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Learning is a complex endeavor that is made up of several contributing factors. The manner in which the learners perceive the content, the attention being paid to the trainer and their conduct during the entire process of learning are among the main factors that contribute to learning. As such, researchers have come up with theories and concepts that attempt to explain how the process of learning occurs. In line with learning, this paper shall examine some of these concepts and the way they relate to the K-12 school learning experiences. Additionally, some examples of classroom activities to implement the theories shall be suggested.
Intelligence and IQ
Intelligence is a multidimensional concept, whereby there are three forms of intelligence. Oakes and Lipton use Robert Sternberg’s argument that while these forms of intelligence exist differently in people, they are not fully covered in IQ tests (70) to point out the various conflicts that have arisen concerning the whole concept of intelligence and IQ. These forms include analytical and critical thinking intelligence, ability to form new ideas and the ability to come up with quick, efficient solutions to everyday problems (Oakes and Lipton and Lipton70). Oakes and Lipton further argue that originally, the IQ test used to be the ratio of a child’s mental age to the child’s actual age.
In a classroom setting, it is important to understand that each student has different abilities, distinct from others. As such, approaches to handling academic situations exhibited by some students who show tendencies of taking more time to understand concepts should be carefully considered to ensure that they stay on the same page with others. An example of this approach can be constant monitoring and assistance during class exercises and participation. According to Oakes and Lipton, students learn to become intelligent in different environments (70).
The constructivist theory holds that human beings learn by constructing knowledge from their previous experiences and encounters (Oakes and Lipton 69). Therefore, this theory suggests that the process of learning is a continuous endeavor. A number of key researchers, such as Piaget and Dewey have made a significant contribution to this theory. The theory further centers its argument on the premise that the learner is not a completely ignorant person, but one who has been with a vast knowledge acquired through cultural interaction and past experience.
Ideas derived from the theory have been directly applied to teaching. This move has had a profound influence in teaching, for example when a teacher asks 11th-grade students to come up with a solution to a given problem by giving them information about a similar situation in the past. An example of the real-life application of this theory by the teacher is described as follows. A teacher assigns students in the classroom a reading and asks them to research more on the subject and other related topics. The following class, the teacher, finds a new problem which relates to the readings assigned to the students earlier on. To ensure constructivism, the teacher asks the students to discuss and give their opinions regarding the subjects clearly indicating the reasoning behind every decision. This way, the students can incorporate the previously acquired information in the reading to the current situation to come up with inference. This is conformity with the idea behind constructivism.
The cognitive theory of learning focuses on the brain’s function as the integral component of acquiring and processing the information we acquire. The brain also plays a key role in the interpretation and the retrieval of the information that we have acquired. As such, the theory more towards the entire functioning of the brain in response to the information being acquired through learning. This theory focuses on two aspects. The First one being the social cognitive theory and the other is based on the behavioral trait. Essentially, the theory argues that understanding the mental processes is essential for the understanding and improvement of the learning process.
Metacognition refers to the process whereby a person is aware of and comprehends his/her thought process. Students who are capable of thinking independently and effectively. This way, they are capable of taking control of their learning and become successful academically. This is because as opposed to meaningless cramming of content from a book, students can be able to stop and actually think about the text they are reading. Similarly, in cases of making inferences, the student can be able to understand the reasoning behind a particular conclusion.
In a classroom setting, teaching the students to understand the importance of being metacognitive should be emphasized by the teacher. To achieve this, the teacher has to clarify and ensure that each student understands the meaning of metacognition. There are some activities that can be done in the classroom to show that students make it part of their learning process to think of the reasoning behind their thoughts. An example of this can be stopping the students in the middle of reading to pause and think of what type of information they have acquired so far. Further, the teacher can ask for the students’ views regarding the information they have already acquired.
This learning theory is based on the premise that the environment surrounding a learner acts as stimuli which influence the learner’s behavioral or emotional responses (Boyanton 51). As such, learning is acquired through the instructor’s positive and negative reinforcement of the behavior through changes in the stimuli (the environment). Behaviorism has had a weighty influence on the understanding of the learning process and the approach to teaching (Boyanton 58).
Behaviorism has extensively influenced the manner in which the process of learning is viewed. The ideas from Skinner’s Operant Conditioning have been applied to make the following conclusions about students’ classroom behavior modification. First, that the manner in which students behave is determined by the consequences associated with it. Secondly, that the consequences of a certain behavior can be used to increase or reduce the probability of a student repeating a behavior (Boyanton 53). Finally, the students’ behavior can only be changed by making the consequences known.
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To understand the concept of behavior modification, the terms positive and negative behavior reinforcement is an integral part of this process. In teaching, positive behavior reinforcement involves the teacher presenting a desirable consequence to the students in response to a given behavior with the intention of encouraging the students to keep repeating it (Weber 96). An example of a desirable behavior in teaching can is when a student scores a good grade. To strengthen this behavior and shape it into becoming a habit, the teacher can reward students who score good grades with stickers containing congratulatory messages. This way, the student will work hard to obtain good grades so as to receive another sticker. Additionally, other students would strive to be given stickers too by the teacher for an impressive class performance. On the other hand, negative reinforcement involves the pairing of undesired behavior with the removal of the causative stimulus. This tactic aims to discourage the student from carrying on with the undesirable behavior.
More ideas originating from this theory have been applied to teaching in K-12 school. These include punishment, time-out, and extinction. Punishment involves the teacher introducing an undesirable consequence to the student as a result of an undesirable behavior. This is intended to weaken and eventually get rid of the behavior. Time-out involves taking the individual away from the conditions making it conducive for the unwanted behavior to thrive (Boyanton 53). Extinction, on the other hand, refers to the suppression of consequence that had been used earlier on to reinforce it. The intention here is to weaken the behavior.
- Boyanton, D. “Behaviorism and its effect upon learning in the schools.” Educational psychology reader: The art and science of how people learn. New York: Peter Lang (2010).
- Oakes, J., and M. Lipton. “Teaching to change the world. New York.” (1999).
- Weber, D., “The Limitations of a behavioral approach in most educational settings (N.d). 88-99.