Teaching vs. Learning

My Learning Philosophy

I personally believe that learning is a lifelong skill.  Learning should never stop since it is vital to surviving in our every changing world. Long gone are the days of assembly line type jobs that thrive on rote memory of actions and predictable problems.  It is now just as important to imagine possible issues then consider solutions before they become a problem.  I believe that learning is possible for anyone.  The process in which each person uses to authentically learn will be unique to them.  Learning doesn’t always look the way it has historically.  In a world that is changing by the second so must the strategies used to learn things never learned before.  Although the learner must adapt to new information and skills requiring innovative learning strategies I believe there are relevant connections that can be made to master authentic learning.  By relating new unknowns to past concrete experiences and knowledge learning new information is not as foreign at it initially appears.  I mostly aligned with the cognitive learning theory which is the act or process of knowing.  As an educator, I strive to guide every student through the process of becoming a lifelong learner.  I believe that learning opportunities are unlimited.  Learners should be able to experience the acquisition of knowledge beyond the classroom and/or school day.  Learners can be encouraged to take ownership of their learning as an ongoing experience enriched by collaboratives and inquiry.  Prior knowledge combined with discovery through collaborating can lead learners to the acquisition of plans and strategies.  This process of knowing becomes the foundation necessary to imagine and create innovative solutions as well as profound inquiries to be answered.

My role in the learning space is to facilitate the learning experience.  Although I may be more knowledgeable about some areas of content I am always open to discovery and learning more myself.  I believe that most students want to direction from the educator solely as the subject matter expert.  After establishing merit and trust the culture of the learning environment can be better molded.  I believe that my purpose is to guide yet encourage ignition of sparks which evolve to self-discovery and ownership of learning of the student.  Teaching is necessary however, I believe that the focus of instruction shouldn’t be the idea that the teacher holds all the knowledge about the content.  The focus should be on guiding students to the acquisition of facilitation skills, inquiry ideas, resource availability, research skills, collaborative learning groups and so much more along those lines.  The teacher is the learning facilitator allowing learners to educate themselves.  I value tinkering, imagineering and play time within reasonable boundaries creates an environment of fun and discovery-based learning.  Education is not what is done to them but what they take ownership of and acquire for themselves.

I believe that teaching philosophies tend to mimic teaching styles.  There is an assumption that each student learns best one way.  The teacher is then tasked which discovering the individual learning style for each student.  Time is spent assessing students to discover this way then the teacher must recall and employ learning styles, so students are often grouped with like-styled learners to ensure learning styles are targeted.  Each group is instructed majority of the time in their learning style and should be successful.  This becomes the teaching philosophy for the instructor as they teach students how they best acquire information to maximize the transfer of information from the teacher to the student.  This strategy tends to make teaching philosophies more rigid.  In the world of today, rigidity can be detrimental to sustainable learning.  On the other hand, learning philosophies allow for the myriad of variables that affect whether the learning is sustained and can be used as a catalyst for innovation.  Within the learning philosophy, it is possible for solutions to be created for previous problems and questions posed which could lead to solutions to situations before they ever become a problem.  Instead of education being given to the student, they are taking it through ownership of their learning.  Learners could absolutely take surveys to determine their learning style and they may align with being a visual learner at that moment on that day.  Once they are “labeled” the teacher is supposed to utilize this data to best reach the student.  What if the very next day they were surveyed again and aligned more with auditory instead?  This potentially creates holes in the learners’ knowledge if the teacher instructed them narrowly in their learning style using the data from the first survey.  In my classroom I average from 25 – 31 students and I would not be able to survey the students every day to discover their learning style from a checklist then create an individual approach to the lesson that would successfully reach every student.  The time constraints on the curriculum due to the standardized testing dates rarely allow more than one day per topic therefore rigid teaching styles can’t be surveyed every day nor can student groups be rearranged based on them before the content has to be taught in depth.  Learning must be highly adaptive and innovative for sustainability along with lifelong knowledge growth.

