An experiential framework for teaching and utilizing theories of learning and cognition
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An Experiential Framework for Teaching and Utilizing Theories of Learning and Cognition. Steven K. Wojcikiewicz - Western Oregon University. Educational Psychology and Classroom Instruction – the great divide?. Three main theoretical perspectives on learning and cognition: Behaviorist

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An Experiential Framework for Teaching and Utilizing Theories of Learning and Cognition

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An experiential framework for teaching and utilizing theories of learning and cognition

An Experiential Framework for Teaching and Utilizing Theories of Learning and Cognition

Steven K. Wojcikiewicz - Western Oregon University


Educational psychology and classroom instruction the great divide

Educational Psychology and Classroom Instruction – the great divide?

  • Three main theoretical perspectives on learning and cognition:

    • Behaviorist

    • Cognitive

    • Situative

  • Which one explains learning? All? None?

  • A rich field is theoretically beneficial, confusing in practice…

  • What do students, and teachers, know about learning theory? Can we do better?


Philosophical and practical issues

Philosophical and Practical Issues

  • "Philosophy recovers itself when it ceases to be a device for dealing with the problems of philosophers and becomes a method, cultivated by philosophers, for dealing with the problems of men." (John Dewey, 1917)

  • Dewey wanted to use philosophy to solve practical problems

  • In this work, philosophy addresses the teaching, and utilization, of theories of learning and cognition


John dewey 1859 1952

John Dewey (1859-1952)

  • Worked in philosophy, psychology, education

  • Developed a holistic, distributed, democratic vision of education

  • “Edward L. Thorndike won and John Dewey lost” (Lagemann, 1989, p. 184)

  • Now associated with “hands-on” or “student-centered” learning


School is necessary dangerous

School is necessary, dangerous

  • Complex societies require formal schooling

  • “As formal teaching and training grow in extent, there is the danger of creating an undesirable split between the experience gained in more direct associations and what is acquired in school. (Dewey, 1916, p. 13)

  • “the isolation of the school is the isolation of knowledge from action” (Dewey, 1937/1946, p. 50)


What s missing in school

What’s missing in school?

  • The trouble with education is not the absence of situations in which the causal relation is exemplified in the relation of means and consequences. Failure to utilize the situations so as to lead the learner on to grasp the relation in the given cases of experience is, however, only too common…(1938/1997, p. 84, bold added)


Having an experience

Having an Experience

  • An experience has pattern and structure, because it is not just doing and undergoing in alternation, but consists of them in relationship. To put one’s hand in a fire that consumes it is not necessarily to have an experience. The action and its consequence must be joined in perception. This relationship is what gives meaning; to grasp it is the objective of all intelligence. The scope and content of the relations measure the significant content of an experience. (1934/1980, p. 44, bold added)


Means and ends

Means and Ends

  • For Dewey, “experience” developed “intelligence,” the ability to formulate ends and to utilize means to meet those ends

  • Both abilities are necessary:

    • Means without ends = no ability to set one’s own priorities or know one’s own mind, action without thought

    • Ends without means = castles in the sky, thought without action


Principles which describe the educative experience

Principles which describe the “educative” experience

  • Principle of interaction:

    • Means-ends connections are perceived and acted upon in the present moment

  • Principle of continuity:

    • Means-ends connections are perceived and acted upon in the future

  • Dewey used these two principles to separate educative experiences from those which he labeled as “mis-educative”


Mis educative experience 1

Mis-educative experience #1

  • Learning without understanding

    • Cooking an egg:

      • “For the child simply to desire to cook an egg, and accordingly drop it in water for three minutes, and take it out when he is told, is not educative. But for the child to realize his own impulse by recognizing the facts, materials, and conditions involved, and then to regulate his impulse through that recognition, is educative.” (Dewey, 1915)

    • The child acts, but does not grasp the reasons behind the actions

    • No connections between ends and means in the present (principle of interaction)


Mis educative experience 2

Mis-educative experience #2

  • Learning with understanding, even great skill, but without consideration of ends or consequences

    • Skilled craftsman/technician (1916/1922)

    • Skilled burglar:

      • “…a man, for example, who starts out on a career of burglary may grow in that direction, and by practice may grow into a highly skilled expert burglar. Hence it is argued here that “growth” is not enough; we must also specify the direction in which growth takes place, the end towards which it tends” (1938/1997, p. 36).

