Share article CHAPTER 1: LEARNING THEORIES AND THE PRACTICE OF TEACHING: 1.1 CONCEPTS USED IN THE TEACHING AND ...
Learning theories offer resources, tools for the teacher to better accomplish his duty and also to understand the manifestations of learners. It is in this light that it is often said, Psychology is a vital resource for the teacher. In this chapter, before studying the different learning theories, attention will be focused on the concepts of pedagogy, learning, teaching and the pedagogical triangle of Jean Houssaye.
Teaching according to Laberge, M.F (2003) is the process of imparting knowledge, skills, attitudes and values. Teaching can be considered as a process of instilling, transmitting or constructing knowledge. Teaching can also be defined as a process of transmitting knowledge to learners; it involves several kinds of skills, classroom lesson planning, classroom management, selecting subject content, use of specific methods to transmit the content, evaluating students and discussing with students.
Teaching can be viewed from three angles:
If the relation Knowledge is privilege, then teaching becomes the act of transmitting knowledge through exposes in clear and concise manner. Giving privilege to the relation knowledge is giving privilege to the relation to the transmission of knowledge. This is relation is the most dominant in secondary schools: the Tran missive model of teaching. In this model what is important is the quality of what is transmitted to the learners. The major problem here is how to put knowledge at the disposition of the students to ease their work of learners. This is referred to as didactic transposition. The quality of what taught, the way it is taught is determinant for the quality of what is received.
Teaching is a process whereby automatism is acquired. In this light teaching becomes a process during which the reactions, attitudes, professional gestures and behaviours are instilled into some one. The purpose of teaching is to train students to produce answers according to the problems encountered. Here the teaching effort is centred on the activities that could bring changes to the learner’s behaviour. The behaviourist theory tends to instill behaviour and automatisms in the manner of resolving issues.
If the student relation is considered, then teaching becomes making someone learn, study, guide or accompanying students carry out the activities proposed. When privilege is given to the student’s relation, it is also a way of giving privilege to the acquisition process and knowledge construction by the students. It also insists on the student’s activities in which they put in practice the knowledge acquire through mastering of how to do. This is easily seen theories of constructivism and socio-constructivism.
According to Encarta (2009) learning is the acquisition of knowledge or skills. It also defines learning as a relatively permanent change in, or acquisition of knowledge, understanding or behaviour. Learning is involved in acquiring new competences, changing the way of reacting. Learning should be organized in such a way that, the learner always acquire knowledge in an ascending order, that is going from the less complex situation to more complex or from the known concept to the unknown. Learning can be considered as a stable and durable modification of knowledge, know to do and know how to be of an individual. These modifications are a result of training, apprentice or exercises carried out by the individual. According to LD. Crow and A. crow (1963) learning supposes a changes, it has links with the acquisition of abilities, knowledge and attitudes. It brings personal and social adjustment to individuals. The concept of change is very important to learning; it implies any change in behaviour implies learning took place.
It is important to know the different phases of learning, so as to better structure learning and attain objectives envisaged in a coherent manner. Robert Gagne suggested an approach in which he says a learner passes through eight phases when learning. A judicious usage of these phases will facilitate the work of the instructor. These phases are: - motivation, attention and perception, codification, memorization, recognition, transfer and generalization, performance, feed-back.
When these phases are applied by the teacher,
It arouses and maintains motivation of the learners
Facilitates the acquisition of new concepts
Facilitates information retention
Promotes transfer of knowledge
Enable feed- back of performance to be seen.
Some of the learning methods applied in education are:
Students act as teachers in order to improve the learning process, students teach other students the subject using certain content, but also choose their own methods and didactic approaches in teaching. The first attempts using the learning by teaching method in order to improve learning started at the end of the 19th century.
Probably the most difficult aspect of project-oriented learning is the initial definition of the project (and corresponding formulation of teams). The instructor can provide a list of suggested topics which helps to give students an idea of possible projects. Alternatively, the instructor can provide lists/descriptions of past projects (including links to the actual project materials if available on the web).
