Which learning theory is right?
Ashley Murray nailed it: “As teachers I think that it’s important that we avoid getting caught up in which theory is the BEST theory to use.”
Taking a page out of John Dewey‘s playbook, I feel the need to ‘link sciences’. What is my take on learning theory? Learning as a chaotic, evolving mosaic. I use mosaic in the biological sense, when separate genetics are present together. Substitute genetics for learning theories, and away we go.
Much like evolution as a “theory”, they don’t become theory without reputable and verifiable strategies, experiments, and support. Since so many streams of learning theory hold weight, combining them and treating learning as an evolving and changing process. Let’s allow learning to proceed as a complex science including constructivism, behaviourism, cognitivism, and every other learning theory.
Ultimately, as educators, when we consider our philosophies it comes down to the first two questions Schunk (Learning theories: an educational perspective, 1991) asked:
- How does learning occur?
- What factors influence learning?
Learning occurs through connecting with others who may have different ideas and perspectives than us, through the chaos of diversity. We associate and establish similarities and differences between what we know and seek to learn. We conceptualize and translate texts, tones, and visuals. Everything we learn, builds to the next lesson. Every experience we’ve had, problems we solve, memories we retain, every innate ability and predisposition we have influences how we learn. Reinforcement and punishment influence our perception of how we view it, but even that knowledge and learning is organic and evolves as we reflect. We independently yet dependently learn holistically (physically, socio-emotionally, mentally) and it manifests itself in our society as a mosaic. This particular quote resonated with me and diversity and complexity of learning: “Which theory [or theories] is the most effective in fostering mastery of specific tasks by specific learners?” Adjust and adapt. To lock yourself into one belief of learning theory and deny others seems counter-intuitive, or think it is something clean and linear (like a pyramid). Humanity learns.
Ideally, that’s what my classroom would look like. Does it look like that every day? Maybe not upon initial viewing, but it’s rooted in what I do. And it’s constantly changing.
Do you agree that learning is hard to classify? It’s worth looking at all the different beliefs on learning. Some may have more evidence than others, but as a connectivist would tell you, even the opinions we don’t agree with have relevance and meaning to learning.
– Logan Petlak, lifelong learner.