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Module 2 Reflection: Philosophy of Education: Epistemology and Learning Theory

June 14, 2012

I still feel as if I am trying to figure out which learning theory I feel most comfortable with and use in classroom instruction. I feel as if part of the reason is that I have never had any learning theory instruction; this is not included in a BS Biology or MLS degree programs!

I believe that my epistemological philosophy system falls closer to objectivism and Cognitive Learning Theories. This epistemology states that sensory experiences can allow one to “know a reality that is objective and singular” (Smith & Ragan, 2005, p. 22). Perhaps because I am a science librarian, I firmly believe that empirical knowledge such as knowledge from the sciences is objective, and must continue to be thought of as such. I think a ‘eureka’ moment for me this week was watching the video for EdTech503 by Dr Soloway (1999). He was showing a video clip of students who had worked on a science assignment using Constructivist methods. At the end of the video clip, Dr Soloway commented on their conclusions by saying “A little incorrect, It’s OK” (31:00). I virtually yelled back at the computer that it wasn’t OK for them to accept “wrong” conclusions in a science class! On the other hand, I can certainly understand how effective Constructivist Learning Theories based on rationalism can be. Engaging students in authentic experiences to create meaningful knowledge (Ertmer, 1993)  is a laudable goal, regardless of the learning theory used.

Through the readings, I came to understand that part of my dilemma parsing this together as an academic librarian is that I try to address goals from multiple learning theory perspectives during a single information literacy session.  First, the session is a “training” session as I attempt to demonstrate and teach students to effectively use databases with advanced methods on complex and varied platforms. Behaviorist or Cognitive methods are best for this type of class session as I break the process into attainable parts and scaffold on their past experience of Google. However, the other goal is “educational”. I want students to start thinking more deeply about the world of information: how is information structured; how does effective research occur; why is peer review important, etc. This type of goal is probably best met through a Constructivist point of view with discussion, real world activities and students asked to determine why it is meaningful to them.  According to Anderson & Dron (2011), “Behaviourist notions have been especially attractive for use in training (as opposed to educational) programs as the learning outcomes associated with training are usually clearly measured and demonstrated behaviourally” (paragraph 6). I am tasked with meeting both training and education goals, and in 60 minutes or less!

Therefore, I feel that I need to find a middle way through these theories that allow me to focus on concrete task objectives, while also encouraging consideration of the deeper meaning of information. I feel I already do this somewhat by spending time demonstrating databases, discussing deeper issues, and allowing hands-on practice time for authentic experience. While multiple sessions would be better to address these multiple goals, I am typically allotted only 1 session by the teaching faculty member, so I need to be pragmatic and work within those timeframes. It’s not perfect, but I continue to try!

Anderson, T., & Dron, J. (2010). Three generations of distance education pedagogy. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), 80–97.

Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50–72. doi:10.1111/j.1937-8327.1993.tb00605.x

Smith, P. L., & Ragan, T. J. (2005). Instructional design. Hoboken, N.J.: J. Wiley & Sons.

Soloway, E. (1999). Schools don’t want technology, schools want education. UWTV. Retrieved June 14, 2012, from http://www.uwtv.org/video/player.aspx?mediaid=16209747

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