In addition, students should be provided with a description of the criteria that will be used to evaluate the projects to help them determine the appropriateness of their project ideas.
Collaboration can be as simple as a two-minute in-class exercise involving pairs of students or as elaborate as a multi-year curriculum development project involving many groups of students. Term-length projects done primarily outside the classroom are the most popular form of collaboration since they require minimal changes to the usual classroom routine. This method of learning can be applied in different domains for example, English students can review each other's work, Computer Science students can develop or debug programs together, and soon. E-mail is one of the most important collaborative tools and it usually serves as the communication backbone for all activities.
This method of learning involves hand on tasks in which students can develop their professional skills. The crucial point is the modeling of learning as a byproduct of comprehension. This underpins the constructivist approach to education. Learning by doing works best because performing a task requires learner to think and comprehend at the most testing level associated with problem solving and action.
According to the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary third edition, pedagogy is defined as the study of the methods and activities of teaching. Pedagogy is sometimes seen as a nebulous concept, it is essentially a combination of knowledge and skills required for effective teaching. Pedagogy includes “the complexity of relational, personal, moral and emotional, aspects of teachers’ everyday acting with children or young people they teach” (Van Manen 2002).
Figure 1 Pedagogic triangle of Jean Houssaye
This triangle is essentially based on three pedagogic relations:
The learning process relation: it shows the direct relationship between Learner- knowledge. This relationship is favoured and the teacher is the organiser of external learning processes. He is a mediator and there is a stronger bond between the learner and knowledge.
The teaching process relation: the relationship privileged here is the teacher-knowledge relationship. The teacher structures lessons for the learner. He looks for the content.
The training process relation: this relation is centred on the relation teacher-learner. They are constantly in interaction. The teacher presents situations for the learner to resolve and when the learner can’t he turns to the teacher for remediation
The transmisive model is the most renowned form of teaching theory put in place by John Locke. For this theory; learning requires the attention of the learner. This therefore means that for a child to learn, he should be attentive; listen, imitate; repeat and apply.
The teacher has a predominant and important role since he transmits know through his lectures, demonstrations. Each notion is explain to the students. The student’s role is to listen attentively and copy notes dictated by the teacher according to the level. The teacher’s role is to transform knowledge such that it will be understood by the students by explaining every notion. The teacher detains all the knowledge and has to transmit it to the student since the students knows nothing. The student is just an empty vessel that the teacher fills progressively.
This theory can only be implemented efficiently if the students are attentive, listen; relatively motivated and already familiar with this mode of teaching. It requires students having the pre-requisites to retain the speech of the teacher. It requires students having a mode of functioning closer or similar to that of the teacher for the message to go through easily (emission-reception). It requires students having autonomy during learning.
Despite the criticisms of this theory; it how ever has some advantages. This model is suitable for teaching and transmitting knowledge to a larger number of learners. The teacher has to structure his lesson to be taught, this is why with this model the teacher has the obligation to prepare his lesson very well. No interaction with students so less time consuming.
The rhythm is imposed by the teacher; there is no individualization of the learning rhythm for the learner. The learner is passive has no contribution to make. There student’s spirit of criticism is dormant in this theory.
This theory is based on observable changes in behaviour. Behaviourism focuses on a new behavioral pattern being repeated until it becomes automatic.The behaviourist school of thought influenced by Thorndike (1913), Pavlov (1987) and Skinner (1974) stipulates as a principle that learning takes place when there is a change in behaviour of the learner caused by an external stimulus from the environment. This school of thought sees the human mind as a dark box it he sense that the response to a stimulus can be observed in quantitative manner ignoring the mental process that takes place. The experiments of the Behaviourists have identified conditioning as a learning process. There are two types of conditioning: classic conditioning which occurs when a natural reflex responds to a stimulus. The most popular example is Pavlov’s observation that dogs salivate when they see food and operant conditioning which occurs when a response to a stimulus is reinforced. A common example is Skinner’s experiment with a pigeon placed in a box that showed a change in behaviour from random movements in search of food to the capability to pressing just the lever to obtain food when hungry.
