Do teachers need just one?
Theorist that is. I've been reflecting this week on the theories and theorist that I have been reading about since July. Learning Theories, why so many? Too many Egos? They are all men, yet I do know some women with egos. Why does it feel like I need to pick just one? We are quite lucky to have the internet and the access to history. Maybe that's it, their world was much larger, ours is so much smaller and accessible. Each learning theory holds some value. When I think about students, I don't think of theories. I think about what that student needs to succeed, yet I am influenced by the theories.
This week I read about Piaget and Vygotsky. The beginning of my teaching career was spent in the early primary years. It is fascinating watching children begin their formal education journey. Young children change and learn so rapidly. Our days consisted of reading, writing, math, science, social studies, and social opportunities. All done in an integrated fashion, we were often doing more than one learning task at time, with lots of social engagement. Then came the state standards, benchmarks, and assessments. While this isn't all bad, what was left out was the conversation about developmental stages and needs of children. When I read Ormrod's take on Piaget, I mentally made the “Me too!” sign, then I read Vygotsky and did the same thing. So who is right? I don't want to choose just one.
When the state standards arrived, we forgot that the children in front of us would learn at different rates. The standards didn’t take into account the development of the learner. Students who didn't make the benchmark were whisked away for intervention support. Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development, a learner does the actual learningwhen minimal support is provided. Piaget’s discussion about disequilibrium, a mental discomfort or confusion, were tossed out the window. When this was brought up in conversation, it was quickly squashed because the benchmarks for 6 year olds had not been met. So what is a good teacher to do, continue to learn, fight the tide, and change grade levels, where the expectations for students were more in line with my own thinking about teaching and learning.
Yet I still wonder, is there just one single theorist who we should follow? Should we follow any of them? Are they actually educators or only researchers?
A little XtraNormal Fun.