Synthesis – Topic Evaluation

In this blog I’m going to attempt to bring together the content of my last 4 blogs. The topic I have been observing is learning styles and concentrated on some different learning methods that are available such as anchored learning, self regulated learning and discovery learning. I expand on this by assessing how effective these methods are and which one do I personally believe is the best one to learn from.

What does the term ‘learning’ mean?
According to the dictionary the term learning is defined in psychology as the modification of behaviour through practice, training or experience. In education it is defined as learning new information by experience or practice and learning to remember this information in the long term.

Behaviourist Learning.
The behaviourist approach to learning in education by Skinner (1950) is that motivation to learn is assumed to be driven primarily by drives such as hunger and the availability of external forces such as rewards and punishment which can be used to enhance learning. This means by associating a stimulus connection between stimuli and response through classical conditioning whether a positive or negative reinforcement an example of this is the little Albert experiment (Watson & Rayner, 1920).

Constructivist Learning
The constructivist view to learning is that people construct new knowledge and understanding by expanding on information on what they already know and believe (Piaget, 1952). This is supported by Bransford (2000) who claim there is a good deal of evidence that learning is enhanced when teachers pay attention to the knowledge and belief that learners tell them. This helps them to use this knowledge as a starting point for new instructions and to monitor students changing conceptions and creating teaching plans to help learners expand on their knowledge.

Anchored Learning
Anchored learning is a learning method which put a lot of emphasis on group work to become more actively engaged in learning by solving an interesting real life problem. There are two principles to anchored learning, the first being that learning and teaching activities should be designed around an “anchor” which is often a story, adventure or situation that includes a problem to be dealt with that is of interest to the students. The second principle is that the instructional method should include rich resources which will enable students to explore as they try to decide how to solve problems.

A positive aspect of anchored learning is the fact that it helps students to develop effective thinking skills and attitudes that contribute to effective problem solving and critical thinking. Additionally with this learning style what they learn can be implemented in the real world due to the fact that they are presented with realistic environment problems and need to work out a solution to solve the problem which hopefully results in them being able to recall the information when the same or similar problem occurs in the future.

However Snider (2006) argues the limitation of anchored learning is the fact that there is more emphasis placed on the process of learning rather than the learning outcome itself, and that she personally beliefs that this type of learning could in effect lead to incorrect learning or no learning at all.

Self Regulated Learning
Self Regulated Learning (SRL) refers to a student who see themselves as agents to their own behaviour who are self motivated and use strategies that enable them to achieved desired academic results (Zimmerman, 2002). There are 3 key aspect to SRL self observation – where you monitor your own behaviour, self judgment – evaluating how effective your own behaviour is, and self reactions – when you react accordingly to maximize future effectiveness.

This learning style can be viewed as more effective than the rest due to the fact it allows a flexible way of learning. (Barrett, 2000). This is effective as it allows a student to think for themselves and be responsible for their own learning, and manage your own workload (Wade, Abrami & Sclater, 2005). This is supported by Montessori (1936) who found that by providing students control and allowing them to work at their own pace it produced significant improvement in their learning in low achieving and high achieving students.

However the limitation with SRL is the fact that even thought Montessori (1936) claims that SRL helps low achieving student. Personally I question this notion as if the students lacks external reinforcement which is sometimes the case with low achieving students it would be hard to keep us studying behaviour. This would mean that SRL can only be beneficial for high achievers or high motivational people.

Discovery Learning
Discovery Learning is defined as ‘an inquiry based, constructivist learning that takes place in problem solving environment’. (Bruner, 1915). This means that if children learn something from their own accord it is believed there is a greater risk of them remembering.

According to Burdette and Whittaker (2005) discovery learning is positive as it allows children to learn 3 important aspects of play attention (cognitive), affiliation (social), and affect (emotional). This is beneficial for the child as according to Bruner (1967) discovery learning encourages engagement, motivation and develop independence and responsibility.

However the limitation of discovery learning is discussed by Snider (2006) who claims it leads to children learning information that is incorrect and could result in misconception or cause frustration to the learners (Aldrich et al, 2011).

