Learning Philosophy

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

Confucius

This well known quote by Confucius is often referenced in education. Interestingly enough, this quote is deeply engrained in the philosophies of both my school and in my ADL coursework. I found it quite interesting that both of my organizations were so struck by the same quote. I too find myself thinking back to this quote when designing lessons in my classroom. Before there was even a word for it, Confucius defined what we now know today as constructivism. This is the idea that learning is active. The learner is using their own ideas and experiences to build on and create their own learning environment. New ideas are connected to old experiences and this is what helps a student to learn and generate knowledge. As many of you following along know, I have just finished my first year of teaching and have not studied education before starting the year. So I was left with a lot to learn. Without even knowing it, I already had constructivism built into my classroom. In fact, my classroom is almost founded on the ideas of constructivism. I firmly believed that through experience is how we truly learn. In my classroom, I incorperate this idea through hands on experiments, engineering based warm-ups, and project based learning.

Another learning philosophy I implemented into my classroom before I fully understood it was behaviorism. Behaviorism is the idea that can be explained by external factors and behavior can be changed by changing these external factors. Basically, behavior can be influenced by either antecedent consequences or subsequent consequences. Consequences can be either positive or negative meaning they can be a reward or a punishment in order to encourage the behavior you wish to observe. When I first started teaching, behavior was one of my most difficult challenges and honestly one that I did not expect to be as difficult as it was. At the end of my first year, I still have to say behavior and classroom management is the most difficult part of classroom teaching. My school helped teach me classroom management tactics and we even have a school wide house system modeled after the Ron Clark Academy to encourage positive behavior. In order to encourage positive behavior school wide, all teachers are encouraged to praise good behavior more than we point out bad behavior. I notice that when I am asking a class to be quiet, it is much more effective to point out who already is quiet rather than who needs to become quiet. This took a little while for me to get the hang of because it does require a little bit of proactive recognition. Before a class has a chance to get out of control, I will point out the students who are on task or who have done an exceptional job that day. For those students who struggle a little more with behavior due to outside circumstances, I make sure to point out every single thing I see them do that makes me proud even if it is as small as picking up a friend’s fallen pencil. Through many trials and tribulations I have found this method works best for my students and myself. It has also made my classroom a much happier place and a place where students want to hang out in. I encourage positive behaviors through positive feedback and reinforcements.

The last pillar I hold in my classroom is connectivism. This paradigm brings all other learning philosophies together in my mind. Connectivism is the belief that people process information through making connections. George Siemens and Stephen Downes developed this theory as a way to interconnect all other learning philosophies such as behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism so that learning theories were more inclusive and contained less boundaries. Connectivism contains ideas of behavior and constructivism but also includes other learning philosophies so that all ideas are contained in one cohesive philosophy. Whether one philosophy is needed or not, I do like the idea that learning comes from building connection. To me this could mean building human connection, building on connections that you have from previous knoweldge, or making new neuron connections. Connectivism, while it may not cover every learning philosophy, I feel it does a pretty good job of connecting basic principles from other learning philosophies. I believe that making human connections deepens our ability to learn and brings meaning to what it is to be alive. This is why I became a teacher and a large part of what I teach in my classroom aside from math and science. I also feel it encompasses ideas I mentioned in behaviorism and constructivism.

How behaviorism, constructivism, and connectivism align to be effective in my classroom.

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