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Essay: Reflective essay on use of learning theories in the classroom

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  • Published: 7 July 2022*
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Over recent years teaching theories have been more common in the class room, all in the hope of supporting students and been able to further their knowledge by understanding their abilities and what they need to develop. As a teacher it is important to embed teaching and learning theories in the class room, therefore as teachers we can teach the students to their individual needs.

Throughout my research I will be looking in to the key differences of two different theories by comparing two theories used in class rooms today. I will also be critically analysing what the role of the teacher is in the life-long learning sector, by analysing the professional and legislative frameworks, as well as looking for a deeper understanding into classroom management, and why it is used and how to manage different class room environments, such as managing inclusion and how it is supported throughout different methods.

Overall, I will be linking this to my own teaching, at A Mind Apart (A Mind Apart, 2019). Furthermore, I will have the ability to understand about interaction within the classroom and why communication between fellow teachers and students is important.

The role of the teacher is known for been the forefront of knowledge. Therefore, this suggest that the role of the teacher is to pass their knowledge on to their students, known as a ‘chalk and talk’ approach, although this approach is outdated and there are various ways we now teach in the classroom. Walker believes that, ‘the modern teacher is facilitator: a person who assists students to learn for themselves’ (Reece & Walker 2002) I for one cannot say I fully believe in this approach, as all students have individual learning needs, and some may need more help than others. As the teacher, it is important to know the full capability of your learners, therefore lessons can be structure to the learner’s need. It is important for the lessons to involve active learning and discussions, these will help keep the students engaged and motivated during class. Furthermore, it is important to not only know what you want the students the be learning, but it is just as important that you know as the teacher, what you are teaching; it is important to be prepared and be fully involved in your own lesson, before you go in to any class, as a teacher I make my students my priority, therefore, I leave any personal issues outside the door so I am able to give my students the best learning environment they could possibly have; not only is it important to do this but keep updated on your subject specialism, I always double check my knowledge of my subject regularly, I find following this structure my lesson will normally run at a smooth pace.

Taking in to consideration the students I teach are vulnerable there may be minor interruptions. It is not only important that you as the teacher leave your issues at the door, but to make sure the room is free from distractions, most young adults have a lot of situations which are they find hard to deal with, which means you as the teacher are not only there to educate but to make the environment safe and relaxing for your students to enjoy learning. As teachers we not only have the responsibility of making sure the teaching takes place, but we also have the responsibilities of exams, qualifications and Ofsted; and as a teacher in the life-long learning sector it is also vital that you evaluate not only your learner’s knowledge, but you evaluate yourself as a teacher, therefore, you are able to improve your teaching strategies and keep up to date.

When assessing yourself and your students it is important not to wait until the end of a term to do this and evaluate throughout the whole term. Small assessments are a good way of doing this, it doesn’t always have to be a paper examination, you can equally you can do a quiz, ask questions, use various fun games, or even use online games such as Kahoot to help your students regain their knowledge. This will not only help you as a teacher understand your students’ abilities, but it will also help your students know what they need to work on for next term.

Alongside the already listed roles and responsibilities of being a teacher in the life-long learning sector, Ann gravels explains that,

‘Your main role as a teacher should be to teach your students in a way that actively involves and engages your students during every session’ (Gravells, 2011, p.9.)

Gravels passion is solely based on helping new teachers, gain the knowledge and information they need to become successful in the lifelong learning sector. Gravels’ has achieved this by writing various text books on the lifelong learning sector. Gravels’ states in her book ‘Preparing to teach in the lifelong learning sector’, (Gravells, 2011) the importance of the 13 legislation acts. Although I find each of them equally important as each other, I am going to mention the ones I am most likely to use during my teacher training with A Mind Apart.

