Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cognitivism in Practice

In advance of a student field trip to the National Gallery in Washington DC, I have begun to build a Virtual Field Trip Concept map to plan the course of the student visit.   Sitting down with several students to discuss and plot out on the computer, the “essential question” learning objectives, and logistics of the trip was an eye opening experience for us both.
We soon discovered each other’s level of understanding of what it takes to plan and pull off a bus trip with Advanced Placement Art Studio students into a big city and back.  We also discovered how little the expectations that each had for the trip matched.
Planning and plotting the steps into the bubbles on the screen presented the group with an opportunity to be actively involved in the development of the itinerary and the opportunity to take ownership of their learning experience.  The students examined prior knowledge of the site and educational objectives of their course work, adjust their thinking after investigation of current shows, and possible learning opportunities.  The planning had to allow for, travel time, time at site, time allowance for lunch.     
From an instructor’s point of view this provided both a teaching, an assessment moment, and more importantly, a moment to observe and study the process of learning, particularly the critical thinking involved.  From the students’ perspective, the mapping provided them with an opportunity to participate in their own learning, contribute to the planning, and help reinforce learning that related to their content. 
One additional note on the process was with the use of the technology itself.  The speed at which the students were able to adjust the map to accommodate the updates and changes in was a very positive aspect of its use.  This lessened the amount of time necessary for adjusting and readjustment of the timeline and provided an almost immediate visual reference of how the trip was coming together. 
All in all the incorporation of  technology and this particular mapping program was a good one for both instructor and student and provided  growth in student and instructor’s  understanding of  a variety of  learning opportunities.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Behaviorism in Practice

“Practice makes perfect” as the old idiom goes but as the psychologist Ericsson also presents, In the absence of adequate feedback, efficient learning is impossible and improvement only minimal even for highly motivated subjects. Hence mere repetition of an activity will not automatically lead to improvement in, especially, accuracy of performance” (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Romer, 1993, p. 367). In recent readings I have discovered two areas of instruction that can be directly linked and tied to both reinforcement of learning in the classroom and contributing to the learning itself. This would be in the area of reinforcing effort generally and more specifically with homework and practice.

When applied to homework Eriksson’s comment is especially true. For it to be affective and to reinforce student learning it must include well-developed tasks that engage the student on a number of levels both cognitively and behaviorally.  Dr. Pitler states in his writings in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, “homework is an extension of the classroom” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Melonoski, 2007, p. 187).  It is a place where reflection upon and shaping of the content should occur. To accomplish this without the undue effect of homework losing reinforcement value and be perceived as either punishment or becoming a meaningless rote drill the “role of expectancy and value components” (Trautwein, Ludtke, Schnyder, & Niggli, 2006, p. 16) should be taken into consideration in that students are clear on how they are expected to behave and are provided with the motivation to be successful . 

Dr Pitler and McREL speak also in a more general sense of addressing reinforcement of learning in the area of effort.  Where homework design and presentation is instructor-based, the notion of effort and success is within the control of the individual. Dr. Pitler and the authors state, “effort is the most important factor in achievement” (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 155). Students taught that the relationship of effort and achievement are tightly meshed whether with homework or other areas of learning, and understand the importance of effort for success are viewed to be more likely to succeed (Trautwein et al., 2006, p. 19). 

How an effective instructor brings these two factors for reinforcement of content acquisition into play in this age of the 21st Learner, should vary in both, method and delivery. With the use of technology, an instructor can provide the means for motivating and reinforcing learning growth.  The use of spreadsheet software to create, rubrics, effort/ achievement Microsoft Excel charts that the student can access and record progress (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 160), and survey charts that provide visual clarification of how effort and achievement correlate.

The incorporation of technology into shaping skill mastery and adaptive learning can provide success in homework design with word processing applications, spreadsheet software, and the use of multimedia, and communication software such as Writeboard (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 208).  Means such as these can provide a student with a broader range of learning experiences that reinforce content acquisition and application, and provide motivation for success.  This provides the student with the “extension” to the classroom (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 187)  and reinforcement strategies that will lessen Eriksson’s concerns where “practice will make perfect".   


       Acquisition of Expert Performance [Scientific Article]. Psychological Review, 100(3), 363-406.

      Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works (pp. 187-201). Denver, Colorado: MCREL.

      Domain-Specific, Multilevel Homework Model [Scientific Article]. Journal of Educational
      Psychology, 98(2), 438-456.