Monday, January 18, 2010

Meaningful Learning

What is meaningful learning? We all have are unique ways in which we learn. Howard Gardner defines these unique differences as the multiple intelligences. Some of us learn through movement, while others of us learn through song and music. Some of us enjoy learning together, while others need solitude. Some of us enjoy linguistic activities while others enjoy problem-solving activities. Needless to say, meaningful learning varies from person to person.

In the book, Meaningful Learning With Technology, David Jonassen outlines five principles of meaningful learning: (1) active, (2) constructive, (3) intentional, (4) authentic, and (5) cooperative. According to Jonassen, human beings have a unique need to learn and interact with their environment; therefore, teachers must facilitate this unique need by creating purposeful activities that will allow the learner to observe, manipulate, question, and reflect upon their surroundings. Even though activities must be intentional, Jonassen argues that they also must be authentic and meaningful. Activities are meaningless unless they are relevant and students can apply personal connections to what they are learning. In addition, Jonassen asserts that learning must be cooperative. Every day, human beings are exploiting each other’s knowledge and skills to solve problems and perform tasks. Why should the classroom be any different?

Coming from a constructivist mindset, I couldn’t agree more with Jonassen’s five basic principles of meaningful learning. The constructivist theory asserts that individuals learn through experiences and assimilate this knowledge into their already existing brain framework. Learning by doing is a very popular teaching philosophy that dates back to an ancient Chinese proverb. In fact, Albert Einstein and C.S. Lewis also share the same philosophy :)

Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.
--Chinese Proverb

I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.
--Albert Einstein

Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.

In the book, Models of Teaching, Joyce, Weil & Calhoun, discuss four different types of learning environments and models of teaching: information-processing, social, personal, and behavioral.
The information-processing model highlights the way human beings acquire and organize data and solves problems. The information-processing model includes topics such as inductive thinking, concept attainment, picture-word inductive model, scientific inquiry, mnemonics, synectics, and advance organizers. The social learning model focuses on building a learning community and includes topics such as partners in learning, group investigation, role playing, and jurisprudential inquiry. The personal learning model attempts to shape education so individuals can understand themselves and take responsibility for their education. Topics in personal learning model include nondirective teaching and enhancing self concepts through achievement. The behavioral systems model focuses on topics such as mastery learning through programmed instruction, direct instruction, and learning from self-training.

In my opinion, all four models of teaching are relevant, pertinent, and useful depending on the goals and objectives of the course. Effective teachers know when to incorporate a particular pedagogy into a specific course. In the article, Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge, Mishra & Koehler assert effective teachers must understand technology, content, pedagogy, and knowledge—and know how to use all four skills for instructional purposes. Different subjects require different methods of instruction. For example, a science course would involve the information-processing model to learn and understand the content. On the other hand, the science lab would require the social learning model for instruction.

In order for meaningful learning to occur, the educator must first capture the learner’s attention. Each student responds differently to attention-getting stimuli. For the most part, short stories, humor, thought-provoking quotes, stimulating questions, experiments, puppet shows, music, etc. are just some ways to capture students’ attention. Incorporating technology is another way to grab students’ attention. Using a short clip from a movie to illustrate a concept is a very popular and well-liked by students!

Once you have gain the learner’s attention, then the teacher must encode the information through careful and strategic lesson planning. Brain research indicates that multi-sensory instruction strengthens learner retention. Learners have a higher probability remembering information when they can activate various parts of their brain through an assortment of sensory stimulation. For example, let’s say a science teacher wants his students to label the parts of a cell on a science test. As part of his instruction, he could have the students make a cell using play dough. After that the students could then label each part of the cell by sticking a toothpick with a label. Next the students could draw, color, and label the cell on a piece of paper. Afterward, the students could write an informative paragraph about the functions of each cell part. To spice things up, the students could write and sing a song naming the parts of a cell. These are all multisensory tactics that encode information into the learners’ brain.

Click on this link to see brain stimulation. Please wait a few minutes for the entire website to download.

Joyce, B., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2009) Models of teaching (8th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Jonassen, D., Howland, J., Marra, R., & Crismond, D. (2008). Meaningful learning with technology (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson

1 comment:

  1. Sabrina - Your integration of the readings to date is commendable. I look forward to seeing how you weave the technologies and models of teaching you're exploring into your own classroom.