This theory has some advantages and disadvantages which could be grouped as follows:
Behaviourism has some advantages and disadvantages.
Its enables a learner to know the objectives of a lesson that is he knows exactly what is expected by the teacher. The pedagogy of slow movements facilitates comprehension. Teachers go from least complex notions to more complex notions. It is an efficient theory for overcrowded classes.
This theory is essentially interested on teaching rather than on learning and on observable results rather than on learning process. Here the learner is passive; he is a receiver of external reality. There is no creativity from the learner. The learner does not take part in the discovery of the content to be taught, the teacher is the principal actor and the learner just at a permanent receiving end. The psychological learning conditions are not taken into account.
There is mental representation of models or knowledge (e.g. if a process is taught using a behavioural approach, and there is any system failure, learners will not necessarily have the skills to interpret or adapt to the situation) The teacher uses the positive or negative reinforcement to credit or discredit students activities .This theory is criticized for not considering the processes that take place in the mind.
“Cognitive theorists recognize that much learning involves associations established through contiguity and repetition. They also acknowledge the importance of reinforcement, although they stress its role in providing feedback about the correctness of responses over its role as a motivator. However, even while accepting such behaviouristic concepts, cognitive theorists view learning as involving the acquisition or reorganization of the cognitive structures through which humans process and store information." (Good and Brophy, 1990, pp. 187).
The cognitive theory which has as founding father Jean Piaget (1896-1980) stipulates that learning takes place using memory, motivation and reasoning. Cognitive psychologists ‘support the view that the amount of intelligence acquired depend on the capacity of the learner to treat information. Piaget is known for his longitudinal studies on child development and learning which he has developed into four stages. These include:
Sensory motor stage (birth-2years old). At this stage the child builds concepts about the realities of his contact with his or her environment and how these realities work. This is the stage where a child does not know that physical objects still exist even when out of sight.
The preoperational stage (ages 2-7) during which the child is not yet able to conceptualize abstractly and needs concrete physical situations.
Concrete operations (7-11). Here, as physical experience accumulates, the child starts to Conceptualize, creating logical structures that explain his or her physical experiences. Abstract problem solving such as arithmetic equations with numbers not just with objects is also possible at this stage. Last stage which is the formal operation stage (beginning at ages 11-15) is the stage when the child’s cognitive structures are like those of an adult and include conceptual reasoning. This theory influences learning in that the age and environment in which a child finds himself are taken into consideration when designing curriculum and even when teaching.
Constructivism approach calls for the elimination of grades and standardized testing. Instead, assessment becomes part of the learning process so that students play a larger role in judging their progress.
This theory resulted from the works of Jean Piaget (1964) whose theory says an individual confronted to a given situation will mobilize a number of cognitive structures which he calls operational designs. The learning of operational designs is done through two complementary processes:
- Assimilation which is the process whereby the individual incorporates information from the environment into the cognitive structure.
- Accommodation which transforms the cognitive structure of the individual in order to incorporate new elements of experience.
In this case, knowledge is not given but it is being constructed by the learner through mental activities. The learner adapts itself to knowledge through active learning and exploration. The learner has to think and explain his way of reasoning to the teacher instead of memorizing what was taught to him by the teacher. The learner is at the center of the learning process and his knowledge is formed by his abilities to treat and interpret information. Teaching thus becomes an interdisciplinary and the teacher plays only the role of a guide, facilitator. As suggested by Isidore Lauzier and alii (2007), < The teacher (to remain in uniformity with what preceded) is an adviser; it is the student that looks for means of acquisition of his knowledge>.
