Sep 15 2010

Personal Learning Theory

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Personal Learning Theory

Catherine Gagnon

These are the basic tenets of my personal learning theory:

1. Students have to be receptive to learning. How receptive they are will be determined by where they are on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. (link to pyramid)

Bigge and Shermis allude to these basic needs in their statement “People share with other mammals some primary organic drives, such as hunger, thirst, sex, and cravings for oxygen, warmth, and rest, and possibly a few primary aversions such as fear and rage.” (p. 2)

That’s why safety needs must be addressed in a classroom so that students feel able to learn without fear of failure.

2. Because we tend to be at a higher level of the hierarchy as we age and mature, adult learners are very different than school age children and young adults. Adult learners can draw on life experiences to make a link between theory and application, what Bigge and Shermis call “time binding” (p. 1).

They also benefit greatly from social interaction and the ability to create their own learning path as they are more adept at creating learning goals than younger learners. “..they are cultural beings, building on their past in a peculiarly selective fashion. Then, people have a unique capacity for social interaction with their fellows. (p. 1)

3. Trial and error are powerful tools for internalizing knowledge. Linking application to theory further reinforces what is learned.

4. Students’ ability to grasp what is being taught will be highly influenced by their learning style – visual, auditory, kinestetic. ( For this reason, it is important to vary teaching strategies frequently and allow different evaluation and assessment methods, ie oral, written, visual, project-based.

As I read the article by Pratt, I realized that my dominant perspectives (Apprenticeship and Nurturing) where indeed strong determinants of my personal learning theory and teaching style. Although my theory is made up of existing theories, each element is necessary to its cohesion. Removing one or another would somehow diminish or polarize it.


Bigge, M. L. & Shermis, S. S. (2004), Learning Theories for Teachers, 6th Ed. pp.1-7. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon

Google Image Result for (n.d.). Google. Retrieved September 11, 2010, from

Learning Styles take your test.. (n.d.). Retrieved September 11, 2010, from

Pratt, D.D. (2002). Good teaching: One size fits all? In Jovita Gordon (Ed.), An Update on Teaching Theory. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
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