Theories of teaching and learning and how they impact on the classroom environment Education plays a significant role in supporting and influencing the healthy development of children. However, teaching is more than just knowing what to teach. Professional teachers must also understand how to teach their students. Therefore, in order to create an effective classroom environment which caters for the diversity of students and their various developmental levels and abilities, teachers are urged to apply a variety of teaching and learning theories (Marsh, 2008 Ch12, p163).
Piaget and Vygotsky presented theories on cognitive and social development which suggested that children often construct their own learning. Bronfenbrenner and Pavlov presented theories relating to behaviour and psychosocial development. Professional teaching requires consideration and understanding of both cognitive and behavioural theories in order to create successful learning opportunities. Piaget and Vygotsky shared the view that children actively construct their own learning outcomes (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010, Ch2, p49).
However, they each differed in their concept of how constructivism occurs.
Piaget believed that social interaction and experience with the physical environment creates situations for individuals to experience disequilibrium of existing understanding, (cognitive and sociocognitive conflict). Lack of equilibrium encourages the learner to assimilate and/or accommodate existing mental schemes which ultimately leads to a higher level of cognition (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010, Ch2, pp34-35).
Vygotsky, on the other hand, believed that social interaction, cultural influences, and language (as the most important mediator), are directly responsible for influencing and fostering the construction of knowledge thereby generating cognitive growth (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010 Ch6, p211). Piaget’ theory of intellectual development is based upon the belief that due to biological and physical experiences, qualitative changes occur in children which causes them to progress through a series of developmental stages.
Piaget further theorised that humans learn by arranging similar actions/thoughts into schemes which are integrated into cognitive systems known as operations (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010, Ch6, pp195-197). Disequilibrium (cognitive and sociocognitive conflict) is the process of challenging predefined knowledge of a subject matter with conflicting information by means of social interaction or experimentation with the physical world. Equilibration occurs as the knowledge is redefined through assimilation and accommodation allowing cognition to become more sophisticated.
Vygotsky emphasised that cognitive development was best achieved through social interaction and as result of cultural influences where language is the main contributing factor. His methodology is known as a sociocultural theory and is based upon the premise that “adults in society foster children’s learning and development in an intentional and somewhat systematic manner” (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010, Ch6, p210). Mediated learning experiences such as social interaction and discussion with more knowledgeable persons (such parents or teachers), promotes language and allows the child to construct and expand on understanding and knowledge.
In contrast to Piaget’s approach and rather than focusing on what tasks a child can do on their own, Vygotsky’s theory encourages us to consider a child’s zone of proximal development (ZPD) which is the range of tasks they can do only with the assistance of others (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010, Ch2, p47). Offering assistance through guidance is known as scaffolding. Scaffolding is when a student is guided to complete a challenging tasks, within their ZPD, by a more informed other, (such as a teacher, parents or other more knowledgeable students) which they could not otherwise perform on their own.
Scaffolding challenges students and creates optimal learning opportunities for them to achieve higher level mental processes and therefore increased cognition. Scaffolding can be in the form of open questioning (challenging an idea being discussed thus redirecting student logic and thought processes), prompts and cues (which guides and directs the student) or modelling and demonstration (where the child can observe). However, it is imperative that scaffolding is within the students’ ZPD and must also nclude interactive engagement with the concept of the task being explored (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010, Ch6, p217). Piaget’s theory did not address cultural contextual understandings. However, Vygotsky believed that culture stimulates cognition by providing the context of understanding (Marsh, 2008, Ch3, p24). Customs, habits or symbolic requirements may promote certain cognitive development in one society more than in others.
For example, if timing of cultural behaviours and activities are important in one society, it is likely that children in that society will develop awareness and understanding of time, dates and calendars in advance of children in other societies where timing is of less importance (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010, Ch6, p212). For example, in an Islamic culture being aware of timing is important for performing daily ritual prayers. Therefore, the cognitive ability of learning to read the time may develop somewhat earlier in this society than it would for children from other societies.
Language is central to Vygotsky’s theory since it allows for interaction, explanation and understanding as well as for self regulation and reflection. Whereas Piaget believed that self talk is egocentric speech as being the child’s inability to accept the point of view of others, Vygotsky theorised that private speech is, “self talk that guides thinking and action” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010. Ch2, p46). Vygotsky theorised that private speech promotes cognition through self regulation and remembrance skills.
Whichever theory is applied, Eggen & Kauchak (2010, Ch 2, p52) point out that language development is necessary for cognitive development. Both Piaget’s and Vygotsky’ theories “suggest that teachers limit lecturing and explaining…and move toward learning activities that put students in cognitively active roles” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010, p49). Constructivism promotes discovery and invention of new concepts which are outside of the learners’ existing cognitive understandings.
Lessons in a constructivist classroom should be designed to encourage students to become autonomous and self motivated through active, authentic interaction and discussion with other students such as group activities and debates. All the while, knowledge becomes more abstract as social skills are employed and enhanced through explanation, negotiation, sharing and evaluation of ideas (Clements, & Battista, 1990 38(1), pp34-35). Some tools for learning in a constructivist classroom may include scaffolding by the teacher and other students (with consideration of ZPD), books, internet access, puzzles, fancy dress or musical instruments.