  • Safeguarding vulnerable groups act (2006) – Working with young vulnerable adults, I find this act is the one I am most likely to use during my time with A Mind Apart. In summary, the Act explains the following: ‘The ISA will make all decisions about who should be barred from working with children and vulnerable adults.’ (Southglos.gov.uk, 2019)
  • The Equality act (2010) – As I will be working with different sex, race and disabilities in any teaching job which I encounter, I believe The Equality act (2010) is fundamental to mention. The Equality act 2010 covers discrimination under one legalisation.
  • Code of professional practice (2008) – This act covers all aspects of the activities we as teachers in the lifelong learning sector may encounter. Based around seven behaviours which are: Professional practice, professional integrity, respect, reasonable care, criminal offence disclosure, and reasonability during institute investigations.

(Gravells, 2011)

Although, all acts are equally important, those are the few acts I would find myself using regularly. I have listed the others below:

  • Children act (2004)
  • Copyright designs and patents act (1988)
  • Data protection act (1998)
  • Education and skills act (2008)
  • Freedom of information act (2000)
  • Health and safety at work act (1974)
  • Human rights act (1998)
  • Protection of children act (POCA) (1999)
  • The Further education teachers’ qualification regulations (2007)

(Gravells, 2011)

Teaching theories are much more common in classrooms today, however there are three main teaching theories which us as teachers are known for using in the classroom daily. Experiments show that we find the following theories work the best: behaviourism, cognitive constructivist, and social constructivist, taking these theories into consideration I will look at comparing skinners behaviourist theory and taking a look at Maslow (1987) ‘Hierarchy Of Needs’ which was introduced in 1954, and how I could use these theories in my teaching as a drama teacher in the life-long learning sector.

Firstly, looking in to behaviourism is mostly described as the teacher questioning and the student responds the way you want them to. Behaviourism is a theory, which in a way can take control of how the student acts/behaves, if used to its full advantage. Keith Pritchard (Language and Learning, 2019) describes behaviourism as ‘A theory of learning focusing on observable behaviours and discounting any mental activity. Learning is defined simply as the acquisition of a new behaviour.’ (E-Learning and the Science of Instruction, 2019).

An example of how behaviourism works, is best demonstrated through the work of Ivan Pavlov (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2019) Pavlov was a physiologist during the start of the twentieth century and used a method called ‘conditioning’, (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2019) which is a lot like the behaviourism theory. During Pavlov’s experiment, he ‘conditioned’ the dogs to make them salivate when they heard a bell ring, as soon as the dogs hear the bell, they associate it with getting fed. As a result of this the dogs were behaving exactly how Pavlov wanted them to behave, therefore they had successfully been ‘conditioned’. (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2019)

During Pavlov’s conditioning experiment there are four main stages in the process of classical conditioning, these include,

  • Acquisition, which is the initial learning;
  • Extinction, meaning the dogs in Pavlov’s experiment may not respond, if no food is presented to them;
  • Generalisation, after learning a response, the dog may now respond to other stimuli, with no further training. For example: if a child falls off a bike, a injures their self, they may be frightened to get back on to the bike again. And lastly,
  • Discrimination, which is the opposite of generalisation, for example the dog will not respond in the same way to another stimulus as they did the first one.

Pritchard states ‘It Involves reinforcing a behaviour by rewarding it’ which is what Pavlov’s dog experiment does. Although rewarding behaviour can be good, it can also be negative, such as bad behaviour can be discouraged by punishment. The key aspects of conditioning are as follows: Reinforcement, Positive reinforcement, Negative reinforcement, and shaping. (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2019)

