Throughout the course of my teaching career, I have only worked as a learning support teacher. Therefore, it would seem natural that my first statement in a post about teaching theories and classroom practice would be to say that “a teacher’s philosophies and theories of knowledge must encompass a wide array of practices from the behaviourism, constructivism, cognitivism and connectivism approaches.” This idea of differentiated instruction to suit the needs of learners can be echoed in my classmate Adam’s post where he states, “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.” Therefore, when Ertmer and Newby ask, “Is there a single “best” approach and is one approach more efficient than the others?,” I would argue that there is not a single, “best” approach and that one can place effectiveness on a theory based on the type of learner that he/she is working with.
Now, as a learning resource teacher who has stepped away from full-time work and returned as a casual substitute teacher, I have taken note of situations where different theories of learning are apparent. Recently, I was subbing in a grade 1 classroom where the topic of discussion was around a student’s trip to Disney World. As the children were discussing details of the child’s trip, one boy had a question about a Star Wars attraction at Disney. Having never been to Disney World, I was little to no help and the child’s classmates also could not answer this boy’s question either. He was quick to tell me that he was going to “go home and ask Siri.” This situation reminds me a lot of the teachings in Siemens article about connectivism. Siemen states, “When knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses.” Therefore, providing learners with the tools that they need to access information is perhaps, more beneficial then the actual knowledge they already have. In this example, I believe the boy’s ability to recognize that a digital tool like Siri could assist him in finding an unknown answer is a reflection of the connectivism theory and the way in which we should be moving our educational practices.
I also observe aspects of connectivism in EC&I 833. Siemens states that “Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era.” EC&I 833 has challenged me to create blogs for the use of educational learning, use networks like Twitter to share ideas and perspectives with colleagues and understand how technologies such as Zoom or FlipGrid can be used in educational settings. These newfound skills and teachings that I have gained will undoubtedly, benefit me as a participant in a digital world.
Like Amy, I can also observe the behaviourism approach in my day-to-day routines and practices with my children. In my mind, practices of behaviourism theory allows face-to-face perspective and interaction to occur. Similarly to Amy, I observe aspects of behaviourism in teaching my four and two year old children social norms and expected behaviours. Undesired actions or behaviours will often result in “time outs” while desired actions or behaviours will result in verbal praise or visual rewards like sticker charts. I agree with Amy when she states that ultimately, it is consistency that must be paired with behaviourism practices.
The role of cognitivism theory is also quite prevalent in my day-to-day practices when teaching my four year old alphabet recognition and sounds. As Ertmer and Newby explain, this theory sees individuals as being an active participants in their learning. “Instructional explanations, demonstrations, illustrative examples and matched non-examples are all considered to be instrumental in guiding student learning.” This statement reminds me of certain practices I use at home such as using things like play-doh, alphabet pretzels, Alpha-bit cereal, or sidewalk chalk as ways to teach letters and sounds in ways that are meaningful to my child. The instructional strategies I have incorporated in our day-to-day activities have proven to be effective, however one must acknowledge that the child I am teaching to does not experience cognitive delays nor is she in a classroom setting where the list of distractions occurring can often be endless.
I end with reflections on the constructivist theory. In my opinion, this theory is very much based on one’s understanding of a learner and his/her own experiences. As educators, we should strive to foster teaching that is meaningful to learners, based on the experiences that they have had. In classrooms where learners are socio-economically, racially, culturally and sexually diverse, this creates challenges. What are ways in which educators can best practice constructivist approaches when the experiences of their learners can be so diverse?