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The learning process

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Theories, principles and models in education and training Human beings are born with the ability to learn; it is when that gives humans the style of learning we acquire can evolve throughout life. Other factors that I believe can contribute to learning maybe social and/ environmental, which again at any given time in our lives can certainly accelerates or hinder our own learning process. American Dr. Howard Gardener, born in July 1943 a developmental psychologist developed the theory of multiple intelligence in 1983.

As a professor of education at Harvard University, Gardner suggests that traditional ways of testing for intelligence may be biased to certain types of individuals. The concept of measuring intelligence by I. Q. testing is far too restricted. ‘’Furthermore, I am equally suspicious of claims to test intelligence by means of reaction-time measures or brain waves. That these measures may well correlate with IQs, from my perspective, all the more reason for calling IQs into question. ” His theory showed that people are born with eight different types of intelligence;

Linguistic intelligence – The use of language can be seen in the ability to read, write, or talk to others. This intelligence of language is highly valued in every aspect of life. A primary focus in the early years of elementary school is literacy development, which demonstrates linguistic intelligence. Storytelling is a teaching strategy that allows the teacher to weave in concepts, details, or goals that are appropriate to the children. Storytelling has been used for centuries and in many cultures as a medium to share knowledge. Logical-mathematical intelligence – This refers to logic and mathematical ability.

The ability to use numbers, understand patterns, and exhibit reason is the key characteristics of logical-mathematical intelligence. Certainly, mathematical learning is valued, as evidenced in school curriculum. Categorization, for instance, is a teaching strategy that is developmentally appropriate for young children and supports logical learning. Children as young as 3 and 4 years old enjoy sorting materials according to categories, some that they create and others created by those around them. A 4-year-old might sort items by colour, then by size, and then according to use.

Older children could also record their findings, creating charts and displays of their categorization findings. Spatial intelligence – Is the ability to create a visual image of a potential project or idea and then act on this visualization. Think of bridge engineers or interior decorators who must be able to see their ideas before creating them. Visualization is a powerful teaching strategy in spatial intelligence. A teacher might ask a young child to close her eyes and see a gingerbread man running from the fox before she begins to draw a picture to represent the scene.

Visualization can also be used to rehearse the steps or sequence of a task before starting the activity. Bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence – Refers to the ability to use one’s own body or parts of the body as a medium of expression or to solve a problem. A ballet dancer and an Olympic athlete are examples of people who have refined their bodily-kinaesthetic skills or intelligence. The use of manipulative in teaching math is an excellent example of the combination of bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence with other intelligences.

Many young children touch their fingers as they count, using their own teaching strategy for learning the sequence of numbers. Musical intelligence – Is the ability to perform musically or to produce written music. People who are highly skilled in musical intelligence think in music patterns or see and hear patterns and are able to manipulate these patterns. Do you remember singing your ABCs? This is an example of a teaching strategy that helped you learn the alphabet. Songs for counting, colours, names, and other familiar objects promote learning through musical intelligence.

Interpersonal intelligence – Is the sensitivity one has toward others, along with the ability to work well with other people, understand others, and assume leadership roles. Sharing is a way for young children to learn from each other and use their interpersonal intelligence. All ages benefit from sharing and interacting children can share with peers as well as with children older or younger than them. Depending on the age of the child, caregivers or teachers should adjust their amount of involvement in the directions and guidance of the sharing situation.

Intrapersonal intelligence – Is the accurate understanding of one’s self (who one is, what one wants, and a realistic sense of what one can do) and the ability to act according to this knowledge. Modelling true-felt emotions with young children provides an avenue for children to observe the range of emotions of others. Once a child reaches school age, curriculum is often presented in a neutral format, with little emotion shown by the teacher. Expressing joy, passion, disappointment, or other emotions sends a message that emotions are part of learning and are welcome in this setting.

Naturalist intelligence – Is used to discriminate among living things, such as plants or animals, as well as an understanding of other features of the natural world, such as weather or geology. Farmers, botanists, and hunters are examples of roles where this intelligence is used. Spending time outside on a regular basis facilitates naturalistic intelligence. Touching, seeing, and smelling plants outdoors is far different from looking at pictures of the same plants. Asking questions about the differences and similarities between the plants is appropriate for children as young as age 3 or 4.

Young children are very observant and can use their categorization or classification abilities with the abundance of natural materials outside their setting. Some learners may adapt one or more of these styles of learning according to his theory. In reflection of multiple intelligence, my personal observation of my classroom allowed me to identify how learners do display some of the learning styles as suggested by him and has helps me to identify how to address that particular learners need and to cater to his/her needs. I would certainly agree that people adopt one or if not more of these learning styles.

