A learning philosophy sets out to decipher why and how one learns. It is personal, reflective, and has the ability to evolve overtime as the learner evolves over time. It is different than a teaching philosophy as it asserts to address how people learn rather than what is the best way to teach. I believe it is important to start with considering how one learns rather than how one should teach because teaching is assessed on how effective students learn, therefore we should start with the end in mind (Harapnuik, 2015).
In my investigation to create a learning philosophy I started with the question, ‘How do I learn? How do I learn best?’. After answering these questions I began to build my learning theory. My learning theory incorporates my beliefs about myself as a learner and applies it consider multiple other learning vessels as well. I have tried to incorporate a learning theory that accounts for age, culture, era, and even artificial intelligence. Through analyses of contemporary learning theories, comparison to other colleague’s learning philosophies, experiences I have acquired, and self-reflection, I have settled on what my current learning philosophy is:
Learning takes place within the learner and is the result of cognitive processes and connections to prior knowledge (UC Regents, 2017). Internal forces can assist or inhibit learning from taking place(UC Regents, 2017). Learning is done with self efficacy and is a means of self preservation; it is done to solve a problem or increase skill in real world, applicable situations (McLeod, 2013) (Culatta, 2015). The epitome of learning is self-actualization, the continuing of learning, and the need to share learning with others (Smith, 1999).
Learning is done in the physical realm and therefore takes place in an environment. Learning environments have external forces that can also either contribute or harm the process of learning and can be judged on a scale of effective or noneffective (Culatta, 2015) (Thomas, 2011). Learning Environments can exist in digital and/or physical environments and can be social or nonsocial (Thomas, 2011). Learning occurs best in an environment where fear has been removed, inquisitiveness is encouraged, and support is given (Harapnuik, 2017).
Learning should be student centered. Learning should be intentionally crafted around the student, accounting for the learners desired outcomes of learning, the prior knowledge and experience of the learner, the environment in which the student utilizes and the internal and external forces affecting learning (Harapnuik, 2015). Learners should be offered some control over their learning, specifically, over time, location, learning outcomes, order of learning, learning modality, and learning products (Horne, 2015).
Learning is self initiated (Smith, 1999). The learner must overcome internal and external forces to achieve learning, therefore they must be the ones to initiate learning (Smith, 1999)(Culatta, 2015) (Smith, 2003). The learner will not learn what it does not want to learn and cannot learn what has not been realized.
Learning is self directed (Culatta, 2015). The act of learning involves navigating through a complex array of internal and external factors. Navigating these complexities is the only thing that should be difficult for learners. Learners can become more efficient at navigating through these factors and can therefore learn how to learn better. As learners become increasingly efficient at navigating factors, learning becomes easier and enjoyable. As learning becomes easier and more enjoyable, learners want to contribute their knowledge and experiences to other learners.
Learning involves engagement. The learner must control internal/external forces to learn, which requires focus, alertness, inquisitiveness, and more (Harapnuik, 2017). Learning should be easy for the learner; the only limitations of learning should be the internal and external factors. If learning is not engaging and easy for the learner to comprehend, a better way of learning exists that accounts for internal/external forces and should be attempted (Andrews, 2014). A way to ensure that learning is engaging and easy is to make learning fun through games (Thomas, 2015).
Learning is pervasive (Smith, 1999)(Culatta, 2015). Once learning has been realized and initiated, only internal and external factors will keep the learner from learning more. Learning may influence or change the learner (Culatta, 2015). Self initiated learning lasts longer and is more pervasive (Culatta, 2015).
Learning is communicable (Culatta, 2015)(Smith, 2003). Learning is able to be expressed to other learners through language, writing, actions, artistic interpretations, and more. Therefore, learning is transferrable assuming the recipient is able.