    • Means and ends are connected, but future growth is limited

    • Consideration of means and ends restricted to “technical” aspects of activity


Three types of learning described by dewey

Three “types of learning” described by Dewey

  • Three types described by Dewey:

    • Learning “what”

      • Learning without understanding

      • Mis-educative

    • Learning “how”

      • Learning with understanding, limited to “technical” aspects of activity

      • Mis-educative

    • Learning “why”

      • Learning with understanding that extends moral/aesthetic questions

      • Educative


And yet not all of our learning experiences are educative

And yet, not all of our learning experiences are “educative”…

  • At times, we simply learn how to do things without learning how those things work:

    • cooking eggs

    • memorizing multiplication tables

    • driving a car without being able to repair it

  • At other times, we may exercise great skill in a task without full intelligent or artistic consideration of its ends:

    • Demonstrating of skill in school without considering why they are doing the work beyond the desire for a grade


Charles s peirce 1839 1914

Charles S. Peirce (1839 – 1914)

  • Scientist, mathematician, philosopher, madman

  • Like Dewey, a philosopher of experience

  • Came up with a way to categorize experience – and applied it to everything!

    • Firstness

    • Secondness

    • Thirdness

  • We can apply this categorical system to Dewey’s conceptions of learning – avoids labeling some types of learning as less desirable


Peirce s universal categories of experience

Peirce’s Universal Categories of Experience

  • “The first is that whose being is simply in itself, not referring to anything nor lying behind anything. The second is that which is what it is by force of something to which it is second. The third is that which is what it is owing to things between which it mediates and which it brings into relation to each other.” (Peirce, quoted in Corrington, 1994)


More on the three categories

More on the three categories

  • Firstness: unity, unreflective sense, immediate, feeling, direct

  • Secondness: duality, awareness, relational, experience, reactional

  • Thirdness: mediative triad, connected, “would be”, extended to future, consequences, intent, the “moral”


Dewey and peirce together

Dewey and Peirce together

  • Three types of learning described in Dewey, three categories of experience in Peirce

    • Firstness:

      • unconsidered, learning without understanding

      • learning “what”

      • Cooking an egg

    • Secondness:

      • dyadic and interactive

      • learning with understanding

      • learning “how”

      • Skilled technician, no thought of “ends”

    • Thirdness:

      • intent and purpose

      • learning “why”

      • Educative experience – ends and means together


Combining dewey and peirce three new categories of learning

Combining Dewey and Peirce: Three New Categories of Learning

  • ACCEPTING learning

    • learning “what”

  • ANALYTICAL learning

    • learning “how”

  • EVALUATIVE learning

    • learning “why”


Three new categories of learning

Three new categories of learning

  • accepting learning

    • Rote or mechanical

    • Done without understanding - superficial

    • Unanalyzed and rather inflexible, though useful

  • analytical learning

    • Deeper and more flexible

    • Possibly leading to great skill

    • Without consideration of purposes/ends/moral goals

  • evaluative learning

    • Deals with ends or consequences of application of skills and knowledge


An example following an instruction manual

An example: following an instruction manual

  • Accepting learning (first/what)

    • Read the instructions and follow them exactly

    • Useful, but inflexible – no understanding of what it all means

  • Analytical learning (second/how)

    • Read the instructions, but tinker, interact, learn how the machine works

    • More flexible, can cope with changes

  • Evaluative learning (third/why)

    • Why am I running this machine? What am I aiming to accomplish? Will this do it?