Example 1: Year 1 child (a) who I observed as being a Bodily-Kinaesthetic learner due to the fact she had the need to reach out and touch things close by, needed my lesson slightly adapting as she couldn’t grasp the concept being taught, so I handed her u-fix cubes which engaged her mind in a positive way enabling her to grasp the teaching of subtraction. Example 2: Year 1 child (b) The Spatial learner needed the use of the visual 100 square table in order to grasp the concept of adding on by physically placing the card in the square for him to see the calculation enabled him to learn more effectively.

Gardener has also mentioned a possible ninth intelligence of Spiritual intelligence (or existential intelligence), but has not included it officially in his theory. Although I do agree with some of Dr Howard Gardner’s theory however I don’t believe a learner is limited to just these categories and that his work still lacks scientific evidence and the lack of critical literature on the part of multiple intelligence advocates. Gardner’s work has derived from Jean Piaget – Theory of Cognitive Development.

Born in August 1896 a Swiss developmental psychologist and philosopher his theory concluded that cognitivist is a learning theory that focuses on “How information is received, organised, stored and retrieved by the mind”. The mental state of a person and how they may learn. He actually was not a psychologist first, he had dedicated his time to mollusc research and by the time he was 21 he had already published twenty scientific papers on mollusc research.

He later moved to Paris and started interviewing mental patients thereafter working for Alfred Binet and refining Burt’s reasoning test. Alfred Binet (born July 1857) was a French psychologist who invented the first practical intelligence test I. Q. He spent two years working with children and finally realised he wanted to investigate – children’s development. He spent over ten years perfecting his theory. He concluded that there are four stages of development: Jean Piaget;

Four stages of development:

0-2yr Symbolic thought
Object Permanence
Goal directed (Trial and error experimentation)
2-7yr Develop speech
Pretend play
Egocentric (Intuitive thought dominated by perception)
Concrete Operational
7-11 yr Conversation
Class inclusion (Able to think logically)
Formal Operational
11+ Logically think

Think abstractly (Idealism able to solve hypothetical questions)

The Sensorimotor Stage: During this stage, infants and toddlers acquire knowledge through sensory experiences and manipulating objects. It was his observations of his daughter and nephew that heavily influenced his conception of this stage. At this point in development, a child’s intelligence consists of their basic motor and sensory explorations of the world. Piaget believed that developing object permanence or object constancy, the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be seen, was an important element at this point of development.

By learning that objects are separate and distinct entities and that they have an existence of their own outside of individual perception, children are then able to begin to attach names and words to objects. The Preoperational Stage: At this stage, kids learn through pretend play but still struggle with logic and taking the point of view of other people. They also often struggle with understanding the ideal of constancy. For example, a researcher might take a lump of clay, divide it into two equal pieces, and then give a child the choice between two pieces of clay to play with.

One piece of clay is rolled into a compact ball while the other is smashed into a flat pancake shape. Since the flat shape looks larger, the preoperational child will likely choose that piece even though the two pieces are exactly the same size. The Concrete Operational Stage: Kids at this point of development begin to think more logically, but their thinking can also be very rigid. They tend to struggle with abstract and hypothetical concepts. At this point, children also become less egocentric and begin to think about how other people might think and feel.

Kids in the concrete operational stage also begin to understand that their thoughts are unique to them and that not everyone else necessarily shares their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. The Formal Operational Stage: The final stage of Piaget’s theory involves an increase in logic, the ability to use deductive reasoning, and an understanding of abstract ideas. At this point, people become capable of seeing multiple potential solutions to problems and think more scientifically about the world around them.

It is important to note that Piaget did not view children’s intellectual development as a quantitative process; that is, kids do not just add more information and knowledge to their existing knowledge as they get older. Instead, Piaget suggested that there is a qualitative change in how children think as they gradually process through these four stages. A child at age 7 doesn’t just have more information about the world than he did at age 2; there is a fundamental change in how he thinks about the world.

To better understand some of the things that happen during cognitive development, it is important first to examine a few of the important ideas and concepts introduced by Piaget. The following are some of the factors that influence how children learn and grow: Looking at the underlying principles behind Piaget’s theory we need to understand the five key concepts which are; Schema / Schemata this helps individuals understand the world they inhabit. A schema describes both the mental and physical actions involved in understanding and knowing.

Schemas are categories of knowledge that help us to interpret and understand the world. In Piaget’s view, a schema includes both a category of knowledge and the process of obtaining that knowledge. As experiences happen, this new information is used to modify, add to, or change previously existing schemas. For example, a child may have a schema about a type of animal, such as a dog. If the child’s sole experience has been with small dogs, a child might believe that all dogs are small, furry, and have four legs. Suppose then that the child encounters an enormous dog.

