Learning Philosophies Then and Now

This past week we discussed various learning philosophies.  I have not done a lot of learning about learning philosophies since my undergrad.  This was an excellent time to reflect on the question: Which theories of knowledge, and/or learning underpin my own teaching philosophy and classroom practice. As well as,  how have these beliefs shifted or changed over the course of your teaching career?


First off, I remember as a first-year teacher, I relied a lot on the theory of behaviorism. Ertmer and Newby’s article on Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features from an Instructional Design Perspective highlights some of these key ways I implemented behaviorism.

Pre-assessment of students to determine where instruction should begin.

This is still a practice that I believe is very important.  It is important to have that baseline of what your students know. Or even understanding what students can bring to the classroom such as using classroom inventories of tapping into the knowledge that students already have and use that knowledge to engage students.

The use of reinforcement to impact performance.

Students were reinforced in my classroom.  I rewarded good behavior as I utilized a classroom currency system.  Now, I never took away points from my students, I did reward them for participating in class and helping the classroom community.

Behaviorism is also reflected in the classroom rules that were co-created within my classroom.

Every year we create expectations in Daily Five or a classroom chart that focuses on what the classroom “Looks like, sounds like, feels like.”

I found that the video below also helped me continue to wrap my mind around the learning theory, and explained in VERY simple terms.


I also use cognitivism as a theory within my practice. As the video below highlights, “Cognitivism focuses on how information is received, organized, stored, and retrieved by the mind”.  I still believe that it is important that instruction be structured in a way that allows students to make learning meaningful.  This is by providing instruction that is structured, organized, sequenced, and presented in understandable ways.  Often in my lessons, I use cognitivism in the following ways.

  1. Hooks in my lessons. To get my students engaged.
  2. Activating prior knowledge, connecting our learning to previous learning
  3. Utilizing graphic organizers. To organize thoughts in understandable ways.

Although as a young teacher, I utilized both Behaviourism and Cognitivism in my teaching. I have become less dependent on those learning theories, and try to incorporate more Constructivist approaches and forms such as the ones listed below.


I found a great blogpost ‘Making’ Does Not Equal ‘Constructionism’ the blog highlights Constructivism as “a theory which suggests that people actively construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world and are not merely passive recipients”. Furthermore, it highlights that when we come across something new, we either assimilate it into our knowledge, or we accommodate it by changing what we believe. Or we just discard the information as irrelevant. This theory lends to help students construct knowledge rather than “regurgitate facts”.  It lends itself to project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, and diving into deeper questions.

Experiential Learning

According to Carleton University, “Experiential Learning is the application of theory and academic content to real-world experiences, either within the classroom, community, or the workplace.  It requires not only engagement in the experience activity, but also requires students to reflect upon their learning and how their skills can be applied beyond the classroom”. Within my current position, we often discuss and reflect on how the skills that we are learning are transferable to other fields, and other settings. It is important for students to have these important conversations and be able to reflect on there learning.

I found this tweet on Twitter from an Edtech coach, Thaddeus Bourassa, that I follow.  I believe that it highlights the importance of feedback, being able to reflect on learning, and taking that learning further to grow as a learner.




Coined by Seymour Papert takes constructivism a step further.  It involves “the deep, substantive learning and ‘enduring understandings’ occur when people are actively creating artifacts in the real world.” Constructionism involves deep conversations with others about the artifacts that are being built.  This can involve the creation of poems, songs, presentations, art, coding, robotics, etc. This is a theory that I want to continue to try to integrate within my current position with supporting teachers and students with technology.

For more information about the maker movement and the rebirth of Constructionism please check out the following blog post The Maker Movement and the Rebirth of Constructionism.


In conclusion, I believe that my teaching practice has evolved as I have learned more about how students learn, and the various ways of how to engage students in learning.  I definitely believe that my teaching philosophy incorporates a plethora of learning theories, but currently, I feel as I have a strong focus and gravitation towards utilizing theories such as Experiential Learning, Constructivism, and Constructionism. To allow students to construct their own meaning allowing myself as the teacher to become a facilitator of learning.

Comments (3)

  1. Reply

    Thanks for sharing such a thoughtful post!

    I love the tweet you shared! Too often we think of learning as a destination and not a journey. It’s so easy to just work toward the due date and not think too much about the process, but the process is everything! I sometimes find with large scale projects, the final product my students create isn’t nearly as interesting as the steps they took to get there.

    I also appreciate that you mention constructionism. This was a new learning theory for me, but it piqued my interest as well. I like that it focuses on collaborating on a concrete artifact, rather than ideas. I think for your line of work, this is a very applicable learning theory!

  2. Reply

    Great post. I liked your discussion about the value and importance of pre-assessment. Lucky for use, there are so many digital tools that can help us with this process. I believe that’s what makes so many of them very valuable, as they work well for formative assessment.

    I’m also working on including more learning opportunities that would be considered obstructionism theory. One of the biggest challenges is to get students out of the traditional mindsets and take some risks in their learning.

    Thanks Curtis!

  3. Reply

    Great post! I liked how you included your personal experiences with using each of the different learning theories within your teaching practice. I too am trying to include lessons that are taught using a more constructivist approach. I think it will continue to become more important for students to use, apply and find information on their own, as the internet and technology continue to have a big impact on society. I also think that the constructionism theory helps students build valuable problem solving skills that they can apply to real world situations and relationships with others. A very valuable life school!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.