Behaviourism is one of the learning theories I use in my teaching today, working at A Mind Apart, (A Mind Apart, 2019) I work with challenging young people. The A Mind Apart organisation, a performing arts foundation especially targeted at vulnerable and challenging young people, to help better their lives; hence, on the off chance that I use the behaviourism theory it will admirably inspire the students to do better. Using behaviourism with respect to the standard of improvement and reaction, behaviourism is driven by the teacher and is responsible for how the student will carry on and how it is finished. This theory came around in the early twentieth century and concentrated how individuals behave; with respect to the work I do at A Mind Apart, as a trainee performing arts teacher, I can identify with behaviourism limitlessly, every Thursday, when my 2 hour class is finished, I at that point take 5 minutes out of my lesson to award a ‘Star of the week’ It is an incredible method to urge students to carry on the way they have been, if behaving and influence them to endeavour towards something ion the future. Furthermore, I have discovered that this theory can function admirably in any expert subject and not just performing arts. The behaviourism theory is straightforward as it depends just on detectable conduct and portrays a few widespread laws of conduct. It’s positive and negative support strategies can be extremely effective. The students who we teach in general at A Mind Apart, are destined to come to us with emotional well-being issues, which is the reason most of the time these students find that it is hard to focus, or even learn in a school environment; we are there to give a comprehensive learning environment and utilize the time we have with them, so they can move forward at their own pace and take a leap at their scholarly aptitudes and socialising in the future when they leave us, to move on to college or even jobs, our work with them will also help them meet new individuals, and gain new useful knowledge by using behaviourism teaching theory. Despite the fact some of them may struggle with obstacles during their lives; although it is not always easy to manipulate someone in to thinking or behaving the way you do or want them to, with time, and persistence I have found that this theory can work. It is known that…

‘Positive reinforcement or rewards can include verbal feedback such as ‘That’s great, you’ve produced that document without any errors’ or ‘You’re certainly getting on well with that task’ through to more tangible rewards such as a certificate at the end’… (Information List of topics Assessment Becoming a teacher Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Embedding maths et al., 2019)

Gagne (Mindtools.com, 2019) was an American educational psychologist best known for his nine levels of learning; Regarding Gagne’s nine levels of learning, (Mindtools.com, 2019) I have done something in depth research, in just a couple of his nine levels of learning therefore I will be able to understand the levels and how his theory link to behaviourism.

  1. Create an attention-grabbing introduction.
  2. Inform learner about the objectives.
  3. Stimulate recall of prior knowledge.
  4. Create goal-centred eLearning content.
  5. Provide online guidance.
  6. Practice makes perfect.
  7. Offer timely feedback.
  8. Assess early and often.
  9. Enhance transfer of knowledge by tying it into real world situations and applications.

(Mindtools.com, 2019)

Informing the learner of the objectives, is the one level I can relate to the most during my lessons, I find it important in many ways why you as the teacher, should let your students know what they are going to be learning during that specific lesson. This will help them have a better understanding throughout the lesson, as even more engage them from the very start. Linking it to behaviourism during my lessons, I tell my students what I want from them that lesson, and what I expect them, with their individual needs, to be learning or have learnt by the end of lesson. If I believe learning has taking place during my lesson, I will reward them with a game of their choice at the end of the lesson. In their mind they understand they must do as they are asked by the teacher, or the reward to play a game at the end of lesson, will be forfeited. As studies show, during Pavlov’s (E-Learning and the Science of Instruction, 2019) dog experiment that this theory does work, it can take a lot of work. I have built a great relationship with my students, and most of the time they are willing to work to the best of their ability.

Although Skinners’ (E-Learning and the Science of Instruction, 2019) behaviourist theory is based around manipulation, Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy Of Needs’ (Very well Mind, 2019) believes that behaviour and the way people act is based upon childhood events, therefore it is not always easy to manipulate in to the way you think, as they may have had a completely different upbringing, which will determine how they act. Maslow (Very well Mind, 2019) feels, if you remove the obstacles that stop the person from achieving, then they will have a better chance to achieve their goals; Maslow argues that there are five different needs which must be met in order to achieve this. The highest level of needs is self-actualisation which means the person must take full reasonability for their self, Maslow believes that people can go through to the highest levels, if they are in an education which can produce growth. Below is the table of Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of needs’ (Very well Mind, 2019)

(Information List of topics Assessment Becoming a teacher Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Embedding maths et al., 2019)

In an explanation the table lets you know your learners needs throughout different levels, during their time in your learning environment, all learners may be at different levels, but should be able to progress on to the next one when they feel comfortable to do so. There may be knockbacks which your learners as individuals will face, but is the needs that will motivate the learning, although you may find that not all learners want to progress through the levels of learning at that moment in time, for example, if your learner if happy with the progress they have achieved so far and are content with life, they may find they want to stay at that certain level.