The child will take in this new information, modifying the previously existing schema to include these new observations. Assimilation – This is in affect the simple process of incorporating new information into the pre-existing schema. Essentially fitting new information into schemata we already have in place. The process of taking in new information into our already existing schemas is known as assimilation. The process is somewhat subjective because we tend to modify experiences and information slightly to fit in with our pre-existing beliefs.

In the example above, seeing a dog and labelling it “dog” is a case of assimilating the animal into the child’s dog schema. Accommodation – When coming across a new object for the first time, a child will attempt to apply an old schema to the object. Another part of adaptation involves changing or altering our existing schemas in light of new information, a process known as accommodation. Accommodation involves modifying existing schemas, or ideas, as a result of new information or new experiences. New schemas may also be developed during this process.

Equilibrium – When a schema which doesn’t fit reality, there is tension in the mind, by balancing the use of assimilation and accommodation this tension is reduced and we can proceed to higher levels of thought and learning (equilibrium). Piaget believed that all children try to strike a balance between assimilation and accommodation, which is achieved through a mechanism Piaget called equilibration. As children progress through the stages of cognitive development, it is important to maintain a balance between applying previous knowledge (assimilation) and changing behaviour to account for new knowledge (accommodation).

Equilibration helps explain how children can move from one stage of thought into the next. One of the most important elements to remember of Piaget’s theory is that it takes the view that creating knowledge and intelligence is an inherently active process. “I find myself opposed to the view of knowledge as a passive copy of reality,” Piaget explained. “I believe that knowing an object means acting upon it, constructing systems of transformations that can be carried out on or with this object. Knowing reality means constructing systems of transformations that correspond, more or less adequately, to reality.

” Jean Piaget’s theory is apparent in classrooms today as visual aid. Age appropriate materials are consciously placed in the setting, in order to promote active learning. Example soft toys would suit being placed in early years setting as oppose to placing them in secondary classroom settings. For example, year 1 have a lot of visual aid, various props due to the fact they have transitioned from reception to year 1, and is important that their class still has some reconnections to their prior setting.

However it’s not to say that a child will only comply with these stages through age, because there are many examples where a child has far exceeded their age related stage. Mozart’s is a classic example of this, at the age of three he started composing methods. So this suggests that although Piaget’s theory defines four fundamental levels of progression in learning, there are learners who can jump and exceed these stages at any age. Example, a child in year 1 in literacy needed an extra worksheet as she was quite able to do the work, whereas as her piers struggled and could not even finish one sheet.

As a teacher I cannot ignore each learner’s need therefore this theory isn’t set and stone. Neil Fleming is a teacher from New Zealand. He has taught in universities, education centres and high schools. Before working for eleven years in faculty development at Lincoln University, he was nine years a senior inspector in the South Island of New Zealand. He is best known for the design of VARK learning style methods which suggest that most people can be divided into one of four preferred styles of learning;

Visual – This style preference is for seen/observed things, including pictures, demonstrations, diagrams, displays, flip-charts, hand-outs etc. This preference uses symbolism and different formats, fonts and colors to emphasize important points. Auditory – This style preference is for the transfer of information through listening: to the spoken word, of self or others, these people will use phrases such as ‘tell me’, ‘let’s talk it over’. This preference is for information that is spoken or heard and the use of questioning is an important part of a learning strategy for those with this preference.

Read/write – This style preference emphasizes text-based input and output – reading and writing in all its form especially manual, diaries, dictionaries, thesauri, quotations 0and words. This preference uses the printed word as the most important way to convey and receive information. Kinaesthetic – This style preference is for those who prefer ‘hands on approach’, ‘let me try’ and never really look at instructions first. This preference uses your experiences and the things that are real even when they are shown in pictures and on screens.

Currently I am embedding Cooperative learning in the delivery of my lessons with the use of various methods, there is more to Cooperative learning than merely arranging students into groups, it is structuring positive interdependence. “What children can do together today, they can do alone tomorrow” (Let Vygotsky, 1962) Observations have shown me that even the timid of learners are engaged and can interact without the pressure of being on the spot. The methods that I have incorporated in my lessons are for example;

With materials:

Students mingle and find partners (preferably from other teams).
Partner A poses his/her question.
Partner B answers.
Partner A praises, thanks or helps.
Partners switch roles.
Partners swap materials (Optional).
Partners bid farewell and proceeds from 1.
Without materials:
All learners mill around until teacher signals to pair up.
Students pair up
Teacher poses a question and gives student pairs a moment to consider.
Partners discuss the question.
Teacher signals to mill around again (or just turn to a new partner).
Partners bid farewell, find a new partner and proceed from step one.
With the use of this method pupils enjoy the physical activity and feedback from peers as well changing location and partner’s aid retention.

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