Friday, October 8, 2010

Four main perspectives on learning

Gurney, B. F. (1995). Tugboats and tennis games: Preservice conceptions of teaching and learning revealed through metaphors. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 32(6), 569-583.

Davis, E.A., Petish, D. & Smithey, J. (2006). Challenges new science teachers face. Review of Educational Research, 76(4), 607–651.

Gurney investigated 151 preservice secondary teachers and identified four main perspectives on learning, which can be seen as  

1) a process of delivery (in which learners receive a message),
2) change (in which learners become different as a result of learning),
3) enlightenment (in which the hidden potential of students is revealed through learning), or
4) humanics (in which learning involves interaction, struggle, and persistence).  

Overall, the papers in this set conform to Gurney’s overarching finding and indicate that preservice teachers hold varied perspectives on learners and learning; no single, consistent perspective emerged.  

Some studies characterize not the extent of but the nature of preservice elementary and secondary teachers’ knowledge and beliefs about students as learners. Southerland and Gess-Newsome (1999) studied 22 preservice elementary teachers and found that they tended to believe that learners have fixed abilities, which led them to place students in categories (e.g., high and low ability), tailor instruction to those perceived abilities (e.g., students who are perceived as high-ability might be permitted to engage in research projects), and not revisit the categorization, so that categories were possibly reinforced over time (see also Geddis & Roberts, 1998, for another example of student categorization). Other studies describe the varied nature of teachers’ views of learning (Abell et al., 1998; Gurney, 1995; Lemberger et al., 1999; Meyer et al., 1999).  

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