Epistemology vs. Learning Theories
According to University College Dublin (N.D.), “epistemology influences our own theories of learning, and consequently, how we approach, design, and deliver” information. In contrast, “learning theories are conceptual frameworks in which knowledge is absorbed, processed, and retained during learning” (Wikipedia, 2017). What I understand this to say is that epistemology explains what is filled within the human brain. What makes it “information.” In a different light, I believe learning theories explain how we fill our brains with that information and how we learn certain things, yet don’t learn others. Philosophy Basics (2008) explained it best to me when they said, epistemology is “knowledge-that”, whereas learning theories are “knowledge-how.”
Positivist, Relativist, and Contextualist
The cognitive processes of knowledge, known as epistemic stances consist of positivist, relativist, and contextual. According to Reiser and Dempsey each one of these is unique from the other, but can not stand together; therefore, must stand alone. I definitely fall into the epistemic stance of contextualist. If the knowledge is relative to the context, it seems that my learning has to happen when I am in the midst of doing. I definitely find that the bulk of my learning happens when I have accepted the challenge to figure something out then dive into that process. As a librarian, I can see that many kids feel the same way. Since a large portion of the population learns through auditory and kinesthetic presentation opportunities, it goes without saying that the doing is learning. In the library, we have implemented white board stations, collaborative tv presentation stations, small and large group discussion areas and quiet rooms. Each gives the different learners different opportunities, but I see the greatest learning when the kids are all sitting around working together on something or they are taking turns teaching, reflecting and reteaching.
I have certainly disagreed with others epistemic stances, as I am a Christ believer and have worked in both private and public education. On many occasions, I have come in the presence of another that holds the positivist view, not allowing me to hold my beliefs, because the concrete evidence they hold dear, explains everything. In my eyes though, it does not explain everything. The use of science and factual evidence does not change my beliefs and what I hold true, it only allows me a reason to further examine what I know and how that evidence ties into the picture.
Behaviorist vs. Constructivist Perspectives
Problem solving when approached by behaviorist is different than when approached by a constructivist. A behaviorist sees problem solving as something that has to be understood, explained and predicted by empirical data and observable events. In this method of teaching, the learner receives the information and direction from the teacher. The learner receives the information and completes the task with feedback from the instructor. The immediate feedback is believed to encourage the learner to want to keep learning and trying. I call this the sit-and-get method of teaching and learning.
On the other hand, constructivist see problem solving as something more like what we see today in a learner-centered classroom. The teacher facilitates the lesson by providing guidance, suggestions to help the learner along, but the learner is in charge of his or her own learning opportunities. This comes in the presence of possible materials to enhance their knowledge and resources to extend that knowledge. Project based learning is a great example of constructivist learning. The students are presented with a problem and essentially work to come up with solutions to that problem. During that process, they may pull in the teacher to show them how to do something. Students may do research to find out more information. They may watch videos or seek out experts along the way. They work together to ask questions and build possible outcomes. Throughout the process, their direction may ebb and flow until they finally gain enough knowledge that they can agree on a solution for their problem. They then build a presentation to share with others explaining what they did and their conclusion and how they came to it. The may even share next-steps if they plan to carry that solution through to fruition. Once complete, it is critical that the students follow up the learning with a process of reflection to see where they did good and where they failed. The want to know how to do better next time, and reflection is the way to get there. For students, this way of learning allows freedom and excitement. For most teachers, the lack of hands-on in their approach makes it extremely unattractive. Additionally, it takes a whole lot more planning along the way in order to keep the pace moving, unlike the straight forward style of behaviorist.
"Becoming a Better University Teacher." UCD OER wiki. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 June 2017.
"Epistemology." Epistemology - By Branch / Doctrine - The Basics of Philosophy. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 June 2017.
Reiser, Robert V.; Dempsey, John V. (2011-03-14). Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology (3rd
Edition) (Page 40). Pearson HE, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
A wife, mother, teacher, life-long learner and an avid runner.