Methods and Theories

All posts tagged Methods and Theories

Learning Through Experience

Published April 29, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Scholars agree that experience is a concept that is undervalued, underestimated and in some cases, even disregarded. According to Beard and Wilson (2006) experience pervades all forms of learning. Their definition of experiential learning is the process of active engagement between the inner world of a person and the outer world of the environment.  Active engagement is one of the basic components of experiential learning. It involves the entire individual, through thoughts, feelings and physical activity. Experiential learning takes on many appearances that include recreational or leisure activities, exhilarating journeys or adventures, experimentation or play. In other words, people learn new skills by doing them. A teacher who directs their students to learn rhyme and meter by instructing them to create a dance routine to a poem in iambic pentameter is one example of experiential learning (Beard & Wilson, 2006).

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A fundamental element to effective learning is the ability to reflect and review the learning process.  This helps identify which methods are effective and which are not. Root issues however, tend to remain unaddressed. For this reason measurement is an essential component to high performance, improvement, and success in any business or other area of human endeavor. In fact, Spitzer (2007) postulates the key to success is measurement because it can reveal the organization’s current position in the marketplace, identifies strengths and weaknesses, and helps in the development of new goals. For this reason, performance measures have a transformational effect on the way people and organizations examine their work, products and customers (Spitzer, 2007). During my employment in the mortgage and loan industry, I observed many formal and informal reflection and review processes that were developed as the organization grew. For example, as the organization achieved higher levels of success, the number of employees increased. This included additional loan officers, processors and administrative staff. At this new level of corporate operations, management conducted annual reviews to verify the organization was complying with policies and operating legally within the corporate framework to avoid substantial penalty fees.  At this stage, operation managers were legally required to work in compliance with labor laws and began to implement systems that offered employee benefits including health insurance and paid vacation time.

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Annual and monthly reviews were conducted with focus centered on the volume of loans and closings. This could help identify methods loan officers and processing teams incorporated and give insight to what was effective as well as pinpoint weaknesses. Weekly and monthly sales strategy meetings were also conducted to assess the volume of lead activity and identify why some transferred into sales and why others didn’t. Once the information was collected and evaluated upper management could then decide on tactics and training programs to help staffers develop higher skill levels, use them consistently, and incorporate systems that would assist to motivate them (Silberman, 2007). The founders of the mortgage company, for example, decided to seek professional assistance to help guide the company’s success and engaged the services of an elite mortgage and loan coaching company. Annual leadership meetings were conducted. The executives were assigned new tasks and set short and long term goals. Monthly calls were scheduled and each team leader was required to submit a progress report to monitor activity.

Leaders that actively work to improve themselves and their organizations, seek new opportunities to learn. Those who are wise enough enlist the guidance of successful mentors and coaches. These trailblazers do not underestimate the value of experiential learning and are able to make adjustments based on methods of trial and error. These are the bosses and organizations employees are proud to be a part of.

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References:

Beard, C., & Wilson, J. (2006). Experiential learning: A best practice handbook (2nd ed.). London, England, UK: Kogan Page.

Silberman, M. (2007). The handbook of experiential learning. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Spitzer, D. R. (2007). Transforming performance measurement: Rethinking the way we measure and drive organizational success. New York, NY: AMACOM Books.

References:

Beard, C., & Wilson, J. (2006). Experiential learning: A best practice handbook (2nd ed.). London, England, UK: Kogan Page.

Silberman, M. (2007). The handbook of experiential learning. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Spitzer, D. R. (2007). Transforming performance measurement: Rethinking the way we measure and drive organizational success. New York, NY: AMACOM Books.

Learning Theories

Published April 12, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Learning theories are concepts that describe how information is received, understood, administered, and applied. There are a variety of diverse learning theories, such as the behaviorist, cognitive, social, and experimental theories for example. They all strive to affect a change in three main spheres of influence: (a) cognitive, (b) affective, and (c) psycho-motor. Without learning theories, the education process can lead to senseless action. In short, an individual that spends time attempting to learn something will experience ineffective end results. Wang’s (2012) research reveals that in democratic cultures people believe critical thinking is an effective model, whereas in authoritarian cultures, memorization is perceived as an effective learning pattern. Other researchers contend that the critical thinking template leads to innovation and creativity, whereas rote learning tends to stifle the creative process (Wang, 2012). This research takes a closer examination at two types of learning theories: (a) the behaviorist theory where the learning process is derived from methods of trial and error, and (b) the cognitive theory which centers on communication styles and brain hemisphere performance. Learning theories help experts comprehend the methodologies of how people absorb information so that they can better identify techniques of effective education.