As these are my thoughts on learning, I believe my learning philosophy directly influences my role as an educator. I see myself more as a learning facilitator than a teacher directly transferring knowledge. A learning facilitator takes into account that the learner must initiate and self direct their learning through various impeding forces (Harapnuik, 2017)(Culatta, 2015). This means the role of the learning facilitator is to guide and support the learner as they learn, and a significant way to help do this is to create a learning environment that accounts for this (Harapnuik, 2015). Therefore, as an educator it is my responsibility to create a learning environment that is supportive and engages students in learning.
After analyzing my own learning philosophy I was able to connect many of my beliefs to existing learning theories. Three learning theories resonated with me most; they include a Cognitivist, Humanist, and Social/Situational. The Cognitivists’ approach to how we learn takes a psychological approach and centers around brain function as the cause for learning (Culatta, 2015)(UC Regents, 2017). The Humanist approach begins to clarify why we learn and does a great job explaining the role of the teacher. The Humanists claim that we learn to become self actualized, while I take this idea a step further to state it is a result of a primal need to survive or to increase the quality of life (Culatta, 2015)(McLeod, 2013). Humanists also do a great job explaining the role of the teacher as more of a facilitator, one who creates an environment and guides students to learning outcomes (Culatta, 2015)(Smith, 1999). The Social/Situational Learning theories help fill in and support many of the ideas between Cognitivist and Humanist approaches. For example, I agree with Social/Situational that our environment and communities play a significant role in our education, and that when learning is accomplished it provides a need to share in certain contexts (Culatta, 2015). However, I do not feel these go far enough to truly justify their intended explanations.
In conclusion, a learning theory is uniquely personal and attempts to explain why and how we learn. It is different than a teaching philosophy as it attempts to look solely at learning. It can and should, however, be used to influence one’s teaching philosophy as teaching’s sole purpose is to increase learning. Therefore, if we focus on the end result first, learning, we will be able to craft an appropriate guide for how one teaches. This learning philosophy is a snapshot of what I believe learning is, why we do it, and how we do it. As I grow as an educator I am confident that this philosophy will evolve alongside me. Thus, I look forward to revisiting my learning philosophy to reflect upon how I have grown.
Andrews, Anne. (2014). Learning & My Philosophy/Style of Teaching. Found at https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/whats-learning-philosophy/. Accessed 6/14/17.
I found this in the comments section to an original article post entitled, ‘What’s Your Learning Philosophy?’ by Maryellen Weimer. Upon reading it I settled in on a section where she highlights the work of Malcolm Knowles and became intrigued about his research on initiation and self directed. I agreed with this information and transformed it into my learning philosophy by identifying that learning is self directed and self initiated.
Culatta, Richard. (2015). Experiential Learning (Carl Rogers); Social Learning Theory (Albert Bandura); & Andragogy (Malcolm Knowles). Found at http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/experiental-learning.html; http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/social-learning.html; and http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/andragogy.html. Retrieved: 6/14/17.
Culatta’s explanations of Roger’s Experiential Learning, Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, and Knowles’ Andragogy helped solidify my learning philosophy. Each of the learning theories has key components that make up my personal learning theory. I agree with Carl Rogers that the role of the teacher is more of a facilitator. I also like how Bandura focuses on self efficacy and believe this is what is needed to accomplish learning. Finally, I agree with Malcolm Knowles; self initiated learning has the greatest impact on the learner. These ideas are further supported in Harapnuik’s Learning Philosophy (2017) and in Anne Andrews’ Learning & My Philosophy/Style of Teaching (2014). When these ideas are combined together they allow me to understand what the learner and teacher’s role are and why creating a significant learning environment is so important.
UC Regents. (2017). Cognitive Constructivism. UC Berkeley: GSI Teaching & Resource Center. Found at http://gsi.berkeley.edu/gsi-guide-contents/learning-theory-research/cognitive-constructivism/. Accessed 6/14/2017.
This article helped explain the functions and processes of the brain as it undergoes learning. It helped solidify my understanding of internal and external factors influencing learning and that knowledge is built upon previous knowledge.
