This week we were asked to reflect on our own teaching practices and lesson creation as they relate to a conscious or unconscious application of various learning theories. Before this course, I honestly didn’t write lesson plans with specific theories in mind. I have a general philosophy about how I structure learning tasks and create classroom culture, but my ability to attribute components of my philosophy to educational theorists has been rather amorphous. My typical lesson planning time begins with reviewing the objectives, crafting lessons to practice or meet the objective, and then figuring out how technology might assist students in reaching the target.
Here is a random sample of a sketch of lessons I created in March: Michelle’s Lesson Plans
The lesson plans referenced revolve around a theme of eggs because it was around Easter time and eggs are easy to include in an interdisciplinary way. As you can see from the lesson plans, the day begins with some students creating a class newsletter. I supply the template and the students supply the images and content. The newsletter is then shared out to families of our classroom. This type of learning falls under the constructivist theory that is a branch of the Cognitivist school of thought. The newsletter provides students with an authentic task and a relevant audience, parents. Elements of connectivism are present with this assignment as well. It is self-directed and collaborative in nature. Here is an example of the March newsletter.
Another sample from my lesson plans show students completing a webquest on the author, Patricia Polacco, who is known for her wonderful book Rechenka’s Eggs. As Tom March states, “When a WebQuest poses an open-ended question, students must do more than “know” facts. Open-ended questions activate students’ prior knowledge and create a personal curiosity that inspires investigation and brings about a more robust understanding of the material”. (March, 2003, Open-Ended Questions section, para 2). Cognitivism emphasizes that simply finding knowledge alone does not necessarily result in a transfer of learning. That knowledge must be applied in a different context to demonstrate transfer.
The culminating activity of our egg themed week was for students to work in a group of three or four people and design a structure for our egg drop. I defined the types of materials that they could bring in for their structure, but the materials they chose were up to the group. This activity is an example of anchored instruction with some elements of problem based learning. Students are involved in solving a problem, but the problem does not connect directly to a real world scenario. According to Barab and Duffy (as cited in Jonassen & Land, 2012) the components present in problem based learning include:
- Doing domain-related practices
- Ownership of the inquiry
- Coaching and modeling of thinking skills
- Opportunity for reflection
- Dilemmas are ill-structured
- Support the learner rather than simplify the dilemma
- Work is collaborative and social
- The learning context is motivating
My final thoughts center around the fact that I do incorporate elements of constructivist teaching methods. I include lots of practice opportunities that involve a great deal of learning conducted socially before students are expected to construct meaning on their own. However, the small group work my students embark upon does not come close to the characteristics of practice fields or communities of practice mentioned in chapter two of Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments (2012). However, I do utilize what Jonassen and Land refer to as digital repositories. Like the authors mention, it is up to the teacher to scaffold and appropriately integrate such resources so that learning is truly student-centered and results in the construction of knowledge.
The Learning Power of Webquests. (2003). Retrieved from http://tommarch.com/writings/ascdwebquests/
Jonassen, D., & Land, S., (2012). Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.