Being in my early twenties I have spent the majority of my life engaged in formal methods of learning. I was brought up in South East London and attended a variety of different primary and secondary schools. I moved into private education for my sixth form, and then onto Exeter University. Whilst at university I suspended my study to take an industrial placement in London, before returning to university to complete my studies and graduate with a degree in English and Information Technology.
Throughout these formal years of learning I have also participated in extra curricula activities either in the form of employment or more enjoyable past-times. In the course of this assignment I will be looking at the different ways in which my learning patterns have developed and changed over the past 24 years. I will also be critiquing the ways in which I have learnt and I will reflect upon my experiences in order to relate them to a variety of different learning theories.
I also hope to explore the andragogy/pedagogy debate as I can identify with certain elements of this debate with reference to my transition from compulsory to post-compulsory education. I recognise that in order to become a good teacher it is necessary to understand the ways in which individuals learn best, as Claxton argues “teachers themselves need to be good learners”, and I hope that by analysing my own learning through the course of this assignment I can begin to look at my own methods of learning and relate them to my classroom experiences as a teacher.
My earliest learning experiences could probably be categorised under the heading of observational learning as like all children I learnt to walk, talk and express emotions by copying the facial expressions, noises and characteristics of the elders surrounding me. My experiences at primary school and the early years prior to formal education could be classed as adhering to the theories under the banner experiential learning. During these years I learnt largely by trial and error, and by reflecting upon both my own experiences and those of others within my peer group.
For example, I remember learning to tie my shoelaces at a very young age. There are many different ways of tying them and I remember watching my friends as they tied their laces and considering whether their ways were better than the way that my own parents had taught me. I think that this particular experience fits into Kolb’s Four Stage Model of Learning as seen below: Kolb’s Four Stage Model of Learning My concrete experience was the way in which my parents had taught me. This involved making two bows with the laces and tying them around each other.
The reflective observation was watching my friends try out different methods of tying their laces, and the abstract conceptualisation would have been the analysing of the different methods of lace tying and deciding which one worked the best, i. e. which persons laces seemed to last the longest before coming undone. The active experimentation would have been the moment when I attempted to tie my laces in a different way, i. e. making one bow and looping the other lace around that bow.
The learning experience then went around full circle and arrived back with a new, and hopefully improved, method of lace tying. This experience also supports Kolb argument that “when human beings share an experience, they can share it fully, concretely, and abstractly”, as I clearly learnt and engaged with my peers throughout this learning experience. As an adult learner I seem to have reverted to experiential learning during both my university courses and teaching experience. It seems that Kolb’s model of learning is equally as applicable now as it was in my early schooling years.
For example only last month I was reflecting upon a new lesson plan that I had written to teach a group of 16-18 year old about Charts and Graphs in Excel. After the positive feedback from the lesson I reflected upon the experience and considered how to apply the lesson plan to other subjects that I teach for Information Technology Key Skills. At the same time as reflecting upon the positive outcomes of the charts lesson I was also considering the negative feedback from a particularly difficult lesson involving the concepts of databases.
I decided to utilise the idea from the charts lesson of involving the students and asking for their contribution and direction to the lesson. From this concept came the idea for a new lesson plan for a databases lesson that also involved the students’ own input and ideas. I am sure that this won’t be the end of the process and although I now have a new and positive concrete experience this will continue to evolve through the cycle and develop in its own way after future use. This discussion of Kolb’s learning cycle fits neatly into Knowles’ arguments of andragogy and pedagogy.
I will explore these further towards the end of this assignment, but it is worth noting that the young adults involved in the post compulsory sector that I teach in engaged far more effectively in a lesson that involved their own input and self-direction than they did in a more teacher-centred lesson. In the pamphlet produced by the Further Education and Development Agency (FEDA) on learning styles Kolb’s model of learning has been further developed to demonstrate the four learning styles of Honey and Mumford.
The pamphlet argues that a person’s learning style can be revealed by investigating which of the four stages the individual enjoys the most in the process of learning. The new learning cycle can be seen on the next page: The Learning Cycle and Learning Styles According to this diagram, and using the above examples of where I have put Kolb’s four stage model into practice, I would argue that I use all four states equally. If in any, my preference has to lie within the sections of Activist or Theorist.
Whilst others may be standing around arguing over the wrongs and the rights of a situation I would rather be acting in order to resolve any issues. Kolb acknowledges that “people adapt their learning styles to suit specific tasks and problems. He requests that learning styles should not be perceived as fixed personality traits, but as adaptive states”. In order to be a truly effective learner I would reason that an individual would have to be flexible enough to work equally well in each of the four states.
The more traditional way of discovering which learning style an individual prefers is the learning styles questionnaire developed by Peter Honey and tested upon individuals in Western civilisation. My responses to this questionnaire placed me with a very strong preference for the Theorist stage, and moderate preference for all three of the other stages. According to the Honey and Mumford analysis of learning styles this would mean I am logical and questioning, I have good attention to detail and time management skills, and I am good at research.
Theorists also tend to be detached and inflexible, and tend to find team interaction difficult. They also have a disciplined approach to learning and are able to adapt and integrate observations into complex but logically sound theories. Having evaluated my own study skills I can agree with a number of these statements. During my degree I found that I would rather be researching the subject myself than listening to a teacher, and during lectures I would always be writing a list of questions for myself based upon the lecturers key points.
During my A Level English Literature course I was constantly searching for a way into the subject matter, for example I found difficulty with the work of Yeats until I read a biography when the subjects of his poetry finally appeared to make some resemblance of sense to me. However, I would strongly disagree with certain elements of the Theorist observations. I believe that I embrace new ideas in my current workplace and as a lecturer in a post-16 college it is imperative that I remain flexible in my approach to every lesson. In this way I demonstrate the characteristics more often connected to the Activist model.
I also embrace the caution of the Reflector through relationships both at home and work and I dislike small talk in any group work. From the Pragmatist model I think that at times I can suffer from impatience, but I usually bring a positive and business-like attitude a project. So it would seem that I can adapt to any one of the given learning styles, and I am certain that the majority of individuals, like me, all contain elements of each learning style. I see these learning styles as I do star signs; they could be misconstrued to fit anyone. I believe that the results depend upon your feelings that day and recent activities.
I would rather be able to adapt myself to fit a given situation than be classified into one of these learning styles. During my compulsory schooling I believe that extrinsic motivators largely drove me to attain good grades as I worked hard to earn the praise from both the teachers and my family. The method of working for reward falls into the category of behaviourism. Like Pavlov with his salivating dogs, and Skinner with his respondent conditioning in rats, I was conditioned to feel good when I received a good grade, as I knew that I would be rewarded by praise from teachers and family.
Rogers argues: “these theories stress the active role of the teacher-agent. The student-learner is often seen as more passive”. Upon reflection it does appear that the majority of my compulsory schooling was driven by the teachers. They imparted the subject knowledge I needed to know and I had an expected role that I was to learn the facts imparted. Rogers also argues: “the behaviourist theories are based on a view of knowledge which distinguishes sharply between right and wrong”. This also relates to my experience of compulsory education, particularly in science or maths based lessons.
With these subjects there was an answer that the teacher was looking for and as a student your role was to reach this conclusive answer. This extended, to some degree, to English, as there were criteria to which an essay was marked and certain points would gain a student marks. Once a student can grasp this concept of marking criteria, learning becomes comparatively easy. Each piece of work that needs to be submitted can be worked towards the criteria and thus the work will gain a good grade.