I believe that it is inherent to all humans to want to learn and to share what they know with others. Each child has an individual style of learning and it is important that my classroom provides a safe and comfortable environment where students feel free to explore and engage with learning without fear, ridicule or judgment. Student need to feel like they have place where they are accepted for who they are and they feel safe to experiment and make mistakes while they are learning and manipulating new information. In order to create this environment, all learner need to have opportunities to freely express themselves and share their interests with each other.
It is important to know and understand students and their families. Every student comes into a classroom with a difference set of experiences. These may come from cultural, religious, socio-economic, or family beliefs. Regardless of the background it is important to recognize that all these factors impact the way one learns and the way the view the world. These experiences are the foundation in which all the knowledge is built off. Only when a teacher understands the social, emotional, cognitive and academic needs of her students can the students prosper. By understanding the interests, strengths and weaknesses of each student I can strive to meet their individual learning styles and formulate a strategy to challenge them in their areas of strength and nurture them in their areas of weakness.
I started by pointing these two aspects out because I feel that they are the foundation of implementing a solid teaching practice. In order to teach students, you must understand them and where they are coming from and second point because in order for students to learn to their greatest capacity, they must feel safe to do so, without reprisals or ridicule. Once you understand your students and they feel safe you can expound on their natural desire for inquiry and teaching others.
Traditionally students have played passive role in their learning, sitting and listen while the teacher passes along information they are expected to learn and apply. However, this doesn’t necessarily motivate students to want to learn. To motivate students, we need to use what Fink calls significant learning experiences. Fink (2013) explains that “in a powerful learning experience students will be engaged in their own learning, there will be a high energy level associated with it and the whole process will have important outcomes and results” (p. 8).
When students are participating in active learning, they have opportunities to engage and reflect with material in a more intimate manner allowing for stronger connections to be made. (Fink, 2013, p. 23). This allows the students an opportunity to learn information and, in some case, even become a teacher to others by explaining to a classmate all while making their own connections with new material. Students often learn material because it is presented to them but don’t understand what the overarching goal is. Another way to allow students to become active participants in their education is to allow them to be involved in their assessment process. Instructors can provide feedback and provide guide students to set goals for themselves. This helps students to recognize where they are at and shows them what is still possible (Fink, 2013, p. 24).
Differentiation is essential to facilitate knowledge and understanding in all students because not all students learn in the same manner. Not only do students learn in different ways but they come to us with different foundations. When working with young children it is imperative to recognize that they need to have a solid understanding of basic skills in order to make connections later. Therefore, I believe that there is not one set learning theory that address all the needs of students. I believe that when we can combine all of them, our students can benefit from best aspects of them all. Through the use of behaviorist strategies we can help student learn facts such as letter names and counting, cognitivist strategies allow all for the instruction of the “how “of a concept and the constructive strategies allow students to focus on the why of a concept and allows for making personal connections (Ally, 2008, p 20).
Whether learning online, or in person, I believe that our students need a place where that can safely express and share what they know while exploring new ideas and concepts in a variety of manners. When we are able to blend diverse teaching methodologies, we help to ensure that different learning styles are meet and that students will learn. By incorporating active learning experiences for our students, we help engage and foster the natural curiosity that exists in human kind.
Ally, M. (2008). Foundations of educational Theory for Online Learning. In Anderson, T. (Ed.) The Theory and Practice of Online Learning. (2nd ed.). (pp. 14-44). AU Press.
Fink. L.D. (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences, revised and updated: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco: Wiley.