What is Your Personal Learning Theory?

A few weeks ago, I was asked to reflect on my theory of how students learn. As I pondered this question, I reflected back on my undergraduate degree to attempt to recall my “training” in learning theory. Sure, I could recall the big names in educational learning theories, such as Skinner and Piaget, however I struggled to communicate my thoughts on how students learn, and even more importantly, how my methods of teaching provide opportunities for students in my classroom to learn, grow, and mature.

My reflection brought me to these thoughts.

  • All students can learn.
  • My methods of teaching target those students who want to learn.
  • Students need to learn how to follow rules and directions.
  • There are many outside factors that affect learner behaviors and attitudes.
  • Students need a “base” of skills that can then be built upon.
  • Technology should be a component of all lessons.

These last few weeks, we have been studying and refreshing our ideas on how students learn and addressing how we need to adjust our teaching. It is no secret that many theorists are stating that the learners are different today than they were twenty years ago. The buzz words of 21st Century Learners permeates schools everywhere. But what does that really mean for teachers? Well, unfortunately I cannot answer that question for anyone except myself.

I still believe all students can learn, however, I now believe that it is in the best interest of all if even the most resistant of learners are targeted. How do I plan to do this? Constructionism. I am going to focus on allowing opportunities for my students to build stuff. I want them to create presentations, videos, and artifacts(Laureate Education, 2010). I want my students to get their hands dirty. I want them to fail, I want them to search for answers, I want them to succeed. “When students generate and test hypotheses, they are engaging in complex mental processes, applying content knowledge like facts and vocabulary, and enhancing their overall understating of the content.” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p. 202) As I stated earlier, I fell into the category of teaching, for the most part, how I was taught many years ago. I want to change this. I want to change from being the source of information to being a guide, an arbitrator, a moderator. I want my students to find information from other sources. I want to learn from my students. I want my students to learn from each other.

Students no longer do work for just their teacher. With that being said, I wrote about sharing in a previous post. I do still believe that there is a tremendous opportunity for learning in the process of sharing information and ideas. I am going to encourage my students to share. Not only share, but also reflect upon what others have shared. For me, this may be the most important part of learning in today’s classroom.

So, from all of this learning and reflection, this is my plan.

  • All students can learn and teach.
  • Less talking from me, and more doing from students.
  • Build stuff.
  • Share stuff.
  • Use technology when appropriate.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Constructionist and Constructivist Learning Theories. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Pitler H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


~ by Dean Phillips on December 20, 2010.

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