Learning is defined as “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught” (Oxford University Press, 2018). Learning is a very diverse concept and is becoming more commonly conceptualised as a process whereby students actively construct their own knowledge and skills (Nicol, 2006). I believe learning is above all else about satisfying curiosity and engaging in this acquisition of knowledge through an active role.
Students must play an active role in learning as it is quite an individualistic thing and unique to each learner, in saying that the learners themselves are representative of a multitude of social and cultural contexts and their unique knowledge is a resource in learning. It is vital to tap into a learners pre-existing knowledge with the right thought-provoking material that will stimulate the learner. I find it amazing to see the amount student’s know about topics and the insights they can share once asked. Learning theories help explain how learning is unique to the individual or the learning experience. While I see all learning theories as having some merit in various learning experiences, how I view learning in an educational setting aligns with Vgotsky’s idea of social constructivism. “The adult cannot pass on to the child his mode of thinking” – VgotskyIt is an impossible task to expect students to take an adult’s (teachers) mode of thinking and make it their own. Few students have the ability to regurgitate what a teacher tells them and it is unfathomable that a student would be able to think how the teacher thinks, because after all every learner is unique and we all think differently.
Students need to be equipped with the ability to problem solve and understand in order to learn independently and efficiently. With this in mind and a child centred approach, learning should work through problem solving, discovery learning and collaborative learning. To facilitate this process the teacher should act as a guide, to aid but also to measure progress in a way that informs future progress of the learner but fundamentally allows the students to operate both independently and in cooperation with ones peers (Carter, 2005).
Vgotsky’s “Zone of proximal development” focuses on preparing learners to problem solve and is dependent on using learners existing knowledge as a means of interpreting and creating new ideas. It is a simple, rational idea. One where the student under adult guidance or in collaboration with peers gradually develops the ability to do tasks without help or assistance. Vygotsky’s often-quoted definition of the zone of proximal development presents it as “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers.”