This essay will reflect on the knowledge I have gained, being exposed to theoretical perspective on learning from different scholars and how I was able to practically integrate it into my learning methodology.
The first year of college is always the most demanding, the curriculum and the environment is a lot different from what we have experienced in schools. The studies are more advanced, hence they require a more organized and methodological approach, in order to do well. I recognized this need for development and strived to seek inspiration from accepted learning theories.
Analysts believe that there are primarily three important learning theories that can be carried out. They are behaviourist, humanistic and cognitive approaches. After reading about these theories, I find it difficult to categorize myself into one of the categories, as I feel all these theories can co-exist in the learning process.
The behavioural perspective is fundamentally to learn through observation. Learning from our teachers, parents, peers seem natural to me as I have been doing that all my life. This philosophy attracted my attention as I was already familiar with it. This theory is the reason I have reached the academic level, where I find myself today. According to the core concepts of behaviourism learning is done within an observable manner, and the person learning would have no personal opinion on the matter. John Watson said on behaviourism that “Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in, and I’ll guarantee to take anyone at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select -- doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors” .
The theory has taught me a lot about myself. Every individual has their own opinion regarding a subject or a thing. I have realized that learning from my arts teacher would be different from learning from my father as they both might have a contradictory philosophy in doing a certain task. Even though this theory is widely accepted and admittedly has helped me in reaching the level I find myself today but I do not think that depending solely on the opinions of others would be too beneficial for me. This method is an effective way to seek guidance, which is why I plan to continue using my teachers and peers’ help, if I get stuck somewhere, but ultimately, I plan to gain knowledge on my own.
The humanistic theory aligns with my needs to self-driven to learn. This theory states that the amount of learning an individual can achieve depends on her “natural desire." This theory can be said to contradict the behaviourism theory and gives the learner the control over the content and the process of learning. Even though, until now, I was usually dependent on the guidance provided by my teachers, but I agree with this theory. Like everyone else, I too, have a unique self-concept and perceptions on other things.
Abraham Maslow states that this theory leads to self-actualization and, I would agree with this assessment. This theory has taught me about my needs and given me the basis to assess my achievements and methods. Furthermore, it has taught me that everyone can achieve and learn a thing if a person applies oneself. I have started to learn on my own, and I have to admit that it is a refreshing feeling. It is a feeling of accomplishment.
Chris Rogers, the person who conceived this theory, stresses on the importance of an enabling environment to go along with the will to achieve something. I find myself in a good and reputable institution and feel that I possess all the capabilities to implement this theory in practice and learn.
The third theory comes from the cognitive school, which states that maturational factors have a great influence on understanding. As I see it is an extension to the humanistic theory. This theory is based on the understanding capacity and learning styles of an individual and how the influence of external and internal factors can influence the learning process. (Schunk, 2011, p. 203)
This theory has taught me that a lot of the decisions I make today are due to the influence of my surroundings. For instance, my interest in football was actually instigated by my father’s love for the game. It is a chain reaction, the decisions I made in the past are influencing me today and the decision I will make today, will have an impact on my future. Through this model, I have realized that positive learning can only be accomplished if an individual has positive personal characteristics among other things.
So I have realized that I should not rely on my teachers for all the guidance if I really want to understand and learn something from my own perspective. In my case, the cognitive theory implied that a lot of previous decisions made by me have to revisit, and I have to redefine my learning methods. Hence, during this freshman year I have attempted to change my attitude towards learning and motivate myself.
Apart from this theoretical perspective, I would also like to mention that feedback from my professors and peers have helped a lot to reassess myself. In fact, some of the methods used by my professors were intended to influence me into improving my methods. Sadler perceives the formative assessment in these words "specifically intended to provide feedback on performance to improve and accelerate learning.”
The feedback gave me a good opportunity to see myself from the eyes of my peers and professors and made me realize of my mistakes. I see the feedback process as a continuous dialogue between student and her teachers, and it has motivated me to improve my behaviour and methods.
According to Jackson, feedback has the following benefits include:
• it gives a degree of validity and reliability of the current learning methods and to measure the effectiveness of these processes utilized by the students
• Helps to give a prediction on the performances of students.
• the primary purpose of feedback is to help successful students to succeed further and improve the weaker students by instigating a healthy dialogue.
If it had not been for the feedback, I might not have felt the need to change my learning practices and ultimately would not have pursued new learning theories. However, I did and I am glad that I could refine my learning and development practices at a crucial stage of my life.