Saturday, March 12, 2016

My Learning Philosophy

The older I get, the more I come to appreciate knowledge, and acquiring of information. Growing up, much of my education was about memorizing facts and “stuff” to pass a test. I found many classes interesting (especially science, or course), but felt so much pressure to make sure I had things memorized. There were lots of things I did not truly internalize to understand, until I became a teacher and I had to teach the same concepts to my own students.
“Nothing is yet in its truest form.”  
–C.S. Lewis
What I have come to learn about myself in the last five years of being a science teacher is that information and learning constantly evolves. The story of what I know as a scientist, and as a teacher, has not been finalized; nothing is set in stone. I have come to realize that acquiring knowledge is in my hands.
Throughout my first year of teaching I found myself spending a lot of time studying; I was not memorizing facts to regurgitate to my students in a lesson, but rather working to conceptually understand the scientific processes so that I could guide my own students to do the same. While a teaching philosophy is a belief about how learning should be conducted in the classroom, a learning philosophy is what shapes the process and internalization of knowledge. Therein lies the relationship between teaching and learning that I have developed: these two go hand in hand. My own learning philosophy dictates how I facilitate my own learning environment.

As I reflect on who I am as a learner, it is evident that my learning philosophy has evolved from behaviorist to a combination of constructivist, cognitive, and humanist roots. The following will provide a background on these theories:

Behaviorist (Pavlov, Skinner): The learner develops their skill through changes in behaviors based upon the external environment they interact with. The environment is influential in the learning process rather than the internalization of knowledge.

Constructivist (Piaget, Dewey, Bruner): The learner’s main role is to construct information as he or she links new information to prior knowledge to make meaning.  The process is active as the learner hypothesizes about their world or experience and constructs knowledge rather than acquire it.  Other characteristics include social construction of knowledge and learning must be the responsibility of the learner. “Constructivism suggests that learners create knowledge as they attempt to understand their experiences.” (Siemens)

Cognitive (Piaget, Bruner, Gange): Key aspects, while stemming from the constructivist approach, focus on using the environmental experience and internalizing the learning while connecting to prior knowledge. Internalization of the experience and new knowledge increases self-efficacy. This type of theory is metacognitive by nature.

Humanist (Rogers, Maslow): The learner often is self-driven which leads them to fulfill their highest potential (or self-actualization). The learner is personally involved in the experience of learning, he or she is reflective in understanding if the learning has meaning, and can evaluate if learning is taking place.

The latter three theories, in conjunction with 21st century learning skills, have shaped my own learning philosophy. After having been taught through a behaviorist approach, and having changed my own teaching philosophy, I now know how I thrive as a learner:

  • I process what I am hearing, experiencing, seeing into my own prior knowledge. The knowledge must assimilate into my own past experiences.
  • I prefer to learn at my own pace; I appreciate being given a set of perimeters that I can work within to construct meaning.
  • Often, I have to internalize and process what new information. If I do not find value or personal meaning, I do not process and construct the knowledge within my own application.
  • I am a hands on learner; knowledge, processing, and understanding “sticks” when I am actively engaged in the learning process.
  • I am more metacognitive in my learning now, after I have developed my own teaching philosophy, than when I was a student in high school and college; my own philosophy for learning has evolved.
  • I am self-driven and consistently am searching to reach my highest potential of understanding in my given circumstances.
  • Learning is lifelong and an ever-evolving process based upon new information, prior knowledge, and given circumstances. 

"Constructivism - Learning Theories." Learning Theories Constructivism. Web. 10 Mar. 2016. A summary of key points of constructivism, including influencer philosophers.

"Framework for 21st Century Learning - P21." Framework for 21st Century Learning - P21. Web. 11 Mar. 2016. <>. An overview of 21st century student outcomes and support systems by Partnership For 21st Learning.

Tan, Seng Chee, and David Hung. "Beyond Information Pumping: Creating a Constructivist E-learning Environment." Educational Technology, 42(5), 48-54. Educational Technology Publications. Web. Constructivist approach to learning in an electronic environment

Weimer, Maryellen, PhD. "What's Your Learning Philosophy?" What's Your Learning Philosophy. 26 Mar. 2014. Web. 9 Mar. 2016. <>. A reflection by the author on what learning philosophies are and how they shape a teacher's teaching philosophy.

Siemens, George. "Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age." Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Web. 10 Mar. 2016. <>. A look at connectivism theory (which is closely related to constructivist theory) and it's connection to 21st century learning skills.

Smith, M. K. (2003). ‘Learning theory’, the encyclopedia of informal education. [ Retrieved: 10, March, 2016. A synopsis of behaviorist, cognitivist, humanist, and social/situational learning theories and provided historical references.

Smith, M. K. (1999). ‘The cognitive orientation to learning’, the encyclopedia of informal education. [ Retrieved: 9, March, 2016. A summary of the main components of cognitive learning theory.

Smith, M. K. (1999) ‘The humanistic to learning’, the encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved: 9, March, 2016. A summary of the main components of humanistic learning theory.

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