My beliefs about constructing educational experiences that help learners connect with the material and the role learners have in their own educational journey
The most vivid memory I have from my undergraduate years happened five months into my college experience. It was the day I felt so connected to a subject I knew what I wanted to devote my time and effort to studying for the next four years. It was my aha moment, the educational epiphany I hoped for in one way or another. To me, education is about creating environments that produce those types of moments for learners. Effective instruction evokes something from within the students that connects them with the world around them. I believe learning should be an emotional experience. Students should change through the meaningful connections they make with the subject matter, with others around them, and through the knowledge they acquire. Even if the changes are small or if the knowledge gained seems minimal, they become an experience the learner builds upon in the future.
I believe that learning is derived by creating meaning from experience. It is a product of both the learner and environmental factors (Ertmer & Newby, 2013). In order to create environments where students can effectively learn, we must provide the proper scaffolding so they can discover their own learning process. It is a way for students to be aware of and understand the whole process to go from being presented with a new concept, applying it, and integrating it into their world. The environment should draw upon the learner’s past experiences and build upon the foundation that is already laid (Ertmer & Newby, 2013). Asking open-ended questions is one example of how to create opportunities for students to make connections between what they already know and the material being presented. In order to truly comprehend any new concept, students must be actively engaged. When students view their role as being a passive recipient of knowledge it is not a rewarding exchange for teacher or student.
As outlined in Merrill’s (2002) first principles of instruction, “learning is promoted when new knowledge is applied by the learner” (p. 45). For this reason, instruction should include opportunities for learners to put into use the skills and knowledge they are developing. Feedback and scaffolding are important tools to guide students through this process (Merrill, 2002). I further believe that scaffolding is a valuable tool to promote self-efficacy and self-regulation within a learner. When we provide learners with enough support to cultivate their interest in and engagement with the material, we help them develop the attitudes and skills of self-regulated learners (Jarvela & Renninger, 2014).
Many other tools and forms of support can be utilized to enhance an instructional strategy and provide interactive learning experiences for students. Technology is seen today as an integral part of society and education. It can be used to help teachers present material in more dynamic and engaging ways while incorporating a method that learners are already using to increase and share their knowledge. However, I agree with Clark (1994) who cautioned that we do not focus so much on the media or technology that we lose sight of the importance of the instructional method behind it. Simply integrating forms of media into an instructional design does not make it more effective. The “active ingredient” in the instruction is necessary to cause learning; the form through which it is delivered does not supersede the importance of the material itself (Clark, 1994). I firmly believe that technology is an important part of our world, and students should know how to efficiently use it in their personal and educational pursuits. Part of the learning process is learning how to use available resources, but we should focus on the integrity of the instructional content before focusing on which type of media should be used.
In summary, I strive to help students create significant experiences throughout their educational journey. I seek to do this by providing environments where students can reflect on what they already know, connect this prior knowledge with new material, and have practical application opportunities to fully comprehend what is learned. In order to do this, the student and teacher must understand their individual roles in the learning environment and participate sufficiently for it to be a rewarding exchange for both. Providing support and feedback are important tools for students to self-regulate their learning experience. In my opinion self-regulation is an essential attribute we help our students acquire because an interested, self-regulated learner is motivated by something from within. This has implications for learners that go beyond the formal learning environment and transfer into other aspects of their lives. Tools, such as forms of technology, can be used to complement the lesson, but they are only as effective as the instructional strategy and content they convey.
Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21–29. http://doi.org/10.1152/advan.00094.2010
Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (2013). Constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50–72. http://doi.org/10.1002/piq
Jarvela, S. & Renninger, K.A. (2014). Designing for learning: Interest, Motivation, and Engagement. In The cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (2nd ed., pp. 668-683). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research & Development, 50(3), 43–59.
Reiser, R. A. (2012). A history of instructional design and technology. In Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (3rd ed., pp. 17-27). Boston, MA: Pearson.