The results of the three types of learning

The results of the three types of learning

  • Accepting learning:

    • leaves one with knowledge/skills that are narrowly applicable, usually in specific situations determined by others

    • Limited transfer and flexibility

  • Analytical learning:

    • leaves one with flexible and applicable knowledge and skill, useful in meeting ends set by others

    • Can be applied skillfully when indicated

    • bounded by the task itself

  • Evaluative learning:

    • Allows “intelligent” activity – bringing together of means and ends

    • Works on the moral level


The types of learning and theories of learning

The “types of learning” and theories of learning

  • The three theoretical perspectives on learning can be fitted into this categorical system

  • Each theoretical perspective thus describes one aspect of learning

    • Not independent descriptions, but complementary ones

    • All are necessary for the full picture of learning

    • A very different way of describing theories of learning

  • More than a fit between two triadic systems

    • The perspectives fit in a variety of ways


Associated type or category of learning

Associated “Type” or “Category” of Learning

  • behaviorist

    • Firstness – Accepting - learning “what”

    • Monadic – individual/environment unity

  • cognitive

    • Secondness - Analytical – learning “how”

    • Dyadic - interaction, mind/world separate and interacting

  • situative

    • Thirdness - Evaluative – learning “why”

    • Triadic – transaction, individual/activity in context


Learning is

Learning is…

  • Behaviorist/Accepting/”what”:

  • Acquisition of behaviors, can be in the form of knowledge or skill; formation of associations

  • Cognitive/Analytical/”how”:

  • Growth in conceptual structures, active construction of knowledge

  • Situative/Evaluative/”why”:

    • Growth in participation in communities, practices, disciplines; awareness of meanings, identity, affordances; internalization


  • Associated teaching methods

    Associated Teaching Methods

    • Behaviorist/Accepting/”what”:

    • Repetitive drill, memorization; routines; rote learning, step-by-step tasks with reinforcement; behavioral outcomes

    • Cognitive/Analytical/”how”:

    • Accessing prior knowledge, using multiple approaches/situations to build concepts; problem-solving, and explicit teaching and deliberate use of strategies, conceptual change

  • Situative/Evaluative/”why”:

    • Contextualized learning, building learning communities, participation in “meaningful” social activities, formulation of and working toward goals, scaffolding


  • Associated learning outcomes

    Associated Learning Outcomes

    • Behaviorist/Accepting/”what”:

      • Mechanical skills or knowledge; efficient performance of tasks; performance of sequential tasks, component tasks, and clearly defined skills

    • Cognitive/Analytical/”how”:

      • Understanding, application of general concepts or structures, strategic activity, problem solving

    • Situative/Evaluative/”why”:

      • Growth in participation in, awareness of, communities or practices; change in identity; increased sensitivities to affordances and constraints


    Awareness of means ends relationships

    Awareness of means-ends relationships

    • Behaviorist/Accepting/”what”:

    • No understanding of means-ends relationships

    • Cognitive/Analytical/”how”:

    • Understanding of means-ends relationships , though bounded by activity

  • Situative/Evaluative/”why”:

    • Understanding of means-ends relationships includes issues of cultural, moral, aesthetic meaning


  • Aspect of activity emphasized

    “Aspect” of activity emphasized

    • Behaviorist/Accepting/”what”:

    • Form

    • Cognitive/Analytical/”how”:

    • Function

  • Situative/Evaluative/”why”:

    • Meaning


  • Implications for teachers

    Implications for teachers

    • Does not replace the educative experience

    • Calls for use attention to of all the types of learning

      • Learning “what,” “how,” and “why” are all important

      • A full learning experience needs all three (esp. “why”)

    • Educators can be aware of their own means and ends – artistic teaching, according to Dewey

      • Theoretical perspective and associated teaching methods can be chosen according to learning goals

      • A pragmatic view of learning theory and practice


    Implications for teacher educators

    Implications for Teacher Educators

    • Theories of learning taught in a “pragmatic” fashion

      • Chosen according to learning goals

    • An improvement over teaching the theories as separate explanations of learning

      • No need to pick one theory or another

      • Ends debates over which theory is “correct”

      • Puts teachers in a powerful position – choosing rather than following theories

      • More realistic: schools aren’t based on one or the other


    Further implications

    Further implications…

    • All types of learning are portrayed as important

      • In schools, learning “how” and “why” may be receiving less attention

      • In this system, all are emphasized

    • A relatively simple description for a complex idea

      • Learning “what,” “how,” and “why” is easy to remember and to employ

      • Can be explained at a variety of levels of complexity and detail


    The end copies of the paper are available and comments are welcome

    The END copies of the paper are available, and comments are welcome!

    So…any questions?


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