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Another key element stated under the commitment to students and students' learning is support for student learning. It says:

Members of the Ontario College of Teachers

-develop programs for students that incorporate a knowledge and understanding of human development and learning theory.

Learning about what the theorists have to say about a junior leanrner provided me with some ideas about the junior learner. I observed the students in a junior classroom and could come to some conclusions about them. Knowing the learning theories and human development helps a teacher to plan her classroom program accordingly. As in this case knowing a junior learner's cognitive, physical and behavioural development would help the teacher to plan her program accordingly. A teacher has to understand the basic reason/theory behind her students' behaviour, and undersatnding the learning theories and human development, the teacher can understand her students better. During the course I read many articles to know more about the learning theories and theorists.

My belief that motivation enhances learning was strenthened as I read the throeries given by different psychologists and also did some research on the behaviour of junior learners. The assignement on 'my belief statement'  has more elaboration.

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My Belief statement:

"Learning is enhanced by positive motivation"

During my web search, my belief that, "Learning is enhanced by positive motivation" got strengthened as I came across the various theories proposed by different behavioural psychologists. It proved that positive motivation plays an important role in the process of learning.

In support of my belief statement:

A Practical example that I came across during my teaching years:

During my first year of teaching, I was appointed as a home room teacher for a grade seven class in boys’ school. Within the first week, I noted a child who was academically disadvantaged and needed special attention. As I observed his work, he displayed intelligence, had good presentation skills but was disorganized resulting in a messy presentation. He was good in his spellings but never managed to get more than a B though it was evident that he had the potential to do better. He was lacking in confidence and needed motivation and encouragement. I spent extra time with him and highlighted that he had a wonderful handwriting and if he took a little extra effort to concentrate on his work, his presentation would be a lot better. I assigned him some extra work and asked him to present it the following day. The assignment was much better than his previous presentation and I praised him for his efforts in front of all the students in the class and was gratified to see the sense of accomplishment on his face. His performance continued to improve over the course of the term and he ended up on the honour roll.

This technique works as a very good management tool as well. I am at present volunteering in a grade four class. I have observed the teacher using similar techniques in her classroom management. She gives points to the group of children sitting around a particular table based on their overall behaviour, work etc. She keeps a record of the table points and the best behaved group of children on a particular table is rewarded at the end of the month. This way, children are motivated to maintain discipline and work.

Theories to support my view:

Behaviourist B.F. Skinner who proposed that "If a reward or reinforcement follows the response to a stimulus, then the response becomes more probable in the future." proved his theory in different settings. 1

Behavioural learning theory states that ‘Learning occurs when new behaviours or changes in behaviours are acquired as the result of an individual’s response to stimuli.’ According to Skinner, teaching should be broken into different progressive steps or stages and every step should be followed by reinforcement. The reality is that the contingencies required for desired behaviour in a class is far beyond what teachers/humans can realistically arrange. The behaviourists support the idea of instrumental aid as a necessary means for effective control of human learning. Behaviourists note that instrumental help improves teacher-student relations. Such technologies frees up time for teachers that will enable to focus more on the student. 2

Skinner’s theory can be summarized as

Responses that are rewarded are likely to be repeated (Positive reinforcement)

Responses that allow to escape from undesirable situation is repeated (negative reinforcement)

Responses that are not reinforced are not likely to be repeated (Non reinforcement)

Responses that bring an unpleasant situation will be suppressed or not repeated (Punishment) 3

In my own opinion, a word of praise or an encouragement can act as a positive motivating factor. The encouragement can be in the form of a certificate or a coloured sticker/star in the work book to boost the confidence level of an academically disadvantaged student.

Another behaviourist, Edward Thorndike (1874 - 1949) researched on animal behaviour before he could research with human psychology. His theory, Connectionism, stated that learning was the formation of a connection between stimulus and response. His theory mainly consisted of three laws:

The "law of effect" stated that when a connection between a stimulus and response is positively rewarded it will be strengthened and when it is negatively rewarded it will be weakened. Thorndike later revised this "law" when he found that negative reward, (punishment) did not necessarily weaken bonds, and that some seemingly pleasurable consequences do not necessarily motivate performance. 4

"Law of Readiness": a series of responses can be chained together to satisfy some goal which will result in annoyance if blocked, and

"Law of exercise" - connections become strengthened with practice and weakened when practice is discontinued.

He did experiments with animals to prove his theory.His classic example is a cat learning to escape from a "puzzle box" by pressing a lever inside the box. After much trial and error behavior, the cat learns to associate pressing the lever (S) with opening the door (R) 5

 

Thorndike’s principles can be summarized as:

1. Learning requires both practice and rewards (laws of effect /exercise)

2. A series of stimulus-response connections can be chained together if they belong to the same action sequence (law of readiness).

3. Transfer of learning occurs because of previously encountered situations.

4. Intelligence is a function of the number of connections learned.

 

In my personal experience, I have observed that positive consequences always work and help a student to learn. For example, if the child gets better grades due to his learning, he gets motivated to do the work carefully again. So, better grades reinforce careful study.

1 (http://www.funderstanding.com/behaviorism.cfm)

2 (http://my-ecoach.com/idtimeline/behaviorism.html

3(http://www.usask.ca/education/coursework/802papers/mergel/brenda.htm#The%20Basics%20of%20Behaviorism)

4(http://www.usask.ca/education/coursework/802papers/mergel/brenda.htm#The%20Basics%20of%20Behaviorism

5 (http://tip.psychology.org/thorn.html)

Other web sites I referred during my study:

http://www.dean.usma.edu/math/activities/cape/Constructivism/501skinn.htm

http://www.emtech.net/learning_theories.htm

http://carolyn.jlcarroll.net/LearnThists.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_B._Watson

http://www.infed.org/biblio/b-learn.htm

Some sites supporting web quest

http://midsolutions.org/webquest/webquest_index.htm

http://www.internet4classrooms.com/on-line_quest.htm

http://www.harwich.edu/depts/lmcelm/wbqsthow.htm

http://www.exsmo.com/ESHSlibrary/Show-Me%20Webquests.htm (good example for

students)

http://webquest.org/search/ etc.

 

back to commitment to students and students' learning main page

Manoshi Chatterjee