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Individual Research Analysis

Learning is an integral part of life as it enriches ones knowledge, skills, values,


attitudes, behaviours and world views (Ormrod, 2012; Phillips & Soltis, 2009).
Student learning plays an important role on how knowledge is understood, realised,
processed and retained as all students come to the learning environment with a
different set of experiences, values, interests, needs and abilities which can
influence how they learn and develop (Dumont, Istance & Benavides, 2010; Krause,
Duchesne, Bochner & McMaugh, 2015, p. 267). Teaching strategies encompass
many diverse learning theories which form a conceptual framework to ensure that all
student learning needs are supported (Bailey, James, Kanai & Weaver, 2011;
Hopkins, 1997; Krause et al., 2015; Woolfolk Hoy, Davis & Anderman, 2013).

There are many theoretical learning approaches which provide comparable


perspectives for pedagogy and andragogy teachings, processes and practices to
build student knowledge and development (Ertmer & Newby, 2013; Hopkins, 1997).
The main concepts of learning theories include behavioural, cognitive, constructivism
and sociocultural (Woolfolk Hoy et al., 2013). These theoretical approaches are the
foundations for planning and guide learning within the classroom, leading to student
knowledge and acquisition (Jarvis, 2012).

Behavioural learning theory outlines how students accumulate knowledge and learn
from their experiences and cultures (Lovell, 2010). According to Skinner, learning is
based on a sequential process of stimulus, response and feedback (Trentin, 2010).
Learning is accomplished when a response is demonstrated following the
presentation of specic environmental stimulus (Ertmer & Newby, 2013). These
behavioural learning practices within the classroom environment can be met by
developing appropriate, interesting and engaging programs that include positive
social interactions, communication, constructive feedback and co-constructed
consistent guidelines (Mathieson, 2005). Students learn more effectively when they
engage in meaningful learning, namely when they make conscious connections
between new information and the knowledge they already know and believe
(Ormrod, 2008 cited in McDevitt & Ormrod, 2008). Students need to encounter
academic subject matter within a constructive and inclusive environment, as positive
practices and strategies create a community of productive learners thus enhancing
educational performance (Lyons & Ford, 2014).
Cognitivism considers the learner as an active citizen developing mental capacities
(Trentin, 2010). Cognitivism is based on what happens in the mind, such as thinking
and problem-solving and new knowledge is built upon prior knowledge through
active participation (Pritchard, 2008). Cognitive approaches to student learning
involve using a variety of instructional methods including explicit explanations, visual
demonstrations and reflective practices. These cognitive structures help students
store and organise new information, thereby guiding future perceptions and learning
(Pintrich, 1988).

Constructivism focuses on how learners construct their own meaning, incorporating


new knowledge with prior knowledge to create new meanings (Jarvis, 2012). Bruner
interprets constructivism as an active process in which learners construct new ideas
or concepts on the basis of their existing knowledge and experience (Trentin, 2010).
Piagets constructivist learning theory states that students actively construct their
own knowledge and understanding (Pritchard, 2008, p. 20). Constructivist
approaches emphasise discovery learning and view knowledge acquisition as a
social activity. Both cognitivists and constructivists view the learner as being actively
involved in the learning process (Ertmer & Newby, 2013). Inquiry and problem-
based learning, cognitive apprenticeships and cooperative learning are typical
teaching strategies that are consistent with constructivist approaches (Woolfolk Hoy,
Davis & Anderman, 2013, p. 10). Collaborative work between students has become
an important means of implementing constructivist educational approaches (Woolfolk
Hoy et al., 2013).

