include all learning styles. Planning for differentiation using extension activities and encouraging learners to choose their preferred method of learning, where possible also leads to inclusive learning within my classroom. It is also a legal requirement to encourage the participation of all learners, by supporting equality and diversity. Leicester College is committed to offering educational opportunities to a wide range of students.
EFFECTIVE INTERNAL COMMUNICATION
The basic principles of teaching relate to effective communication and should be visible within a lesson plan. By communication is meant the whole environment of effective teaching.
Effective Communication with learners:
The first consideration is the room environment, which is part of the preparation. There are a number of room seating preparations possible, and I have experimented with several.
One problem area is verbal. A teacher who mumbles to the board, who swallows words, who speaks in a monotone manner, who says unexplained technical and specialist terms, who does not repeat points and speaks too quickly, is less effective
There are non-verbal barriers to communication too. A teacher needs to have the right physical appearance. For myself, as a cognitive co-learner, I prefer a more informal dress style but if I was too scruffy then it might look as if I did not care or was not professional.
To become a effective teacher, I have to communicate with my colleagues with in my department or outside the department for their advise and experience to improve my teaching and leadership as CTL.
Feedback to CTL regarding learners behaviour and absentees
Advice from curriculum area manager regarding course cost sheet.
Standardisation meetings with team members to maintain good level of standard.
Ask advice to internal verify person, to improve the assignment briefs.
Request to admin staff for different reports, timetable and room changes. Sort learners EMA/ALG payments etc.
EMBEDDING THE MINIMUM CORE
Taking consideration of the course which I am leading in my curriculum area, I identify the importance of LLN&I two years ago, when I was involved in the functional skills delivery and attend training regarding "embedding functional skills into vocational subject".
In this year Btec specification there is clear guidelines about which functional skills should be strategically incorporated into the teaching of each topic.
As a practioner I apply minimum core in literacy, language, numeracy & ICT skills to improve my own practice by following the below points
At the start of the academic year my job is to analyse the LLN & ICT needs of the learners, through initial assessment and Individual Learning Programmes (ILPs)
Taking the LLN & ICT needs into consideration when planned my teaching session that include different activities to cover LLN & ICT skills.
Use of different resources which support minimum core effectively.
Evaluate the effectiveness of LLN & ICT delivery within the planned learning session to improve and support learning.
MY STRENGTHS AND DEVELOPMENT NEEDS
Talking about my strength I can listed up few which I think I am good as a teacher.
knowledgeable in my subject area
Able to adapt lessons to many learning styles and ability levels
Good classroom management
In summarised I believe that I am always enthusiastic and supportive. I encourage learners for success and whenever possible try to ensure that group ideas and plans are achieved. I promote optimism by displaying positive attitudes about the future, e.g. course progression or job prospects.
Although above strength makes me confident teacher, but I think I need to polish my knowledge and experience in side of LLN & I and learn how to adapt LLN & I better in my lesson plans.
ADAPT AND IMPROVE OWN PRACTICE
Yvonne Hiller (2005, pg81) states that, '...Kolb's cycle accounts for the way in which people can abstract generalizations from a concrete experience and devise ideas for future experimentation based on their reflections...' Using Kolb's cycle as a principle in my reflective practice , I have learnt that by using a feedback strategy, I can listen to my students about my delivery, and I can see where I can reinforce my teaching; and make improvements in the way I approach the lesson and students. I have learnt as well that by approaching my students in an Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR) they feel at ease with the new environment and the new knowledge acquire, as they can see that I am there with them to help them and not to judge their learning. Reflecting as well, on my own previous learning experience, and mixing it with my new knowledge from theories; I have learn clearly what happening when learning process is taking place and how I can reinforce and use strategies in a positive way to support my students.
In conclusion, and in my personal opinion any person who want to become a facilitator need to be aware of these approaches and more, to be able to meet students needs. Behaviourism and Cognitive approach work together so we the facilitator can provide appropriate help to our learners and learnt as well from them.