The alignment of epistemologies and learning theories is fascinating, in that it is making me take a hard look at what I thought I believed, how I teach in the classroom and the connections, or lack thereof between the two. As I mentioned earlier, I believe in the constructivist learning theory, but this does not match my teaching style. I have been blaming it on the population I teach, but what if that is a misconception? My teaching style falls squarely into the cognitivist realm. This has been the most successful method of instructing my special education students in the intricacies of algebra. If I firmly believe this, (and I do), what does that say about my belief system in general? Am I a closet cognitivist? My continued research and reflection seem to imply that I am, that claiming to be a constructivist while actively teaching as a cognitivist is fooling no one but myself.
Studying the epistemological frameworks for learning showed me that I am a pragmatist. We see knowledge as “a negotiation between reflection and experience, inquiry and action” (Siemens, as cited in Kop & Hill, 2008). I learn from experience, often the hard way. It seems that I must do something and experience the repercussions, whatever they may be, in order to learn. I grow when I reflect on that experience and use it to improve my knowledge and mindset. Looking at Kop & Hill’s alignment of epistemologies and learning theories was eye-opening. According to them, pragmatism and cognitivism are closely aligned, leading me to rethink and reformulate my personal belief structure.
This week we looked at emerging theories of learning. The two that seemed most relevant to my classroom are Connectivism and the Transactional Distance Theory. I love how Connnectivism integrates learning and technology. It seems to take the best parts of several existing theories and applies them to the increasing use of technology in our world today. The idea that students work collaboratively in “nodes” that are part of a larger community is very constructivist in nature, lending itself well to project based learning. The ability to find current information while weeding out both extraneous and incorrect digital information fosters those critical research and analytical skills.
The Transactional Distance Theory is particularly suited to my population. Moore stresses that the distance in distance education is referring to the “distance of understandings and perceptions, caused in part by the geographic distance, that has to be overcome by teachers, learners, and educational organizations if effective, deliberate, planned learning is to occur” (1991). My concerns lie in his focus on self-direction and “trust in the learner’s ability to take responsibility” (as cited in Gokool-Ramdoo, 2008). My students are singularly lacking in this area.
The high poverty special needs student population is often a transient one. Students appear and disappear throughout their public school careers, creating large gaps in their learning. Mental illness takes a particularly high toll on attendance rates, with anxiety and depression playing an active role in keeping students away from the classroom. Allowing these students to participate from home on the days they find themselves unable to handle the physical and social demands of school will allow them to stay current with their classes. Google Hangouts is an option here, as is Skype. I wonder if I could stream through something like a GoPro, or wear a camera like police officers are slowly being required to do. If a student gets overwhelmed, it is a simple matter to take a step back. Recording the sessions would allow them to watch and learn at their own pace if attending “live” is too much. I am excited to enter the Online Teaching Graduate Certificate Program in the fall. It is my hope that I will learn ways to incorporate these theories through the thoughtful use of technology, allowing me to create differentiated pathways to success for my students. And isn’t that what this is all about?
Gokool-Ramdoo, S. (2008). Beyond the theoretical impasse: Extending the applications of transactional distance education theory. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distributed Learning, 9(3).
Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(3).
Moore, M. (1991). Distance education theory. The American Journal of Distance Education, 5(3), 1-6.