In this light, the role of the teacher is not to block the internal development process of the student by imposing a teaching program, but rather consist in observing, diagnosing and practice formative evaluation and differential pedagogy. Teaching should therefore be adapted to the needs of the child. When constructivist theory is applied in the learning environment, the educator’s role is to facilitate and moderate rather than dispense information Huang (2002) used in Collins (2008).In this environment both teacher and the student take part in the learning process. Learners develop knowledge internally rather than passively receiving information transmitted by an instructor. The implications of the constructivist theory for the educator is that he has to take into account that learners bring with them prior knowledge and this knowledge maybe used in constructing new meaning Proulx (2006) taken from Collins (2008). Learners have a role to play in the learning environment, as their learning needs direct communication of new information which is in turn individually constructed. Learning from mistakes can be a key element of constructivist learning activities, as these mistakes provide opportunities for further learning and are a natural part of the learning process Proulx (2006) taken from Collins
The student is actively implicated in constructing his knowledge.
Intellectual development is an internal and autonomous process, not very much sensitive to external effects especially teaching ones
The student can assimilate new knowledge only if he has the mental structures which permit him to do so.
Students reason logically immediately they attain the logical functioning level despite the content of knowledge.
Provides an enabling environment for students to discover by themselves obstacles involved in learning a new concept. He doesn’t impose knowledge on students rather he helps them in building content by themselves. He adapts to the needs of the students.
Since the teacher is a guide, facilitator, and adviser, he defines the objectives and learning projects which will be carried out by the learners and in so doing build knowledge on their own. He encourages student in exploring the learning environment to look for solutions to problems to be resolved. The constructivist approached in which the learner was actively involved in building knowledge by himself did not consider the social environment of the learner, this paved way for another approach in learning which included the social environment and the culture of the learner in the learning process. The social constructivist approach was brought forth.
The promoter of this theory being Vygotsky emphasized on the social aspects of the learner. To him the right direction of development of individuals is to go from the social to the individual rather than from the individual to the social. In addition to the constructivist concepts, the socio-constructivist theory introduces other dimensions, such as interactions, co-construction, co-elaboration, team spirit in learning. Learning is therefore considered as the product of socio-cognitive activities link to the didactic exchanges between teacher - students and students- students. In this light, the social construction of knowledge is reinforced by the fact that knowledge is self-constructed by the learners. We noticed that to Vygotsky the social interaction plays an important role in the process of cognitive development, this is contrary to Piaget who say child development precedes learning, Vygotsky says learning precedes development. This theory considers that each function in the cultural development of the child appears twice: starting with social aspect then the individual aspects. The development theory considers two principles: the proximal zone of development and the more knowledgeable order.
The proximal zone of development refers to the situation where a learner can carry out a task with the help of a teacher or collaborator and what the learner can do on its own. It is believe that learning takes place in this zone. That is why Vygotsky calls it the zone of proximal development. Here the task assign to the learner should not be complex or difficult, that is why the term proximal is used to avoid discouragement or failure.
The more knowledgeable order refers to any person having a higher level of reasoning than the learner. The more knowledgeable order is considered to be the teacher, the guide, the facilitator an aged person’ it could equally be a younger person or even the computer.
It gives an opportunity for the teacher to work in partnership with learner so they develop their proper knowledge. The teacher is no longer the person who knows everything but rather a guide or facilitator in the construction process by the students.
The teacher constitutes his learning environment into small groups to ease management or forming a community of learners.
The theory is totally against the traditional methods of teaching and learning, that is why Vygotsky shows that teaching and learning strategies based on this theory are very efficient. The theory proposes scaffolding, reciprocal and guided teachings. Scaffolding being a tentative structure put in place by the teacher to enable a student carry out a task which he could not do on his own. Reciprocal teaching is one in which students consider the teacher as a collaborator as he poses questions or facilitates understanding.
From the theories outlined above and the different learning methods, is now clear that the teaching of ICT must apply these theories and pedagogy to maximize the learner’s outcome. The theories seen above will pave way to the next chapter which will treat the teaching of ICT and will be particular concern with the didactics of ICT.
This chapter deals with the fundamental elements used in teaching. The key elements are teaching, learning and learning methods. After which the concept of pedagogy is elaborated which leads to the presentation of the various theories used in teaching such as the Transmisive theory, the behaviourist theory, the cognitive theory, the constructivist theory and the socio-constructivist theory.