Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself. – John Dewey
David Johnson, Roger Johnson, and Karl Smith, preeminent researchers and practitioners in the field of teaching and learning, describe learning (1991) as “a social process that occurs through interpersonal interaction within a cooperative context. Individuals, working together, construct shared understandings and knowledge.” This quote summarizes the shift in thinking about learning and training that has occurred since the 1980s.
The FCOCP reflects these newer developments in learning and training theory, as well as core concepts in traditional learning and training theory.
Newer Developments in Learning Theory
The FCOCP draws heavily on developments in learning theory in these areas:
- The way the brain works
- Multiple intelligences
Constructivism asserts that individuals experience meaningful learning when they have the opportunity to process information and relate it to their own experiences. As Burke (1993) states: “Learners should be able to construct meaning for themselves, reflect on the significance of this meaning, and self-assess to determine their own strengths and weaknesses.”
The Way the Brain Works
Constructivist theories of learning have been supported and enhanced by research on the way the brain works. Recent research has demonstrated that the operation of the brain is much more complex than earlier theories of learning believed. Current research shows that the ability to learn is significantly influenced by the environment in which learning takes place, as well as by the learner’s ability to cope with the emotions evoked by the learning environment.
Chapman (1993) outlines four elements that need to be present for the brain to function fully:
- Trust and belonging — learners need to be familiar with the environment and be given a significant number of opportunities to practice what is being taught.
- Meaningful content and enriched environment — learners require content that is relevant and a process of instruction that promotes learning.
- Intelligent choices — learners should have choices about what they learn and how they learn it.
- Adequate time — learners need time to become comfortable with the approaches to instruction. Learners also require sufficient time to demonstrate their learning.
Jensen (1998) supports Chapman’s need for a supportive environment and adds that there is a need to enrich as much as possible. Research on the working of the brain also points to the need to teach the skills of thinking and to encourage metacognition (thinking about thinking).
For years, intelligence has been viewed as a relatively fixed, singular entity that could be demonstrated through a number of standardized tests. Recently, however, Gardiner (1983) has demonstrated that there are at least eight intelligences:
- Verbal/linguistic (words, listening, speaking)
- Visual/spatial (images, drawings, puzzles)
- Logical/mathematical (reasoning, facts, sequencing)
- Musical/rhythmic (melody, beat, pace)
- Bodily/kinesthetic (activity, perform, feel)
- Interpersonal (interact, communicate, empathize)
- Intrapersonal (create, dream, set goals)
- Naturalistic (observe, classify, hiking)
Gardiner’s research forces us to change our perspective from “How smart is the learner?” to “How is the learner smart?” This change in focus means that educators need to use a variety of instructional activities to give learners better opportunities to learn and to show what they have learned.
These developments have contributed to the realization that educators have had a rather narrow view of knowledge and learning. Educators need to examine their practices and broaden their views to be more in line with this new perspective on knowledge and learning. The FCOCP is based on this broader definition of knowledge and learning.