It is important to use the levels to encourage your learners by working up the table.

Stage 1 of the table is the physiological need – are your learners comfortable in the environment you are providing, are they hungry or thirsty? Your learners may even be tired; taking all these factors in to consideration, these may stop learning taking place. Therefore, it is important to meet all your learners’ physiological needs.

Moving up the table to safety and security – make your learners feel safe in an environment where they can relax, feel at ease. Are your learners worried about anything in particular? If so, can you help them overcome their worries.

Recognition – do your learners feel like they are part of the group? It is important to help those who don’t feel that they are part of the group bond with others. Help your learners belong and make them feel welcome. One recognition is in place your learners will then start to build their self-esteem, are they learning something useful, although your subject specialism may be second to none, it is important that your passion and drive shines through your teaching; overall this will result in the highest level: Self actualisation, are your learners achieving what they want to do? Make the sessions interesting and your learners will remember more about the subject in question. (Very well Mind, 2019)

Furthermore, classroom management comes in to force with any learning theory you use whilst teaching. Classroom management is made up of various techniques and skills that we as teacher utilize. Most of today’s classroom management systems are highly effective as they increase student success. As I am now a trainee teacher, I understand that classroom management can be difficult at times, therefore I am always researching different methods on how to manage my class. Although I don’t believe entirely that this comes from just methods, but if your pupils respect you as a teacher, and they understand what you expect of them whilst in your class, you should be able to manage the class fine; relating this with my placement at A Mind Apart, my students know what I expect of them and from that my classroom management is normally good…following this there are a few classroom management techniques I tend to follow:

  • Demonstrating the behaviour, you want to see – eye contact whilst talking, phones away in bags/coats, listen when been spoken to and be respectful of each other, these are all good codes of conduct to follow, and they are my main rules whilst in the classroom.
  • Celebrating hard work or achievements – When I think a student has done well, we as a group will celebrate their achievement, whether It be in education or out, a celebration always helps with classroom management.
  • Make your session engaging and motivating – This is something all us trainee teachers find difficult within our first year, as I have found out personally from the first couple of months, I have learnt to get to know your learners, understand what they like to do, and what activity’s keep them engaged.
  • Build strong relationships – I believe having a good relationship with your students is one of the key factors to managing a class room. It is important to build trust with your students, make them feel safe and let them know they are in a friendly environment.

When it comes to been in a classroom environment, not all students will adhere to this, therefore they may require a difference kind of structure to feel included. A key example of this is students with physical disabilities, you may need to adjust the tables or even move them out the way, you could also adjust the seating so a student may be able to see more clearly if they have hearing problems maybe write more down on the board, or even give them a sheet at the start of the lesson, which lets them know what you will be discussing and any further information they may need to know, not only do you need to take physical disabilities in to consideration but it is also important to cater for those who have behavioural problems, it is important to adjust the space to make your students feel safe whilst in your lesson.

Managing your class also means that sometimes you may have to adjust your teaching methods to suit all in your class and understand that it is important to incorporate cultural values. Whilst in the classroom, or even giving out home work you may need to take in to consideration that some students, especially those with learning difficulties, may take longer to do work, or even need additional help.

Conclusion

Research has given me a new insight into how many learning theories, teaching strategies and classroom management strategies there are, there are books and websites which help you achieve all the things you need to be able to do in your classroom. Looking back over this essay I looked in to the two learning theories that I am most likely to use.

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