Sociocultural theories of learning recognise the importance of social and cultural


contexts for student learning and development. These perspectives are often called
social constructivist theories (Woolfolk Hoy et al., 2013, p.10). Social constructivism
focuses on the social dimension of learning processes and emphasises the
importance of the culture, language and environmental contexts for which learning
takes place (Trentin, 2010, p. 25). Vygotsky believed social learning precedes
development as knowledge is constructed based on personal experiences, social
negotiation and the learners environment (Woolfolk Hoy et al., 2013). His view of
learning emphasised the process of sharing experiences through social interactions
and stated that these social practices and activities play a fundamental role in the
process of development (Pritchard, 2008; Woolfolk Hoy et al., 2013). Social
constructionists believe that by sharing practical experiences with others, they
deepen their own understandings of what they know and construct new knowledge
(Barkley, Major & Cross, 2014). Research on social constructivism theory suggests
that the quality of the learning environment is a crucial factor in quality education and
is a significant determinant of student learning (Pritchard, 2008).

Social constructivism connects information, content, skills and instruction with


students personal experiences, language and culture (Fisher & Khine, 2006; Krause
et al., 2015; Larson & Marsh, 2005). In a social constructivist learning environment,
the learning is collaborative. Collaborative learning involves active involvement,
social interactions, cooperation, negotiations and exchange of roles and occurs
through social, cultural and historical mediated interactions (Trentin, 2010). A
collaborative classroom is an active and engaging place where instruction centres on
student thinking. Collaborative spaces provide endless opportunities for active
participation and engagement enabling students to construct, share, create and
explore knowledge with others (Trentin, 2010).

Collaborative classrooms use evidence-based practices to support student


development which is supported by teachers as facilitators. Collaborative lessons
provide rich opportunities for students to work together, develop ideas, revise their
thinking and construct meaning. Collaborative classrooms are places and spaces
that are student-directed and facilitate multi-modal activities including technology
(Imms, Cleveland & Fisher, 2016). Collaborative classrooms provide options for
activities and projects that capture different students interests and goals which
encourage self-assessment and reflection (Fisher & Khine, 2006). Collaborative
classrooms enable an authentic exchange of ideas and offer many opportunities for
students to ask questions, explain and justify opinions, articulate reasoning and to
elaborate and reflect upon individual and shared knowledge. Collaboration promotes
prosocial behaviours and provides valuable interpersonal and team building skills
that build relationships and deepen the learning experiences (Khwaja & Eddy, 2015).
Collaboration empowers students to become autonomous, articulate and socially
and intellectually responsible for their own learning (Barkley, Major & Cross, 2014).

Classrooms with open communication promote engagement and inclusivity among


students. According to Khwaja & Eddy (2015), clear communication and positive
interpersonal relationships within a collaborative environment enhances learning
which can achieve a more equitable level of success for all students. Effective
communication through receptive and meaningful dialogue strengthens relationships
and deepens students understanding. Pianta (1999) states, that sincere and genuine
relationships between teachers and students provide students with a sense of
security within the classroom setting. It is believed that this sense of wellness
promotes their social, emotional and academic competences. Teachers can model,
encourage and nurture interpersonal relationships by providing students with
opportunities to explore different perspectives, experiences and backgrounds in
multiple contexts. Students connect through participation, listening to other opinions,
supporting ideas, sharing knowledge and authority, mediating learning and by
engaging in critical and creative thinking. These collaborative environments provide
opportunities for students to share their knowledge and their learning strategies
whilst treating each other respectfully and compassionately (Fisher & Khine, 2006).

There are many positives to collaborative approaches in the classroom although it


may also present some challenges and concerns. Collaborative classrooms can
become very noisy and over-active, which may inhibit student learning and could
incite a lack of discipline or loss of teacher control. Collaborative learning may at
times lead to conformity, time wasting, lack of initiative, conflict, misunderstandings
and compromise (Tinzmann, Jones, Fennimore, Bakker, Fine & Pierce, 1990).
However, with informative guidance and support, any classroom can be successfully
transformed to encourage collaborative learning promoting knowledgeable, strategic,
self-determined and empathetic lifelong learners (Tinzmann et al., 1990; Fisher &
Khine, 2006).

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References:

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Barkley, E. F., Major, C., & Cross, K. (2014). Collaborative learning techniques. A
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