My Thoughts on What I’ve Learned about Learning Styles.
After evaluating these 3 learning styles I have learnt a lot about different methods of learning and which ones are effective and helps the individual learn to their full potential which benefits individual at different achieving levels from low to high. For Anchored Learning unfortunately I don’t think that this is a method that can be used throughout education as there is a limitation as this method can only be used for subjects where there is freedom such as history and RE and cannot be used in mathematics or science. Additionally I personally believe there are too many limitations with Discovery Learning especially due to the fact that it is mainly used with young children and can cause misinterpretation which could cause problems for them in the future and the fact they could get confused by the environment. At such a young age personally I believe they would benefit better from direct instructions giving clear learning objectives and clear instructions for children to learn. In my personally opinion after observing these 3 learning styles, Self Regulated Learning is the most effective as it can benefit low and high achieving students, and due to the fact that a student is in control of their own learning and are aware of their own capabilities. To conclude all of these methods has been implemented in education, however when evaluating some have stronger educational value than others. Overall the importance is the individuals needs, as we all lean differently.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Re3ecca
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 12:52:25

    Hi Elin! Thanks for summarizing your blogs so clearly, I don’t know much about learning styles so this blog is a really good reference for me. Picking up on your argument about anchored learning being to limited to use with subjects such as maths science, I think it is possible for anchored learning to be used in these subjects to some extent. Particularly with young children, basic maths skills could be made part of an anchor story, although I agree that with science a lot of what we learn is terminology and theories, which can’t necessarily be put in an anchor story as there are competing theories, and therefore it would hard to present them in a linear way as part of a continuous story..
    In UK schools there are plans to help children learn about children through many different mediums, such as cookery and sport which may go someway to allowing an “anchor story” to be followed to help children learn about things through many different mediums, as the “story” could encompass manyactivities instead of having a different medium of learning for each subject (ie. practical assessment in sport and then memorization of history assessment in history). Anchored learning (if used correctly with an appropriate “anchor story”) may go some way to showing children context and thereby increasing the perceived usefulness of the information.


  2. psud0a
    Apr 18, 2013 @ 12:11:48

    Hi Elin, I really enjoyed reading your synthesis this week! You have condensed it extremely well and described all aspects of your blogs. However I have noticed you stating that discovery learning is not useful and that you disagree with the practice. As I have previously mentioned in a previous blog (psuc18) discovery learning can be used as a useful tool in the classroom with computers (Lemerise, 1993). It has been most successful when integrated with open ended task as compared to free play, thus showing the teaching aspects of using it. Alfieri et al (2011) also studied this phenomenon across 56 previous studies and suggested your opinion that discovery learning is unusual in learning, however when given open ended tasks. Participants performed significantly better showing goal setting etc, can improve and expand this teaching method for optimal learning,

    Alfieri, L., Brooks, P. J., Aldrich, N. J., & Tenenbaum, H. R. (2011). Does discovery-based instruction enhance learning?. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103(1), 1.
    Lemerise, T. (1993). Piaget, Vygotsky, & Logo. The Computing Teacher, 24-28


  3. psuc18
    Apr 18, 2013 @ 17:26:35

    Hi Elin, I have really enjoyed reading your blogs over the last few months. I have learned that there are so many learning styles that different children can benefit from. I have particularly enjoyed this blog because you have created a structure in which you have listed all the different learning styles you have previously mentioned followed by a brief description to explain exactly what each one involves and the effect it can have on a child.
    In your concluding paragraph you have mentioned that you don’t believe anchored and discovery learning to be effective in schools and that self regulated learning would provide more benefits to the children due to them being handed clear instructions on the tasks that are asked to be completed. However I must disagree with you. I believe that children may benefit more from learning through their own discoveries than they would just following instructions from a teacher. The reason I say this is I am a firm believer in that people do learn from their own mistakes especially at a young age. If a child participates in a negative behaviour such as being naughty or placing a hand on a hot oven and then experiences a row from a figure of authority or a burning pain from touching the hot surface, they are much more unlikely not to demonstrate this behaviour again than they would if they were just simply warned of the consequences of this behaviour. However I don’t believe that clear instructions should be completely banished as children also need strict guidelines from a young age in order to distinguish from right and wrong therefore I will argue that a combination of these styles of learning would be beneficial in education instead of just concentrating on one particular style. Furthermore teachers must take individual differences into consideration. Perhaps one child in the classroom might benefit from a particular learning style whereas another would benefit more from a different style.
    I hope I have made my point clear! Thank you.


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