The article presents the discussion of various learning theories and their application in foreign language teacher education. The author analyzes the learning activities by presenting tasks based on learning theories as an example of each perspective.
Keywords: humanistic theory, sociocultural perspective, behaviourism, experiential learning.
В статье представлено обсуждение различных учебных теорий и их применение в методике преподавания иностранных языков. Автор анализирует учебную деятельность, представляя задачи, основанные на обучающих теориях, в качестве примера каждой перспективы.
Ключевые слова: гуманистическая теория, социокультурная перспектива, бихевиоризм, эмпирическое обучение.
Teacher education and learning employs various learning theories which usually come in an integrated way. Proper identification of appropriate learning theories suitable for group of learners and directing in a desired way may yield effective outcomes. In teacher education knowledge of learning theories provide foundations for intellectual and motivated selection of proven instructional strategies and conceptual frameworks which enable us to solve problems related to learning. Moreover, knowledge of these theories helps us to be more professional teachers, who understand underpinning principles of their actions and able to integrate selected strategies to a definite learning context.
According to sociocultural approach to learning developed by Vygotsky a language has three main functions. They are language as a cognitive tool, social or cultural tool and pedagogical tool [1,160]. In the area of teacher education the third function of a language which defines a language as a pedagogical tool plays a pivotal role, as language performs the function of a medium through which other people’s intellectual development is guided and supported. In this term the notion of dialogic teaching comes into light of teacher education. Dialogic teaching and learning takes its origins from sociocultural perspective of learning and developed by Alexander [2,273]. Dialogic teaching concept is used to define how teachers and learners co-construct knowledge through discussing shared ideas and presenting arguments and counter-arguments to each others’ opinions [2,276]. In this process language plays an important role performing the function of a pedagogical tool. During the course sessions student teachers as learners try to co-construct knowledge related to issues in teaching English. Thus it is beneficial for teachers to hold activities in the form of pair or group discussions where students can share their views on the topic and present arguments where necessary. Tutors, in this process, are advised to listen to students’ negotiation carefully, providing scaffolding when needed.
Roberts [3,12] distinguishes four main theories of learning, which are behaviouristic view of learning, humanistic view, constructivist theory and social or sociocultural perspective of learning. However, these learning theories may overlap and fulfill each other to some extent.
As Roberts explains, behaviourist theory of teacher learning sees a person as an input-output system and the input can change human behaviour under certain well-planned and well-developed circumstances or conditions.
Unlike behaviourism, humanistic theory of learning identifies a person as an independent self-agent where person’s own individual psychological peculiarities, emotions and strive for self-development may trigger learning. Proponents of humanistic approach suggest that person’s learning should be internally driven rather than externally controlled by others.
According to Roberts humanistic theory recognizes the autonomy of people and their individual needs. Furthermore, humanistic theory in teacher education views teacher-learner interaction as co-operative rather than teacher dominant process and emphasizes students’ self-determination and self-agency in identifying their pace and extent of learning. For instance, during the classes students can be counseled rather than taught and their ideas and views are as valuable as teachers’ opinions.
Microteaching is one of the teacher training techniques which employs real teaching situation for developing teaching skills and facilitates getting deeper knowledge about teaching. Micro-teaching derives from the behaviouristic principles of teacher education. According to Roberts in behaviouristic approach to curriculum and task design model of a target behaviour is divided into discrete sub-behaviours. While doing the micro-teaching task students are required to decide on the teaching approach and materials, plan the lesson, teach the lesson, and reflect on the taught lesson, which contributes to habits formation in terms of further professional development. And the last but not the last purpose of the microteaching was to transfer the skills students practice during their microteaching into their future teaching repertoire. However, Griffiths [4,7] suggests constructivist view on the role of micro-teaching in teacher education and explains that there occurs a reconstruction of schemata which were existent in teacher learners prior to micro-teaching.
In the effective reflection video-recording of one’s teaching has many advantages. MacLeod [1,160] mentions that the modern-day technology such as audio or video recording devices play an important role in the teacher learning process especially during microteaching. With the help of video-recording one’s own lessons, which is one of the self-observation techniques, teachers can set up a self-monitoring of their teaching behaviours and develop them accordingly.
Additionally, micro-teaching and focus group sessions also employ some elements of Kolb’s experiential learning theory. Kolb’s experiential learning suggests that learning takes place through concrete experience and one of the components of promoting experiential learning is reflective observation [3,40]. Furthermore, Kolb’s experiential learning theory emphasizes the importance of dialogue in learning. For instance, after the micro-teaching session teachers or mentors can have a focus group sessions where they may reflect on their and peers teaching and give feedback to each other in the form of dialogues. In addition, students can hold a personal dialogue in order to understand the decisions they made in planning and teaching stages of the microteaching.
The next efficient classroom activities or tasks students in preparing future English language teachers are structured classroom observations. Good [4,191] claims that among the main purposes of classroom observation in teacher education is to prepare beginning teachers with enough skills and knowledge to improve their teaching with the help of continuous analysis and reflection.
Schunk [5,11] ascribes observational learning to the social cognitive learning theory and identifies observational learning as one of the components through which modeling occurs. Prior to the observation tutors are advised to have several sessions on topics related to lesson planning and delivering lessons, which can give students an opportunity to build a meaningful framework for the purposes and tasks they have to fulfill during structured observations. Schunk [5,22] divides observational learning into four processes: attention, retention, production and motivation. Before each observation students need to be assigned an area of interest on which they have to emphasize during the observation of lessons, which enables meaningful perception of events that are observed. In the next stage during/after each observation students are asked to transfer their observations to cognitive organization through coding, describing or taking notes. For the purpose of describing and coding the events observed it is advised to provide students with observation tools (tables, templates), which also set a clear framework for observation. According to Schunk [5,35] this process is termed as retention, through which observed modeled events are transformed for memory storage. In the next stage while attending the observations students need to be asked to reflect on the interactions between teachers and students, use of approaches, methods and materials during the observed classes and design their own lesson plans thinking of the same observed group of learners. Schunk [5,35] defines these stages as rehearsal and production. In rehearsal process observed events are mentally reviewed and in the production process the observed materials and other relevant knowledge are transformed into overt behaviours. Thus by suggesting their own lesson plan students can turn the things they have learned during the observation into overt behaviour.
Thus modern approaches to the study of learning theories are not new and they reflect on peoples’ desire to understand themselves, others and the world around them.
- REMESH, Ambili. (2013). Microteaching, an efficient technique for learning effective teaching. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 18(2), 158–163.
- ARTINO, Anthony, Jr. (2010). Online or Face-to-Face Learning. Exploring the Personal Factors that Predict Students' Choice of Instructional Format. Internet and Higher Education, 13(4), 272–276.
- ROBERTS, Jon. (1998). Language teacher education. London,
- GRIFFITHS, Roy. (1977). The Emergence of a Cognitive Perspective in Microteaching. Educational Studies, 191–7. [online]. http://www.tandfonline.com/
- SCHUNK, Dale. (2012). Learning theories an educational perspective. 6th ed. Boston, Pearson.