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Theories of Teaching and Learning.

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Sipping a coffee one Melbourne autumn day, I thought around ideas of learning and what I understood learning to be. These observations were informed by literature I have read, my own past experiences and the behaviours I saw whilst idly watching a puppy training class in an adjacent park. As I sat watching these puppies in school run around, learning concepts from owners with varying degrees of success, I thought of Locke’s theory of Tabular Rasa where each person is born with a blank slate (CollegeBinary, 2009). Watching these small dogs I couldn’t help but draw parallels betwe...

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Sipping a coffee one Melbourne autumn day, I thought around ideas of learning and what I understood learning to be. These observations were informed by literature I have read, my own past experiences and the behaviours I saw whilst idly watching a puppy training class in an adjacent park. As I sat watching these puppies in school run around, learning concepts from owners with varying degrees of success, I thought of Locke’s theory of Tabular Rasa where each person is born with a blank slate (CollegeBinary, 2009). Watching these small dogs I couldn’t help but draw parallels between dogs and humans and each innate ability to learn. Each dog was picking up stimuli and interacting with it differently. It didn’t so much appear that these dogs were born with blank slates for learning but rather with unique strengths and abilities to perceive and interact with the world, the environment and the stimuli differently. As I lifted the coffee to my mouth for another sip I saw two puppies conduct themselves in true puppy fashion. Both dogs were distracted from class content by a rogue tennis ball bouncing away off in the distance. Instinctively the first puppy jumped toward the ball. The owner, with a choker chain collar around the dog pulled the puppy back by his feet and into line with the class. Whilst the collar did not hurt the puppy physically, it did send a disciplinary message to the dog to ‘behaviour and concentrate’ on the lesson (Eggen, P, 2013). Whilst the puppy wanted to be off doing puppy things like chase balls, it sat somewhat forlorn and confused as what it was being instructed to do as compared to what it wanted to be doing. The second puppy also jumped at the moving ball. The owner quickly coaxed the puppy back toward the lesson with a treat after getting the puppy to sit. The puppy, wanting more instruction (and treats), looked toward the owner. The owner knelt down, and positively reinforced this attention by patting and encouraged the pup to watch the lesson trainer. With a variety of humanised and dehumanised classrooms, puppy class was fascinating. Here we had a teacher-centred model of teaching with the parents instructing the furry students with various pedagogies – positive reinforcement, the natural tendencies guided and focused toward learning. Behaviour was not thwarted, but the desired behaviour was richly rewarded and congratulated with treats and pats (Nagel, 2013). This was contrasted with disciplinary behaviourism as the former puppy was pulled into a line as dictated to by the authoritative figure that required the removal of unwanted behaviours. Half way through the coffee came ‘free time’ for the puppies to play with each other off leads. And this was when I witnessed Piaget’s social constructivist theory when the pups had ‘play time’ to run, explore, interact and learn with each other (Loughran, 2012). Mirroring theories by Piaget, the puppies seemed naturally to gravitate to other puppies of similar size, age and ability (Edwards, 2009). You could see the learning going on from the puppies learning about the world through discoveries from each and with each other (Woolfolk, 2005). The coffee was finished and my understanding of learning was deeper. Learning is about finding the environment in which the personality/cognitive strengths of an individual (furry or otherwise) can receive information, process it, and then thrive in any facet of its world (TEDGlobal, 2011). The environment needs to be humanising, to work with the natural instincts of the person, rather than be conforming (TEDGlobal, 2011). The learning needs to have a mix of teacher-led and socially-developed learning. What had informed this 30 minute reflection on learning? It was the behaviour and responses to the stimuli by the young dogs whose potential to learn and respond was strong. The reactions by the puppies to the environment, to the other dogs, to the instructions by the parents gave clear indication as to whether the dogs were comfortable in their learning environment – a crucial indicator for the success of the student. In my own studies, comfort and safety to be myself, to ask questions and to learn at my pace have been critical to the deeper thinking and learning. Sitting in straight-lined desks and reprimanded for being too energetic as a Year 10 student after a school lunch break (natural, instinctive behaviour for a 16 year old) did little to help me think, consider and learn. On that leafy Saturday morning much of the literature personally studied, aligned to my own strengths and weaknesses were seen clearly with the puppies in the park and clarified what learning means to me. REFERENCE LIST Edwards, S. (2009).Early Childhood Education and Care: A Sociocultural Approach. Castle Hill, NSW: Pademelon Press. Eggen, P. & Kauchak, D. (2013). inEducational Psychology: Windows on Classrooms(9th ed). Boston, MA: Pearson Education. Loughran, J. (2012).What expert teachers do: Enhancing professional knowledge for classroom practice, [eBook]. Hoboken: Routledge. Nagel, M. (2013). Student learning. In R. Churchill, P. Ferguson, S. Godinho, N. Johnson, A. TEDGlobal (Producer). (2011).Kahn, Salmon: Let's use video to reinvent education[video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education.html Woolfolk, A. (2005).Educational Psychology(9th ed). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon/Pearson Education

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Learning is a moderately eternal behavioral change resulting from experience. (Cherry, 2014) I was confined in considering learning to be the process of acquiring skills and knowledge, till the time I got a chance to meet children learning Braille, which actually enhanced and raised the span of learning for me.

I happened to visit a school, which had special classes for teaching Braille to children. It just happened because I was doing a project on school and education standards, where I was visiting school and observing the standards of education followed by them. What I saw there appeared unique learning style. There were segments of children with regards to their age group and I could actually see a progression of learning when I saw the utilization of learning demonstrated by the children.

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