My Informal Learning Theory: The Mixed Media Approach (M.M.A.)
As I worked to formulate a personal informal learning theory, I found myself thinking about my background as a student learner as well as past learning experiences that have influenced me to be the student I am today. I asked myself: What were the particular characteristics of a teacher’s instruction that made a particular lesson resonate with me and provide the means to connect to them and remember them? How can the formal learning theories be blended into a modern and eclectic instructive approach that serves to connect a modern student’s reality to formal school subjects? From these questions my informal learning theory was developed.
My Beliefs on How People Learn
People learn in a variety of ways, but in my opinion, seven main ways stand out. The first, when things connect to their reality and they can apply the skill they have learned to their own life. Secondly, people learn better when the surrounding environment is supportive and conducive to their learning. For example if someone who is sensitive to noise level is trying to study in a noisy disordered classroom then that environment is not supporting their learning. Thirdly, people learn when a teacher’s pedagogy reflects and supports all learning styles such as kinesthetic, visual and auditory. Fourth, when provided with constructive criticism, positive feedback and positive reinforcement. Fifth, when they get their questions answered and are not afraid to ask them. Sixth, when material is reviewed so it can be committed to memory. Last, people learn when they are given the freedom of personal discovery, when lessons are a mix of this discovery and formal teacher centered instruction. If lessons are a mixture of the two types then more formal learners will prosper from more structured teacher centered instruction and those learners who favor more personal discovery will also prosper. Points four and five relate to Bloom’s four features of quality instruction which directly relates to my belief that formal learning theories, models and ideas should provide support for new teaching theories and ideas.
My Beliefs on Effective Instruction
Points four, five, six and seven from my beliefs on how people learn are also points that I believe make for effective instruction. Instructors should always provide constructive criticism, positive feedback and positive reinforcement to their students. If these things are provided then students will feel comfortable and open to expanding their ideas. That is a major part of what learning is all about. It is not getting it “right” it is about learning a new concept or idea, relating that it is understood and then developing or expanding it with evaluation, analysis and study. If students feel comfortable asking questions the obvious outcome is that they will naturally learn more. Question and answer sessions promote discussions and learning from those discussions. As important as answering questions and promoting discussions, is reviewing material. A teacher should make time for reviewing material as well as help students learn effective ways of reviewing so each type of learner can have an arsenal of tools at their disposal to promote memory retention. Last, effective instruction should pair personal discovery and exploration of topic material with formal teacher centered instruction. By combining these two types it will reach more types of learners to promote better learning outcomes.
The Mixed Media Approach (M.M.A.) for Creative Instruction and Learning
As I reflected on my background as a student learner, I realized I have been a chameleon as far as favorite subjects, teachers and classes. But one particular aspect stuck out among the rest. As a fine art student, I have always been fascinated by the world of mixed media, from the processes the artists went through to choose or appropriate the particular media they were using (whether it be computer graphics, paint, ink, glue, cloth, metal, rubber or a ready made object like a book) to their application and use of it in the work they were creating. These artists start with a group of diverse objects and media and form them into a cohesive whole. I think this type of process can be applied new and exciting learning theories.
Upon studying the formal learning theories, I think that they definitely have their place and that pieces of them (like a mixed media piece) should be blended with new and modern ideas. In formation of my informal learning theory, I drew from the more formal learning theories: Behaviorist, Cognitive Processing and Constructivist and principles from the creation of fine art (mixed media works) used them to create my approach: the Mixed Media Approach or M.M.A learning theory and it’s principles of instruction.
M.M.A. Principles of Instruction (PIIC ME!)
Promote: My personal experience with this aspect of my informal learning theory influenced this principle. My high school American Literature teacher allowed me to choose a paper topic that was totally opposed to what she believed. In my quest to “prove her wrong” I ended up learning more than I ever thought I would about the topic thus translating into a memorable and retention promoting learning experience.
Integrate: I think it is extremely important to include the use of technology into the classroom as a way to connect to modern students. Many spend hours of personal time on the internet or with other modes of technology media such as smart phones or ipods. By including learning media such as blogs, wikis and video into the classroom it helps boost traditional instruction methods and promote student interest and connection to their world.
Include: Behavior reinforcement the key principle in the Behaviorist Perspective. It is important for a teacher to remember that their responses to student work are incredibly important to the progression and regression of the student. By reinforcing the wanted behavior (such as students asking more questions or leading discussions) then they will better develop the skills to do the behavior and feel comfortable doing it.
Create: By using modes of creative instruction (such as pulling from the arts, music or theatre) or including aspects of instructional technology to enhance formal subject areas it will help build important long lasting connections for learners. Creativity in instruction is a crucial component of catching and keeping student attention.
Mix: For example if a history teacher wants to try to promote student memory retention, an aspect of the Cognitive Perspective, of important dates in American History they may combine instruction with a student based discovery activity that connects the students personal ideas to the material. This type of activity would serve to connect learning experience with personal experience and interpretation. For this principle of M.M.A, personal discovery can be grounded and anchored in formal instruction. This is just one example of a “mix” of traditional and new ideas that can be implemented in the classroom.
Explain: Providing an environment (either teacher facilitated or student centered) that allows for explanation of material, reflection, review and responding to questions will help support the material being presented. Repetition of such explanations will help students with memory retention.
My informal learning theory: Mixed Media Approach (M.M.A.) and it’s principles of instruction is a direct result of answering the questions: What were the particular characteristics of a teacher’s instruction that made a particular lesson resonate with me and provide the means to connect to them and remember them? How can the formal learning theories be blended into a modern and eclectic instructive approach that serves to connect a modern student’s reality to formal school subjects? I believe the ideas and principles that were put together to form this approach are among the most important for promoting student learning.
As an instructional designer my focus is the design and development of effective online instruction, interactive learning objects, instructional alignment and the visual aspects of instructional materials. Specifically, how the inclusion of visuals within instruction can help facilitate learning.