A Complete Guide To The Different Learning Theories

A Complete Guide To The Different Learning Theories



Educational theorists, from philosophers like Socrates and Rousseau to​ researchers like Howard Gardner today, have addressed theories of​ learning. Many of​ their ideas continue to​ influence homeschoolers as​ well as​ traditional educators. a​ little familiarity with some of​ the ideas most popular among homeschoolers will help you make sense of​ the wealth of​ available materials when you begin to​ make choices for your family.

Jean Piaget and Cognitive Development

He proposed that children go through several distinct stages of​ cognitive growth. First comes the sensorimotor stage (birth to​ two years), during which the child learns primarily through sensation and movement. at​ the pre-operational stage (ages two to​ seven), children begin to​ master symbols such as​ language and start to​ be able to​ form hypotheses based on past experiences. at​ the concrete operational stage (ages seven to​ eleven), children learn to​ generalize from one situation to​ similar ones, although such reasoning is​ usually limited to​ their own concrete experience.

Finally, at​ the formal operational stage (eleven years older), children can deal with abstractions, form hypothesis and engage freely in​ mental speculation. Although the rate at​ which children progress through the stages varies considerably, the sequence of​ stages is​ consistent for all children.

Therefore, to​ be appropriate and effective, learning activities should be tailored to​ the cognitive level of​ the child.

Rudolf Steiner and the Waldorf Schools

Steiner divided children’s development into three stages: to​ age seven, children learn primarily by imitation; from seven to​ fourteen, feelings and emotions predominate; and after age fourteen, the development of​ independent reasoning skills becomes important. Waldorf education tends to​ emphasize arts and crafts, music, and movement, especially at​ younger ages, and textbooks are eschewed in​ favor of​ books the students make for themselves. Waldorf theories also maintain that the emphasis should be on developing the individual’s self-awareness and judgment, sheltered from political and economic aspects of​ society until well into adolescence.

Montessori and the Prepared Environment

Italian physician Maria Montessori’s work emphasized the idea of​ the prepared environment: Provide the proper surroundings and tools, so that children can develop their full potential. Montessori materials are carefully selected, designed to​ help children learn to​ function in​ their cultures and to​ become independent and competent. Emphasis is​ on beauty and quality, and that which confuses or​ clutters is​ avoided: Manipulative are made of​ wood rather than plastic tools are simple and functional, and television and computers are discouraged.

Charlotte Mason: Guiding Natural Curiosity

Charlotte Mason was a​ nineteenth-century educator advocated informal learning during the child’s early year contrast with the Prussian system of​ regimented learning then in​ vogue. She recommended nature study to​ develop both observational skill and an​ appreciation for the beauty of​ creation and extended that approach to​ teaching history geography through travel and study of​ the environment rather than as​ collections of​ data to​ master. She felt children learn best when instruction takes into account their individual abilities and temperaments, but she emphasized the importance of​ developing good habits to​ govern one’s temperament and laying a​ solid foundation of​ good moral values.

Holt and Unschooling

Educator John Holt wrote extensively about school reform in​ the 1960s. Although he originally proposed the word “unschooling” simply as​ a​ more satisfactory alternative to​ “homeschooling.” Unschooling now generally refers to​ a​ style of​ homeschooling, in​ which learning is​ not seperated from living, and children learn mainly by following their interests. Children learn best, he argued, not by being taught, but by being a​ part of​ the world, free to​ most interests them, by having their questions answered as​ they ask them, and by being treated with respect rather than condescension.

Gardner and Multiple Intelligences

Psychologist Howard Gardner argues that intelligence is​ not a​ single unitary property and proposes the existence of​ “multiple intelligences.” He identifies seven types of​ intelligence: linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. Because each person has a​ different mix of​ these intelligences, learning is​ best tailored to​ each individual’s strengths, rather than emphasizing the linguistic and logical-mathematical approaches traditionally used in​ schools. a​ bodily kinesthetic learner, for instance, might grasp geometric concepts presented with hands-on manipulative far more easily than she would if​ they were presented in​ a​ more traditionally logical, narrative fashion. a​ teaching approach that recognizes a​ variety of​ learning styles might encourage many individuals now lost by conventional methods.




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