EdTech 504 Module 2 Reflection
According to Webster’s Dictionary the definition of epistemology is “the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity.” As I have contemplated this definition I have come to wonder, how do I know what I know? That is an interesting question considering all the possible learning theories that exist and how I feel about them from the stance of an individual, educator, and parent.
I have a MacBook Pro with a 750 GB hard drive. All of the information stored on my hard drive had to be physically put there, by me, the owner. I only have about 75 GB of free space, which means my hard drive is filling up and will soon hit the maximum amount of data I can store. I know exactly how all of that information has gotten there, I have “saved” it, nothing more than a few keystroke commands to make it reside permanently on the hard drive until I choose to remove it. I can even free up space on my hard drive by deleting unusable information.
My brain, while similar to my computer’s hard drive, isn’t quite the same. The information I have stored, or “saved,” in my brain is limitless and has gotten there mostly through experiences. Some of my brain’s stored data is due to memorization of facts but mostly what is stored is because I have somehow connected information to my own personal experiences. I would agree with authors Jonassen & Land (2012) that “individual beliefs and experiences provide uniquely personal frameworks for new understanding” (p.12).
My teaching experiences are limited when it comes to classroom instruction. I have team-taught a large Kindergarten class, facilitated small-group reading instruction for at-risk students, and student taught in a 6th grade Title I classroom. All of my classroom experiences have occurred in the past 4 years. While I was student teaching last year, I realized that my beliefs in learning theories and reality didn’t always mesh. While I wholly believe in hands-on learning theories, discovery learning, and even differentiation as suggested by Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory, when faced with the realities of the day-to-day teaching and even just the schedule of the day, time was too short to really allow for deep and meaningful discovery learning. The longest consecutive chunk of time I had with my students, on a daily basis, was one hour. The day was chopped up to accommodate small-group instruction, trips to the computer lab, art, P.E., and all of the other prep class periods they rotated through. The reality of spending hours learning through deep, meaningful conversations and observations just didn’t happen realistically. Additionally, as teachers we are forced to make tough decisions, especially when it comes to teaching what will likely be on end-of-level standardized tests. It is a sad reality, but this is where our education system is right now.
I believe that I don’t really fall neatly into any one category, or major school of thought, when it comes to learning theories. Perhaps it is because I have learned through parenting four very different children. What works for one child absolutely does not work for another. I found this experience to be true in the classroom as well, while one student might respond to operant conditioning and thrives on reinforcement and rewards, another child could care less about rewards or extrinsic motivation.
In elementary school especially, child development is a huge factor in learning. My youngest daughter went to Kindergarten and by the end of the year she was classified as “below grade level” and would start the first grade as an “at-risk” student in reading. Interestingly enough though, she could multiply! When I approached our family doctor about this, he commented that children naturally are pulled to favor either numbers or letters, not usually both at the same time. The same is true for infants, most do not learn to talk and walk at the same age, and they usually only favor either their motor skills or their language skills. Both skills will be mastered eventually; it just isn’t typical to master both simultaneously. Sure enough, by the time my daughter hit the first grade her focus had shifted to letters and reading, she flew past all of her classmates and was above grade level at the end of the year.. Developmentally, she was just on her own path.
I believe that teaching is very similar to parenting just with a whole lot more children. Every child learns and grows at different rates and will learn best in his/her own way. Children are unique and so is their learning style. Our minds and our abilities to store and receive information just isn’t as easy has hitting “save” on my computer. The information saved in a student’s brain is likely to come from so many different sources and no two students will learn the same way.
Simply, the rate and method in which we receive information, is changing quickly. There are things we needed to know in order to be successful 20 years ago that really do not even exist today. Angeli & Valanides (2008) stated,
We are living in a world that is constantly impacted by rapid developments in the domains of science and information and communication technologies (ICT). Existing knowledge quickly becomes outdated and obsolete, and the acquisition of new knowledge and its innovative applications result in a continuous transformation of our cultural, social, and political environments.
The whole psychology of education and learning is a very fascinating topic and it is hard for me to imagine that there is any one person who can solely embrace just one theory. People are different, learning is individual, and knowledge comes at different rates for everyone. Trying to find just one “right method” or theory to embrace is truly missing out on the individuality of mankind. Being different is a challenge for a teacher but it is what makes this an awesome world to be a part of.
Angeli, C., & Valanides, N. (2008). Epistemological and methodological issues for the conceptualization, development, and assessment of ICT–TPCK: Advances in technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK). Computers & Education, 154-168. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2008.07.006
Jonassen, D., & Land, S. (2012). Theoretical foundations of learning environments (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.
(n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epistemology