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My Learning Philosophy

Over the years, I have had many functions and roles in education as a learner, teacher, and facilitator of learning or discovery. Each experience motivated me to eventually alter my perceptions and assist in formulating my current learning philosophy. Frankly, I don’t think I can classify myself operating in one specific learning theory genre. However, my approach fluctuates or alters based on the environment, the audience, or the subject matter.



In my formative elementary years in education, the “learning” I experienced was achieved by repetition and reinforcement. The approach exemplified drills, Q&As, guided practice, and some form of social-emotional-physical fortification, whether positive or negative. Thus, for example, you quickly learned to memorize multiplication facts or spelling words for fear of being humiliated in front of others. Whether rewards or punishments, B. F. Skinner’s stimulus-response theory was observable in either case.


Behaviorist Learning is founded upon the ideas of Skinner, whose theory of learning is based on the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning, and our responses to environmental stimuli (rewards or punishments) shape our actions (Cherry, 2021).



As I progressed into secondary school, a more cognitive learning approach directed the “learning” I experienced. The characterization of this approach was often through higher-order questioning, peer-to-peer teaching, or journal/reflective writing, to name a few. Thus, cognitive constructivism theory explains how stimuli influence the process of learning. In other words, information is acquired and then learned as the receiver is engaged in meaningful experiences constructing relevant models or artifacts. As a former math teacher, Jean Piaget’s theory resonated with me significantly in the accommodation of modifying previous knowledge, assimilation of new knowledge, and the balance acquisition of that new knowledge (Wadsworth, 2004). However, when you toss in Lev Vygotsky’s Theory of Social Constructivism, which emphasizes student discovery through social-cultural influences, you described my last years as a classroom teacher (Blake & Pope, 2008).


As a professional learning director, I currently facilitate learning for and disseminate information to adults in education. Jack Mezirow’s Transformative Learning Theory is the next step in the evolution of my learning philosophy process. I have realized this form of learning is critical to the renovation of our Texas education system, its accountability system, and the stability of the future of public education. Why? Transformative Learning involves perceptional changes in what we know and the careful examination of those perspectives while being open to new information, frames of reference, and mindful interpretations.



Mezirow suggests that there are four processes of learning. They are: 1) elaborate an existing point of view, 2) establish a new viewpoint, 3) transform the current viewpoint, and 4) transform the habit of mind (Mezirow, 1997). Of course, these are very uncomfortable positions as adults because they expose us to vulnerability and transparency. But yet, these are perfect conditions to facilitate growth and create a mindset for individual change until the system changes.


In essence, I believe that a learning environment should be a safe, nurturing space that ignites imagination, creativity, and passion. Furthermore, this environment should facilitate the flow and communication of diverse ideas while maintaining an atmosphere of respect and cordialness, thereby encouraging and empowering others to think and act a little more different than before.


References:


Blake, B., & Pope, T. (2008). Developmental Psychology: Incorporating Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s Theories in Classrooms. Journal of Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives in Education, 1(2), 59–67.


Cherry, K. (2021, February 20). Why behaviorism is one of psychology’s most fascinating branches. Verywell Mind. Retrieved November 11, 2021, from https://www.verywellmind.com/behavioral-psychology-4157183.


Drew, C. (2021, July 19). Behaviorism - Skinner’s education learning theory (2021). Helpful Professor. Retrieved November 2021, from https://helpfulprofessor.com/behaviorism/.


Mezirow, J. (1997). Transformative learning: Theory to practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 1997(74), 5–12. https://doi.org/10.1002/ace.7401


Wadsworth, B. J. (2004). Piaget’s theory of cognitive and affective development: Foundations of Constructivism. Longman.

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