It was not until I was asked to create my learning manifesto that I had ever really stopped to consider what I believed about teaching and learning. In my learning manifesto, I focused on how I was raised, what I was passionate about, why I do things the way I do at work and in life.
I am most passionate about 3 things – technology, learning/problem-solving and building relationships. My undergraduate degree is in psychology because I have always had a deep interest in understanding why people act, react and make the choices they do. I choose adult education because I have a true desire to know, understand, support and connect with my peers. Prior to Covid, I would spend one day a week at a different campus just to observe, assist and witness the various teaching and learning styles and technology levels of my teachers. I learned how to tweak my presentations and training to best impact my adult students. My elementary level staff love the icebreaker games, bright colorful visuals and lots of stimulation. My high school staff members, on the other hand, do not want any fluff – just tell them what they need to know and why they should care. Building, growing and maintaining relationships is very important to me and I realize it impacts how I facilitate my learning environment.
I have always loved school and still love to learn new things. I did not so much enjoy the memorization part of school, but I was good at note-taking, finding what was “testable” within the materials and mastering test-taking skills. The learning was not deep or lasting, but I was a 4.0 student and that truly impacted what I felt was my value as a person and employee. It was not until I was in my undergraduate college years that I realized that I could choose what interested me – I took every single psychology class and I always went beyond the class expectations by digging deeper into those areas that piqued my interest.
I now realize that I have always been in a position where I excel in working with people, using my psychology background to impact and resolve conflict and issues whether it is within the instructional technology umbrella, human resource staff conflicts or brainstorming how to address gaps and special needs for students. I am currently in the process of training for a new position and am not learning by just watching the woman I am replacing. I am constantly asking questions, wanting to do it myself, attempting to understand how one thing impacts another. I am an inquiry-based learner! The visuals are valuable, the manuals and written instructions appreciated, but I am learning what to do because I am attempting to understand how this new position impacts instruction, finance, accountability and personnel. I am connecting the dots so the new job duties and outcomes have meaning and motivation to me.
My learning style also impacts my teaching style as I use storytelling, entertainment, leading open-ended questions and modeling to assist my learners in finding their personal context to the information being presented. My hope is that they will find the value for themselves and be more apt to implement the information given to benefit their classroom or personal environment. My third passion is instructional technology. I love how it simplifies daily tasks and streamlines specific duties. I love how it continues to morph and change (my job is never BORING or monotonous)! But I especially love to see how its implementation improves the learning process for teachers and students. It is not a replacement for teachers but rather enhances the learning environment by allowing better access to information, more opportunities for collaboration and better options for the needs of diverse learners. And I am thankful to work in a unique position in public education where I can focus on all three passions with my learners no matter their age or position.
So now that I have established my personal learning theory, I set out to build my learning philosophy where I incorporate my beliefs about myself as a learner and incorporate a learning theory that accounts for the present culture and education environment. I believe that instead of teachers lecturing, standardized testing, memorization and worksheets (Behaviorism), I emphasize and model that educators should allow for opportunities where students collaborate and create learning experiences that are authentic and engaging knowing that each student will process the knowledge in their own unique way. Studying about the learning theories has been fascinating as I can see where each one has impacted me in my years in education.
I, of course, was a product of Behaviorism where learning and “teaching is about making certain consequences (like praise or marks) depend on students’ engaging in certain activities (like reading certain material or doing assignments)” (Major Theories and Models of Learning | Educational Psychology, 2009, para. 9). In my early years in education, I followed this same rewards and punishment process only because it was all I knew and all I experienced. This theory worked so poorly for me (and the majority of teachers) especially in terms of classroom discipline and management as the focus was not on any mental processes – just measurable results. I can recall the strong push then to Cognitivism where the approach “to learning, with a focus on comprehension, abstraction, analysis, synthesis, generalization, evaluation, decision-making and creative thinking…which have increased the understanding of how students process and make sense of new information” (Online Learning and Distance Education Services, 2014, para. Cognitivism).
However, in light of my masters program and the amount of research and real-world application that I have experienced first-hand over the past 6+ months, I am definitely moving towards the Constructivism Learning Theory beliefs. Tony Bates highlights that Constructivism is based upon learners having unique and personal learning experiences within the world we live in that is constantly changing and evolving. Therefore, Constructivists argue that learners strive to “create order in their minds out of disorder, to resolve incongruities, and to reconcile external realities with prior experience….through personal reflection, seeking new information, and testing ideasthrough social contact with others, hypothesis and assumptions” (Online Learning and Distance Education Services, 2014, Constructivism section). I, too, believe that learning is an active process of “constructing”. I use what I see and what I have experienced to solve problems or correct anything that seems out of order. This is my analytical and inquiry-based way of thinking. Key contributors of Constructivism like Jean Piaget, John Dewey, Jerome Bruner, George Siemens, Lev Vygotsky and Albert Bandura emphasize that knowledge is indeed constructed, learning is active and social as well as contextual and personal. I realized that students need to be actively engaged in what they are doing in order to find meaningful connections and learn. The video Use a Learning Theory: Constructivism states that, “learning is more meaningful to the students when they are able to interact with a problem or concept” (BlueSofaMedia, 2012, video 1:05). This requires teachers to make students have a more active role in their learning.
My email signature has included a quote for this entire school year by Albert Einstein that states “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new”. Without even realizing it, I have been learning and making improvements from my many mistakes over the years. I have unfortunately not recognized this fact nor given the same opportunity to fail forward to my learners. It is in that safe environment as well as utilizing what I have learned first hand under the Constructivism theory that I am going to conduct my innovation plan – Falcon STS . Falcons STS will be an elective course offered at the middle school where students will be in charge of their own learning, responding to and seeking out real-world technology challenges, addressing them and creating resolutions and resources for those challenges. Falcon STS Students will be problem-solving and creating, curating, and organizing information with real emphasis on providing customer service. The students will go beyond just “fixing” things but rather to make more of a connection of how technology supports learning. The Falcons STS students will work collaboratively tocreate digital resources to address future occurrences of the same problem to be shared with staff electronically. Students will gain real-world, hands-on technology experience they need to succeed in college or the workplace. I will be able to live out my learning philosophy within the Falcon STS course, facilitating the class, navigating and adjusting right alongside my students. I believe I have morphed into the current theory of constructivism as I am of the opinion that learning can and should be fun where students are active participants. Students must agree to take responsibility for their learning in order to engage and teachers must be willing to be engaged as well. Students who are actively involved, thinking and questioning, where learning is social and personal and contextual is what I strive for in my classroom and with my adult learners.
In conclusion, I believe learning philosophies and teaching philosophies are constantly changing as society and education is changing. Both learning and teaching are ever-evolving, lifelong processes that are unique to each person. It is important that learners know how and why they learn, teachers know how and why they teach, and learners and teachers work together to create significant learning environments in order to fully and deeply stir curiosity, spark creativity, provide authenticity, to fully engage and develop lifelong learners.
Cummings, C., Harapnuik, D., & Thibodeaux, T. (2017). Using the cova approach to promote active learning in digital learning environments. In Handbook of research on digital content, mobile learning, and technology integration models in teacher education (pp. 22–44). IGI Global. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-5225-2953-8.ch002