Personal Learning Theory – an Ever Changing Entity

4 09 2008

My personal learning theory is contingent on what is being learned, and what the goal of learning is.  I don’t think that a single theory can account for all aspects of human learning. There are some basic tenets that overarch all the pieces of my theory: a safe environment, a basic understanding of culture, and a belief that teaching and learning cannot be separated.

For some types of learning, structure is important.  Experience has shown me that children do have developmental ages at which certain things can be learned more readily.  These ages are not an arbitrary calendar age, but are dependent on learning other concepts in a logical, sequenced way and vary from child to child.  For some types of learning, building on prior knowledge is critical to success.  We need to push the envelope regularly and introduce new concepts to move development forward.

For other types of learning structure is less important. We learn best when we need to.  Learners need to be allowed to solve problems on their own and make mistakes.  Constructing what we learn because of the situations we are in makes learning purposeful, authentic and meaningful. But much more important than abstract theories about how learning works is real world experience and feedback about pedagogy that actually works in a classroom.

In today’s world making connections and decision making is becoming more and more important with the vast amount of information that is available on the internet. Knowing where to find information, evaluate its reliability and context and then put the found information to use in solving problems or constructing a rich, accurate and useful mental model is very important.

In conclusion, I believe that all learning must have a goal.  It may be practical or more knowledge based but in the end it is our motivation and the decisions we make along the way that cause us to learn.