Constructivism can be applied to many teaching strategies to promote their effectiveness. For example debates (to discuss, argue and critique each others’ knowledge), role plays (for authentic learning opportunities), open hypothetical questioning (to explore various prospects and envision alternative solutions), and, experimentation (to explore investigate and manipulate objects and substances). Effective teaching, however, requires more than just understanding how to promote students’ cognitive development. Professional teachers must also understand how and why students behave as they do.
Therefore, knowledge of behavioural theories is important for the creation of effective learning environments. Bronfenbrenner offers the theory that a child’s development is influenced by the environment and those within it. Pavlov suggested that personal development and behaviour is based upon stimuli, positive and negative reinforcement by influential others such as parents and teachers. Psychologists suggest that “free will is illusory, and that all behaviour is determined by the environment either through association or reinforcement” (Culcatta, 2011).
Eggen & Kauchak (2010, Ch3, p62) explain Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory of development which suggests the environment and genetics play a major role in the development of individuals. When concentrating on the environmental influences of this theory, Bronfenbrenner indicates that the most influential are those within an individual’s immediate surroundings, the microsystem. The microsystem includes family, peers, school and communities. McDevitt & Ormrod (2010, Ch1, p16) point out that Bronfenbrenner’s belief that since children spend the majority of time with parents, parenting styles, (interaction and iscipline) play a major role in influencing the personal development of children. McDevitt & Ormrod (2010, Ch1, p16) also state that since children spend such long hours in the care of teachers, a teacher has the opportunity to endorse (or compensate for) the interaction and discipline styles of parents. Based upon Bronfenbrenner’s theory, the teacher therefore, plays a major and significant role in not only contributing to creating a positive cognitive learning environment, but they also play a major and significant role in influencing the behaviours and personal development of children in their care.
Ivan Pavlov was a leading behaviourist theorist who suggested that parents, teachers, peers and others who create learning environments can influence a child’s development by using environmental stimuli to create classical and operant conditioning (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010. Ch6, p164). Classical and operant conditioning is when one learns an emotional response to certain stimuli based upon their individual experience with other non related stimuli. Classical conditioning occurs when one stimuli becomes associated with another non related stimuli by creating a conditioned emotional or physiological response when either stimuli occurs.
The triggered response becomes a conditioned response. Teachers can apply classical conditioning to create an effective learning environment by creating opportunities for children to associate an anxious experience such as public speaking with a more positive, fun experience. For example, by making a game out of standing up and addressing the class with funny short stories which provoke cheers and laughter, the child learns to forget to feel anxious and tense in these situations and instead learns to enjoy the experience of public speaking (Cherry, 2011)
Operant conditioning is centred on responses that can be influenced by consequences or events that are encouraged following certain behaviours. For example, a teacher who praises student responses has in effect shown the students a consequence. Since the consequence is a positive one, students volunteering to respond will likely increase (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010, Ch6, p167). Negative consequences can also be useful learning experiences which influence and shape behaviour. Behaviourists suggest that presenting a positive reinforcer (such as stars for work well done) increases the likelihood of the behaviour being repeated.
Negative reinforcement by removing a negative stimulus, can increase a more desired and positive behaviour. Classical and operant conditioning with positive and negative reinforcements have the capacity to alter behaviour by means of providing positive stimuli, reward and punishment. As such, consistent teaching has the capacity to influence and assist children to acquire positive habits and behaviours (Peterson, 2004. Ch2, p60). Positive and negative reinforcement is critical to shaping and influencing behaviours.
Understanding how a child’s mental cognition develops and how this development can be influenced is only part of the role of professional teachers. Understanding how a child develops personality and behaviours is equally as important. A truly professional teacher will consider all teaching and learning theories and reflect upon the diversity of the students in their care in order to apply the most effective teaching strategy to obtain the most successful learning and effective classroom environment. References Cherry, K. (2011).
Psychology Theories: Introduction to Classical Conditioning. About. com. Retrieved 29th June from http://psychology. about. com/od/behavioralpsychology/a/classcond. htm Clements, D. & Battista, M. (1990). Constructivist learning and teaching: The Arithmetic Teacher. Retrieved from http://edocs. library. curtin. edu. au/eres_display. cgi? url=DC60192192. pdf&copyright=1 Culcatta, R (2011). Teaching and Learning: Educational Psychology: Behaviourism: Behaviourist Learning Theory. Innovative Learning. com. Retrieved 20th June 2011 from http://www. nnovativelearning. com/teaching/behaviorism. html Eggen, P. and Kauchak, D. (2010). Educational Psychology: Windows On Classrooms. (8th Ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc. Marsh, C. (2008). Becoming a teacher (4th Ed). Frenchs Forest: Pearson Education Australia McDevitt, T. & Ormrod, J. (2010). Child development and education. (4th Ed) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc. Peterson, C. (2004). Looking forward through childhood and adolescence: Developmental Psychology. Frenchs Forest: Pearson Education Australia
Cite this Teaching and Learning
Teaching and Learning. (2016, Nov 08). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/teaching-and-learning/