How do I make personal experiences, your future classroom experiences and theory connect to one another in this course? As some of you have pointed out, this is a difficult endeavor – no design is ever perfect. The same goes for this course. As I was designing for the course, I had many ideas about how to structure the course. The thing that struck me the most from talking to a lot of teachers is the fact that they wished they knew how theory would relate to designing activities for their students. For the topic of the brain this week, how exactly does knowing about the brain help us educators?
Let’s say that I think that learning can only occur if students are developmentally ready. This draws from Piaget's constructivist and theory of development. I also believe that learning happens best if I use students’ prior knowledge and support them in actively making the connections to science. But this is a general idea of learning that I have and not an explicit explanation of HOW learning happens. As a teacher, I should make these ideas more concrete and based on the theories that I know. So, here is an example of how I would design a science activity based on what I know about the brain and in relation to my model or theory of learning (i.e. how I think learning happens).
My personal theory of learning: Learning can only occur if students are developmentally ready. Learning happens best if I use students’ prior knowledge and support them in actively making the connections to science.
Drawing on module 6, here are my big ideas to support my model of learning
- Big idea 1: Forgetting is attention related rather than memory-related (pg. 110)
- Big idea 2: Provide multiple ways of providing information in order to build patterns and connections in individual brains (pg. 110)
- Big idea 3: Planning and decision making are underdeveloped until age 20 and above. (pg. 105)
With these assumptions in mind, when teaching first and second graders the water cycle in our science class, I would do the following:
Show my students multiple ways of representing the water cycle (big idea 2) such as through video presentations and a short discussion. This discussion will be centered based on what their prior knowledge and what they know about water and the water cycle. The point of this discussion is direct their attention to what they already know (big idea 1) and create connections between their prior knowledge and what they are learning in class (big idea 2). After discussing what the water cycle consists of, I will then ask the students to create their own water cycle. Since children at this age are less likely able to plan and decide what should be included in their water cycle (big idea 3), I will provide a template so as to help them organize their diagram. In this way, I am best able to leverage students’ prior learning and support them which correspond to my model of learning.
Now, as you work to design your activities and to think about your model of learning – try to match the big ideas to the activity that you are planning. This way, there are clear connections between the two and you are challenged to incorporate the theories that you learn into your model of learning. Bear in mind that the above example is just to help you to think about your own model of learning. Your first model draws on your own experiences. As we learn more theories, you should use these theories to help inform your own personal theory of learning and help design your activities.