I believe that I struggled as a learner because I couldn’t figure out the best way for me to learn.  I was either trying to use the learning style that I was told by an assessment that I aligned to or simply study (I honestly had no real idea what that meant) more.  In my early school years, memorization was the strategy I was taught, and I was constantly reminded that the more I “studied” the better I would learn the content.  I was told that this would be the best strategy for me to recall the information for performing better on a standardized test or regurgitation classwork/homework.  As I reached my high school and early college years learning styles were mentioned, assessed and suggested to obtain maximum success.  I began to struggle severely when these previous methods were not helping me, and I started to feel incapable of learning certain content areas.  With the assistance of the student center and guidance counselor, I learned that my learning style could not be told or taught to me.  I also learned that it varied often so I had to innovate and adapt early on to take ownership of my learning.  My beliefs about myself as a leaner was shaped by these discoveries.  My learning was stagnant for a while because I was not taking ownership and instead of waiting to be educated versus educating myself.  Once I made my own choices about learning in a way that was authentic to me I found that my mindset changed as I journeyed to successful learning.  I truly believe that I not only learn from some traditional forms of relaying information but innovative and very unconventional methods.  My ability to learn is a constant but the methods in which I accomplish it are variable in a myriad of ways.

Using blended learning and the maker mindset to create an entire maker school instead of a spot and/or room within the school can be a catalyst to igniting the sparks of learners that can create infinite innovative problem-solving.  The skill of lifelong learning will only become increasingly necessary within every area of success in life and even with daily survival.  Technology being easily accessible lends itself to the integration of blended learning within the entire building.  The flux of information along with technological equipment advancements demand learners to reference past connections, experiences along with participation in collaboratives and the agency for a discovery of deep authentic knowledge.  As the maker mindset is employed it embeds blended learning as well as the growth mindset.  Through the maker activities/sessions, the act and process of knowing will take place.  Something seemingly simple as an inquiry about a small toy logic puzzle can ignite the spark that motivates learners to engage, own their knowledge and take it beyond the building and classroom bells.  The maker school has the great potential of developing agency of lifelong learners that infinitely innovate and patient problem solving as they navigate through life being the change agents that the world needs.

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November A., (2012).  Who owns the learning.  Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press

November reminds the educators of today that we are preparing students for success in the Digital Age.  Learning as well as teaching will look different as technology is thrust upon students and teachers alike.  We have a great opportunity to maximize student learners by moving from the tradition teacher-centered to a student-centered approach in the field of education.  Education is no longer something we transfer to students as they can be prepared to take it.

Douglas T. & Brown J.S., (2011).  A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change.  Louisville, KY: Soulellis Studio

Thomas and Brown provide substantial insight into the culture of learning that must develop during this digital media and learning movement.  Through relevant stories, feedback and results they are showing what the learning culture could successfully transform into.  There are also instances shared that are aligned with the thought patterns founded on the old culture of learning and the reader can see the outcomes.  This contrast helps the reader to compare for themselves and better decide the most successful path to take moving forward for the learners of today.

Dweck C.S, PhD (2016).  Mindset: The new Psychology of Success (Updated Edition). New York: Ballantine Books

Dweck uses various real-world examples along with case studies to help change the reader’s view on potential that anyone can have as a learner.  A mindset shift is vital to this belief but also the fact that science shows our brain is like other muscles in our body which can change and grow.  Through her growth mindset exercises and practical recommendations, one can see the possibilities of learners reaching their greatest potential and becoming lifelong learners.

Smith, M. K. (2003). ‘Learning theory’, the encyclopedia of informal education. [http://infed.org/mobi/learning-theory-models-product-and-process/. Retrieved: 12/08/17]

There is a great chart that breaks down the four orientations of learning (after Merriam and Caffarella 1991:138).    These learning orientations include the behaviorist, cognitive, humanistic and the social/situational.  Learning theories are tied to specific aspects and summarized to allow the reader a clearer view of their differences as well as some similarities.

Bates, T (2014). ‘Learning theories and online learning’, blogs [https://www.tonybates.ca/2014/07/29/learning-theories-and-online-learning/ . Retrieved: 12/08/17]

Tony Bates shares his open textbook called “Teaching in a Digital Age” which gives a great overview of the theory and practice in teaching for the digital age.   This website gives details about the theories of learning and the importance in using these theories within education system to teach and evaluate students in a digital age.

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