Learning Defined

One theory cannot describe the complicated phenomenon of learning. My definition of learning is eclectic in nature as I draw on several learning theories, taking parts from each to make a meaningful whole. It has been developed from formal study of learning theories such as constructivism, behaviorism, developmental theory, neuroscience, brain-based learning, learning styles, multiple intelligences, right brain/left brain thinking, and social cognition. I have combined the knowledge gained from the study of these theories with my own experiences as a learner, facilitator and observer of learning.

Key components of my definition of learning:

All of these components are taken into consideration as I facilitate learning in my classroom. I must realistically also take into consideration the expectations of my district and state. Testing and grading are realities that frequently interfere with the process of authentic learning. As educators we are asked to prepare students for the real world, but also prepare them to take multiple choice achievement tests. Parents are accustomed to traditional report cards with letter grades; however, a studentís self-evaluation and reflection statement provide much greater insight into their childís learning and progress.

In my struggle to "resolve confusion," I have discovered ways to facilitate learning while at the same time meeting the expectations of administration and parents. My students are a caring community of learners who work cooperatively to collaborate and support each otherís learning. In a typical unit of study, students spend about one-third of the time acquiring what I refer to as "essential skills." During this time I provide direct instruction that is aligned to state standards and district curriculum objectives, give an overview of the unit, and explain procedures. The remaining two-thirds of the time is spent in the process of application, the creation of a learning product, and the processes of reflection and self-evaluation. Letter grades are generated with the results of multiple-choice tests of essential skills and from scoring guides used to evaluate learning products.

"Biodiversity: Past and Present" is an online unit that I created. This unit addresses numerous district science objectives covering topics such as biomes, animal relationships, habitats, fossils, and diversity of life. It follows the format explained above. After directed instruction and explanation of procedures, students work in cooperative groups and use Internet and print resources to complete a research organizer. Students must then apply the knowledge and information in the creation of board game about one of the Earth's biomes. "Game day" allows students to share their learning products and receive feedback from other students. Before the projects are evaluated by me, students are given time to incorporate suggestions received from other students and are asked to self-evaluate and prepare a written reflection. The test of essential skills is administered at the end of the unit. To help students prepare for the test, the unit includes links to online learning games. These games that stress vocabulary and key concepts are more meaningful after students have applied what they have learned. Facilitating learning in this way has allowed students to be very successful on standardized tests and, more importantly, authentic learning has occurred.

Sources I reviewed before preparing this statement:

Roblyer and Edwards. (2000). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice-Hall.

Jonasssen, Peck, and Wilson. (1999). Learning With Technology: A Constructivist Perspective. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice-Hall.

Website: http://www.funderstanding.com/engaging_kids.cfm. Engaging Kids. June 16, 2001.