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An Emerging Personal Learning Theory

As I have studied the foundational and emerging theories regarding educational theory, from cognitivism to student-centered or discovery learning, I am reminded of how learning can model a road map. There are a myriad of routes to a particular destination, some direct and efficient, some take the scenic route, and some are destined for a dead-end. In my survey of learning theories, I can see the likeness of some of the teaching methods outlined by these theories as falling in the previous categories. Discovery-based and constructivist learning environments, that rely upon the uninhibited exploration by students in the hopes that knowledge will be self-discovered, seems to take the scenic route to student achievement. This type of environment can be risky because it relys upon the student’s ability to discover the knowledge needed to demonstrate success. As discussed by Kirschner et al (2006), learning is based upon the ability of the student to make connections between prior knowledge and the new experience. Therefore, student-centered learning environments may be best suited to adult learners rather than young students, as adults have a greater frame of reference by which to draw. Constructivist learning environments require a structured experience so that students can construct from their experiences the required knowledge or skills (Land and Hannafin, 2000). Additionally, the concept of creating a community of practice within the learning environment takes a scenic approach to learning. Through the development of skills that apply knowledge acquired by students, the students increase their mastery (Barab and Duffy 2000). Educational environments that emphasize the development of student-centered communities of learning, in which mentorship is encouraged, can reinforce the importance of knowledge in its application. While these theories tend to address the ability of students to apply knowledge and skills, I am still left wondering…what is the best way to acquire the knowledge in the first place?

Barab, S., & Duffy, T. (2000). From Practice Fields to Communites of Practice. In D. Jonassen, & S. Land (Eds.), Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments (pp. 25-55). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Jonassen, D. and Land, S. (2000). Theoretical foundations of learning environments. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. E. (2006). Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based experiential and inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75-86.


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