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The Theories of Teaching and Learning

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There are several learning theories used in teaching and training institutions.  Teaching and training disciplines are selective in their approach, adoption, distortion and development of the various theories of learning. The common teaching theories are Behavioral, Humanistic, Cognitive, and Androgogy theory.  It is important to consider each of these theories in relation to how students learn. One should also analyze them with respect to the education programs being offered. Learning process causes a permanent change in behavior, which include observable activity and internal processes (Souto, 2009). The internal processes include thinking, attitudes and emotions. In many cases, learning is never manifested in observable behavior until a later date after the completion of the educational program. 

Behavioral theories

This theory arose with the study of stimulus and response. Studies show that through a given stimulus, we can predict the response. In addition, if we have the response then we can as well predict the stimulus (Mastascusa & Snyder, 2011). Behaviorism emphasizes the learning of facts that teachers have determined are important. These theories are associated with an American psychologist called John Watson. Its main ideas are that the skills to be learned are broken down into small units. The assignments given to students should be checked regularly, graded and the feedback supplied to the students in order to encourage them.  The teachers should try as much as possible and focus on the contents being taught. He should avoid going out of context. The main approach of teaching used in this theory is teacher-centered instructions.               

Direct instructions such as lectures, drills, tutorials and demonstrations should dominate learning. Behavioral theories teaches skills which the learner will apply later. For illustration, one learns African history since it is assumed that the knowledge will make him or her better citizen in future. One learns algebra so that he can apply it in his job later. He does not need to put what he is learning in use in a real situation. He will do that later when he gets a job later.  The theory also emphasizes that complex tasks should be broken down. When children are being tough how to read, the task should be subdivided into phonics skills comprising of vowel digraphs, diphthongs and consonant clusters. Literacy skills such as use of comma can be taught separately. The scale and the descriptive intension of behaviorism are often misunderstood. The scale recognizes that person’s abilities must be taken into consideration. The descriptive intension expresses experiments as structured learning for various subjects.

Humanistic theory of learning

Two humanists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow contributed significantly to the humanistic theory as applied in educational environment. The theory is closely related to the Maslow’s model of hierarchy of needs. The hierarchy of needs are ‘’physiological, safety, sense of belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization’’ (Brookfield, 2004). Maslow argues that individuals are motivated to learn so that they can satisfy their hierarchical needs.  Moreover, the satisfaction of these needs enables physical, mental, psychological development of children. This calls for teacher’s creation of supportive and nurturing environment so that children learn successfully. Inclusion of exploration, experimentation and individual experiences will enable the children students to have the freedom to learn. The teachers should also be empathetically understanding towards the students to respond to their concerns sensitively. Maslow and Rogers illustrated the importance of acknowledging the needs of individual children with different learning styles. Despite the weakness or strength of the students, unconditional positive attitude towards them enable them to have psychological freedom. This will enable each student to demonstrate creativity hence be able to realize his or her potential. Teachers should be more observant to eliminate environmental obstacles, which can prevent children from engaging in self-initiated activities such as exploring and experiments. The students should be empowered to take control of their learning process. Instead of the teacher taking a position of authority, he should be a facilitator of the learning process.

Andragogy theory

Malcolm Knowles introduced Andragogy theory, which is also known as adult learning. He argued that adults believe and behave in adult ways. Therefore, they should be special way of teaching them (Bender, 2003). For illustration, adults are experienced in several things and bring this knowledge in the learning environment. Educators should use this as a resource. They have an elevated degree of authority on what they expect to learn and already have a predetermined opinion on how they should be taught. They are active in the learning environment than children; hence, this should be encouraged especially in designing educational programs. Most adults would also like to observe the implication of his or her new learning. The educator should understand that adults have a greater influence on how their assignments should be evaluated and responses to be provided fast. The fact that adults are self-motivated lies at the centre of andragogy. This theory is therefore student friendly and problem oriented. Most of what is learned is experience based hence the spirit of collaboration is necessary for success.

The adult educator should take into consideration the definitive view and behavior of the adults. This is because their concept of life varies with respect to their culture. The question of maturity should also be considered in adult education. Authors believe that at a children around the same age are at the same level of development. This is not true with adults. There is a great variation in terms of knowledge and development of adults. Therefore, adults should not be treated as belonging to the same level of development.  The approach of adults towards education varies depending on their emotions. Some adults may approach it with high feeling of self –efficacy while some may not. For illustration, if two adults were about to sit an examination, one may interpret the exercise such that it give him a feeling g of excitement while another may not. The other one may interpret it and have a feeling of embarrassment. It is true that the way adults interpret a situation and the feelings that arise thereafter will significantly affect their actions. Feelings such as fear and anxiety can lead learner develop feelings of discomfort towards the learning experience. On the other hand, feelings of excitement and challenge can create more focus towards learning. Thus, the teacher should think of Inclusion of activities that creates interest for all adults in a learning process. 

Constructivist Learning Theory

Constructivist Learning Theory refers to the idea that each learner individually constructs knowledge for himself or for herself as learning proceeds. There is nothing new about constructivist except the widespread acceptance of its core ideas by educators. There are two different ways of looking at this. The first one is that knowledge is related to the meaning attributed to it by the learner through experience. Experience shows that the learner or the community of learners constructed meaning as they become more familiar with the subject. This may appear radical particularly on everyday level, but the idea is as old as epistemology itself (Martin, 2007). If for instance one chooses to follow the ideas of constructivists’ theory, then he has to drop realistic views of epistemology. This calls for the realization that there is no knowledge independent of the ‘’knower’’ except that which he constructs independently as he learns. This implies that learning process is neither the understanding of the true nature ideas nor the ability to remember ides, but the personal construction of meaning which the learner fabricates for himself. The learner should be our focus instead of the subjects or lessons taught.

In my teaching session in practice about hand washing, application of Humanistic theory of learning assisted students to lean the exercise successfully. First, I assumed that the students have a desire to know how to wash their hand in the right manner. This is because I understood that each one of them is motivated to learn so that he can satisfy his or her hierarchal needs. Children have the natural tendency and desire to know physical and mental activities. Therefore my first challenge was how to create a supportive environment to enable them learn successfully. I began by ensuring that each one of them understands the importance of the exercise. I included an experiment to show them how germs spread. I pretended to sneeze in my hands, and then shake the children hands. That is a demonstration of how germs spread. 

I provided adequate proportion of warm water, a cleanser and soap. After this demonstration, I went ahead and explained the correct hand washing procedure.   I also showed them that germs might still be present if the hands are not washed correctly. I noted a few students who were unable to wash their hands properly so I had to take my time and assist each one of them. Obstacles such as spilled water on the ground that a child can easily skid on were wiped away immediately. Within the third trial, nearly all the children were washing their hands correctly. By the end of the learning session, I was just an observer who was correcting minor details here and there. Instead of taking the position of the sole authority teaching each one of the children, I was just facilitating the learning process.  

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