How Does Learning Happen? (Final Reflection)
When revisiting my initial reflection on how learning happens, I found the change of my view on learning. While writing only three months ago, I assumed that most learning was an internal process. I totally ignored the effects of communities, peers, groups and so on.
Through the study of learning theories during this trimester, I learned that learning is distributed among co-participants; it is not a one-person act (Lave and Wenger, 1991, pp 15-16). Piaget's theory of society states that children are social beings who do not develop in cognitive isolation from others. Vygotsky believed that any pedagogy creates learning processes that lead to development and this sequence results in zones of proximal development. It is the concept that a child accomplishes a task that he/she cannot do alone, with the help from a more skilled person. Papert thinks that we learn best what is most socially or personally important to us.
I believe that it was through the study of those learning theories and the learning experiences that I have come to realize the importance of social process in learning. Having worked through the optional book #1 project (Theory and Practice of Online Learning) and the final project with my cadre mates, I think we learned to share knowledge, participate in the group process by dividing the work, and brought excellent efforts to the projects. Interaction has strengthened relationships and helped ease anxieties through sharing of experiences. We have come much closer and respectful of each other's talents. Group work enabled us to recognize and utilize each other's strengths, thereby contributing to our growing sense of community. Group projects were very beneficial and the applications were much more meaningful than knowledge-level lectures. I learned to value the opinions of others as being important and valid contributions to the project being worked on. We have all learned a lot from each other and care for each other very much. We have really grown.
To see how the learning at OMET applies to my practice, I conducted an experiment in my classroom. (The details of this experiment can be accessed at my ARP website students.pepperdine.edu/xking/arphome.htm.) This experiment showed the importance of the sociocultural context in relation to our learning and development. In a Vygotsky model classroom, a teacher has a role to assist the emerging competencies of the students. The teacher creates social environments of what the students could achieve independently, and what the student could achieve with assistance from more capable peers. One way a teacher could encourage socialization is to create group activities. Through social interaction with peers in group activities, students could verbalize their thinking, and deepen their understanding.
I think this is one of the major changes of my view on learning and practice in teaching. This is just the beginning, and this major change will bring about other changes in my practice in the future. We will see the changes and their outcomes through my ARP during the next terms. Thanks to Doc Sue and EDC 633, I have gained the knowledge of the important social process in learning.