Sunday, July 23, 2006

we need good learning theories

I'm involved in a conversation with Plunkers on the importance of learning theory, in response to his allow-me-to-over-simplify post. Go there for the full discussion.
I think good behaviourist teachers are good in part because behaviourism is a good learning theory.

Ditto for good constructionist teachers ...

I think there are good aspects to many learning theories - I know a teacher who grouped their class according to Gardner's Multiple Intelligences and did v. interesting lessons

My argument at school is always to accept what good teachers do, learn from it and broaden, diversify, not narrow down. I have learnt a lot from good teachers and am amazed at their skills.

So in that sense I agree with you - good teaching, good relationships are more important than learning theory in the abstract

But I think the problem with the Department is that they dress up curriculum documents which are about controlling teachers, not working with them, in learning theory and then pretend they are doing something useful. eg. SACSA claims to be constructivist but I used constructivism extensively before SACSA and don't recognise it as true constructivist

This is bad theory which is divorced from grass roots practice. It's people in a hierarchy doing the theory for the teachers who do the real work. Part of the assumption here is that teachers are not capable of picking up on their own theory so it has to be done for them. That is what worries me about your comments, it sounds like you could be discounting theory. It's a strong trend for teachers to be grounded in practice, do what works. I understand that and feel that pressure myself but I think it's a limiting outlook ultimately.

I hope your not suggesting that theory itself is not important - good behaviourism, good constructivism, good multiple intelligences is informed and enhanced by good theory.

We need radical change IMO and its v. hard to achieve that with just a pragmatic, empirical approach. We see the world through theories in our head, that have been well established. eg. we look at the horizon and understand that the world is round, we look at stars and understand that they are a v. long way away and fueled by nuclear explosions. I am saying that our everyday perception of things is theory laden. It would be a pity if we couldn't bring that general truth to education because of the confusion wrought by misapplication of theory.

I am hoping to setup a learning theory wiki this term to try to get my head around it more.

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