When it comes to theories of knowledge and learning, I have never really thought about which really fits my teaching philosophy or classroom practice. It is an interesting and thought provoking reflection as it makes think about the way in which I was taught as a student and how I teach as a professional. Do I fall under the umbrella of behaviorism, constructivism, cognitivism, or connectivism? What “ism” is my teaching style?….sounds like a great title for a Dr. Seuss book!
As an educator, I see value in a number of different aspects of each of these theories. My teaching philosophy has some qualities of each of these four theories, which would make my theory of learning a bit of a mutt, I suppose. Each theory has a quality that speaks to the diverse population of learners that are in our education system. To say that one is better than the other for me would be hypocritical as I utilize pieces of each theory in my practice at some point throughout the year.
As a teacher if a student has something to say in class I have them raise their hands and If we are moving throughout the school we walk in a line. These are two examples of how behaviourism is present in my class and they are skills students need in this lifetime…haven’t you had to wait in line at the bank, grocery store, sporting event, heck, even in a traffic jam (although you are in a vehicle)? Also, if students didn’t raise their hands wouldn’t we have the same couple kids answering and contributing before others had the chance to think about the content being taught? Another way to look at this is through the eyes of the curriculum as well, we are working towards having students meet outcomes, so we are constantly reviewing information and checking learning through tests and quizzes.
We utilize the constructivist theory as well building upon the learning of past years. We help our students make connections to content and build on that starting with simple questions and examples that lead to the more complex and challenging. Interacting with a concept and having a more active role in learning helps some students become more engaged in the material being covered.
Cognitivism is an important theory in our day and age where we are finding that the more hands on our students can be the easier the concept is to grasp for a number of those learners. Last year my class created their own hydraulic controlled Styrofoam board arms. In this project a number of the students that were normally disengaged were my overachievers and experts when it came to helping others overcome difficult steps in the construction and understanding, all the while actively learning about hydraulics. Students truly love experiential learning and this is why programs such as Campus Regina Public are so successful and attractive to learners.
Connectivism is becoming more and more relevant in our digital age and with it we have to teach positive digital citizenship and safety. But knowledge has never been so easy to obtain! With the vast array of sources and opinions students are able to formulate their opinions and research in greater ways. I for one love connectivism and utilize this theory quite a bit more than the aforementioned theories.
Over my short seven year career I have seen many teachers tap into connectivism within their teaching practices, including my own. It is important not to completely ignore the other theories that preceded it! There are some great aspects to each and as educators we need to evolve and morph different aspects of these theories into our own super theory that fits the mode of our philosophy. Student needs play a large part in deciding what theory is best utilized within our walls and with the incredibly diverse range of students that are in our classrooms, one theory is not always going to work for all of their needs. This is where I think having a great mixture of each theory is important, at the end of the day it’s not what meets my needs as a teacher that matters, it’s what meets the needs of the population of students within my classroom community.