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Behaviorist Theory

Learning theories were established to help with growth and development. Semple’s (2000) research discloses that the behaviorist theories of the 1950s and 60s were based on the psychological concepts of behaviorism developed from B. F. Skinner’s work. Skinner viewed learning as the changing of behaviors from individuals by a process that involves exploration derived with a trial and error component until a desired outcome is achieved. This method involves rewarding the individual for their achievements, not for their errors. Participation by the student is a stimulus-response process. Knowledge is seen as an objective, an absolute and a given. Skinner’s ideas evolved from animal experimentation and were referred to as operant conditioning. Learning took place when there were observable changes in behavior (Semple, 2000).

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Cognitive Theory

There are other aspects of a person, such as personality, learning style, preferences, and interaction abilities that contribute to the plethora of unique traits and talents of an individual. Cognitive theorists recognize these attributes and focus their research on responsive patterns instead of isolated events. Cognitive theories deem the learner as the more significant element than the conditioning environment. The whole-brain theory for example, centers research on the preference of the operant from one of the two hemispheres of the brain, also taking into account the effects of short- and long-term memory. The right brain is considered the center of creativity, while the left brain is perceived as the root of logic and reasoning. Some experts believe that this concept is also applied as a component to connecting with the subconscious mind in order to help change a negative self-image (Stuart, 1992).

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Application

Behaviorist theories try to explain the learning process by observing conduct without consideration of the mental process. They perceive learning as the ability to take symbolic, mental constructions and transform them into active mental processing. Many believe this approach is limiting and that the thinking process should also be included as part of the research. The cognitive theory, in contrast, emphasizes focus on expanding the mental process and the complexities of the memory of the learner rather than focus on the environment in which they are conditioned. Semple classifies five kinds of learning capabilities or outcomes that have been identified in the cognitive model: (1) intellectual skills, (2) verbal information, (3) cognitive strategies, (4) motor skills, and (5) attitudes (Semple, 2000). These components can influence communication style, which can affect an individual’s learning capabilities.

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Most employees experience the learning process through trial and error to a certain extent. However, an environment with primary focus on rewards for trials and punishment for errors, tends to produce an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. In this kind of climate, employees experience anxiety and stress fearful of being reprimanded, punished and humiliated in front of their colleagues. This generates a culture that stifles growth and creativity. Organizations that focus on learning methods to stimulate active critical thinking, however, stimulate the impetus for self-initiation and motivation. For example, an organizational leader that initiates an open environment where creativity and innovation are encouraged and individual inputs are valued and respected, can help produce a setting where staffers are actively motivated and engaged in their work. This atmosphere is conducive for creating a successful climate that promotes social development and learning. In other words, when an individual is a whole participant in an organization, including on an emotional level, they are more likely receptive to learning events. An arena that allows individuals to grasp and comprehend that which is derived from within, is a nurturing culture where achievements are completed from a sense of self-discovery and self-worth (Wang, 2012).

Conclusion

Learning theories explain the transformative educational process that help individuals progress and evolve. Some theorists, like Abraham Maslow, contend the end goal of a learner is to achieve self-actualization, or the full use of talents, capacities, and potentialities, emphasizing the role of the teacher as information transmitters, rather than information facilitators, that place the student at the feet of their mentors or educators (Wang, 2012). Without learning theories, education can lead to mindless activity. These educational models help experts comprehend the methodologies of how people learn because it can influence the effects on their growth and development which in turn can help lead to positive changes.

Mindful leaders, with a deep appreciation and connection to personnel recognize that most individuals are not even aware of their true capacity or what they are actually capable of achieving. As people become more conscious and self-aware, they begin to recognize that we are all more than just human beings that exist in an ever changing universe. In fact, many of us are only beginning to discover that we have been living and operating on the tip of our lifeberg and are only now beginning to grasp the enormity of our full potential.

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References

Semple, A. (2000, September). Learning theories and their influence on the developement and use of educational technologies. Australian science teachers journal. Canberra, Australia: Australian Science Teachers Association. Retrieved 28 2013, March, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/194492485?accountid=32521

Stuart, P. (1992, September). Learning-style theories. Personnel Journal. Santa Monica, CA, USA: Media Tec Publishing, Inc. Retrieved March 28, 2013, from http://search.proquest.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/docview/219777600/fulltext/13D190514712D4D9ACB/4?accountid=32521#

Wang, V. (2012, November 21). Understanding and promoting learning theories. International forum of teaching and studying. Marietta, GA, USA: American Scholars Press, Inc. Retrieved March 28, 2013, from http://search.proquest.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/docview/1179004267/fulltext/13D190514712D4D9ACB/1?accountid=32521