Harapnuik, Dwayne. (May 8, 2015). Creating Significant Learning Environments (CSLE). Found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZ-c7rz7eT4. Accessed 6/14/17.
This video has been used to understand how to create a significant learning environment. In creating my learning philosophy I use it as a basis for understanding how to design a digital learning environment and its’ components, such as its student centered approach.
Harapnuik, Dwayne (2017). It’s All About Learning: Inquisitivism & Learning Philosophy. Found at http://www.harapnuik.org/?page_id=104. Access 6/14/17.
Harapnuik’s Learning Philosophy served as an example in creating my learning philosophy. I agreed with most of the work published within it but wanted to account for more cognitive aspects of learning in my philosophy. While this work influenced my work, I tried to cross check multiple ideas presented in the work to verify and build upon them.
The article on Inquisitivism is a summary of all the necessary components of creating significant learning environments. I really resonated with the initial step of fear removal and have tried to make this a priority in my teaching career. I also like the inquisitiveness aspect because I feel that this is what drives student learning.
Horn, Michael B., (2015). Blended : using disruptive innovation to improve schools. San Francisco, CA :Jossey-Bass,
This book was extremely helpful in understanding the trends and components of blended learning environments. In my learning philosophy, I use Dr. Horn’s definition of blended learning to develop my understanding of what the learner should have some control over in their learning.
McLeod, Saul. (2013). Sigmund Freud. Found at https://www.simplypsychology.org/Sigmund-Freud.html. Retrieved: 6/15/17.
This article was used to review and research insight into subconscious thought. Freud’s work in the subconscious goes a bit too far in my opinion, however the basic idea of having a subconscious that influences our opinions and decisions is something I have come to agree with. I used Freud’s thoughts on the subconscious to determine that humans have a subconscious, that is driven by innate, primal instincts (including hormones and other brain chemical functions), and the overall goal of these are self preservation.
Smith, M. K. (1999) ‘The humanistic to learning’, the encyclopedia of informal education. Found at http://infed.org/mobi/humanistic-orientations-to-learning/. Retrieved: 6/14/17.
I discovered this article as a means to clarify if I have a Humanistic approach toward learning. I relate to much of the humanist movement and this article helped review and apply additional information to its theory to understand learning. I identify with Tennant’s levels of physiological needs but disagree that they are leveled in a hierarchal order. Instead, I believe all of these needs occur simultaneously and the learner is constantly at battle with these needs. This change further combats criticism that Smith states about the Humanistic approach over needs being satisfied. Another disagreement I have with the Humanistic approach is that the reason for learning is to achieve self actualization. While I use Maslow’s idea of self actualization in my learning theory, I do not agree that it is why we learn. Instead, I believe our need to learn is an innate, primal instinct structured around self preservation and is competitive in nature and is done through self efficacy responses. Further in the article, Carl Roger’s work was used to support my idea that learning is self initiated and it is pervasive.
Smith, M.K. (2003). ‘Learning theory’, the encyclopedia of informal education. Found at http://infed.org/mobi/learning-theory-models-product-and-process/. Retrieved: 6/14/17.
This article was used to identify what I believe learning is. I found the learning theory chart particularly helpful as a review to identify and align contemporary teaching theories and their principles. I used these principles to narrow in on my personal beliefs about learning to attempt to create a learning philosophy that is uniquely my own, but rooted in theory.
Thomas, Douglas, Brown, J.S. (2011) A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Lexington, Ky. CreateSpace?
Thomas and Brown’s insight on gaming as a way of educating was used to determine that games are a way to engage student learning effectively.
People Matters Editorial Team. (February 4, 2013). How Aircel invested in a talent pipeline and is reaping benefits. Found at https://www.peoplematters.in/article/performance-management/growing-champions-investing-in-learning-2501. Access on 7/7/2017.