About Teresa

Teresa Cooper is a 30-something divorced mom and teacher from North Carolina. She has a Masters of Science in Education for Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment from Walden University and a BA in Psychology with a minor in Creative from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Having struggled with anxiety and depression most of her life and later having birthed a child with autism, she is passionate about spreading awareness and acceptance of mental illness and autism. After 13 years in education, she has a wealth of knowledge to share on education and bonding with children.

According to Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs, “curriculum making is choice making” and a person who designs curriculum well not only has a variety of styles, but responds well to the environment, stays up-to-date on research, and makes choices based on good information (Laureate Education, 2010.). As the field of education changes so frequently with regards to theories, there are multiple learning theories that could be utilized to explain the best methods for teaching and learning, but only a few that are based on the most current research. A recent study of learning theories led me to a discovery of past and current research on learning and its implications for teaching today.

A Framework for Teaching

Eight years ago, when I first began teaching, the most commonly used resource for lesson planning with Bloom’s Taxonomy. With Bloom’s Taxonomy, in its classic form, the learner would rise through six levels of learning, beginning with knowledge and ending on evaluation. Several verbs would indicate what level of learning the students would experience that day, but the gist of the theory was that a person would start with knowledge and rise through the ranks only after demonstrating an ability to retrieve the information taught before (Wilson, 2013). However, this approach, which comes from a behaviorist standpoint, is outdated since lower level learners often have difficulties recalling facts but may do better once given the opportunity to apply knowledge (Laureate Education, 2010). A student with learning difficulties may never get off of the ground level if not given an opportunity to experience all the other levels.

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Experiential Learning

In my current teaching practice, the idea that learner interest matters more than anything is the concept that matters most. Indeed, getting a student to really care about the learning material and personally identify with it helps build a foundation for learning (Laureate Education, 2010). Providing opportunities for hands-on learning seems to mean a whole lot to students, and, according to Carl Rogers’s theory, experiential learning is more significant, as it leads to “personal change and growth” (Instructional Design, 2015). According to this theory, learning happens most when the student has more participation in the learning process, when the learning is based mostly on practical life problems, and when the learner engages in self-evaluation as a way to measure success.

Experiential Theory and Bloom’s Taxonomy At Work

In my current classroom setting, both experiential learning and a revised Bloom’s Taxonomy can be seen at work. Students do not just learn experientially in the classroom, but rather need information presented to them so that they can then act upon this information. For instance, when learning about inequalities, how to graph them, and how to solve them, the students may first need to remember what an inequality is and then demonstrate an understanding of how an inequality is like and unlike an equation prior to even applying this knowledge toward graphing and solving inequalities. However, if students are to truly connect with inequalities, they may need to illustrate or create a product that helps them not only conceptualize what they are learning but report this learning back to their classmates. The evaluate and analyze stages of the Bloom’s Taxonomy may be seen at work when students make judgments about what situations make a “less than or equal to” versus a “greater than or equal to” and make comparisons between these situations. The students’ connections to the real world when it comes to math concepts is extremely important and a huge part of the experiential learning piece, as they need to become fully involved in the experience of learning.

The Importance of Theories of Learning

As Wiggins states in his chapter on the job of teaching, a teacher should define his or her job in terms of what the teacher is “supposed to accomplish” (Marzano, 2010, p. 9). In order to cause successful learning in the classroom, teachers must plan intentionally for units and lessons in order to accomplish a set of goals (Marzano). Without theories to guide the practice of teaching, the task of setting goals and then following through with a plan becomes more difficult to achieve. Without theories, past and present, the framework of teaching and learning becomes more abstract and less difficult to grasp. While teachers may all have different styles of teaching, knowing whether or not these styles fall in line with current research and best practices, which theories are often based off of, is extremely important. Through my learning of these theories, the discovery of how and why these theories are put into practice has certainly helped inform future lesson plans and will shape curriculum design in new and exciting ways, as students will travel right past the stage of remembering and into creating meaningful products to demonstrate true understanding of the material.

References

Instructional Design (2015). Experiential learning (Carl Rogers). Retrieved from http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/experiental-learning.html

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Overview of curriculum design [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Teaching and learning [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Research on learning [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Marzano, R. J. (Ed.). (2010). On excellence in teaching. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Wilson, L. O. (2013). Anderson and Krathwohl – Bloom’s taxonomy revised. Retrieved from http://www4.uwsp.edu/education/lwilson/curric/newtaxonomy.htm

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