Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Generating and Testing Hypotheses and Constructionist Learning Theory

Generating and testing hypotheses is the perfect strategy to relate with the constructivist/ constructionist approaches. Six ways this instructional strategy can be used in the classroom include: systems analysis, problem solving, historical investigations, invention, experimental inquiry, and decision making (Pitler, Hubbell, & Kuhn, 2007). These strategies truly correlate to these approaches. In the constructivist approach, the learner actively constructs their own meaning to their learning through their experiences (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). The constructionist learning theory approach takes this one step further and suggests students learn best when they create an artifact that they share with others (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). These learning theories are definitely evident in these learning theories and can be easily integrated in project-based learning.

One example of how these six tasks can be integrated in project-based learning and constructionist learning theory is in a science fair project. Last year, my 5th graders took part of a science fair. Students were instructed to pick a project that addressed the science inquire model. Therefore, students had to create an investigation based on a question they were interested in. They had to have one manipulated variable, one responding variable and controlled variables. Before beginning their investigation, students wrote a hypothesis and predicted what they thought would happen in their experiment. Students then kept data and scientific notes on their project for three weeks. Some investigation questions students explored included: “What type of bubble gum blows the biggest bubbles?”, “How are plants growth affected by various liquids?”, “What laundry detergent gets stains out the best?”, etc. Throughout their investigation, I worked with students individually and guided them throughout the process. Students also used Excel and Word tables to organize their data. Many students also learned how to input data into an Excel document and create amazing graphs to display the change in their responding variable in their project. In the end, students also had to analyze their results by writing a scientific conclusion and creating a science display for our science fair. Parents and other students in the school were invited to come to the science fair where students discussed their investigation and findings. This was a very intense and time consuming project, yet a highly effective way we used all of these strategies in our classroom. This was the first year we did a science fair; however, we found that this one project really gave our students a solid foundation on science-inquiry.  In the end, all of the classes that participated in this science fair found the class average of passing our state science test went up over an average of 25% more students passing the test. As a school, our science scores went up from 52% to 78% of students who passed this state test. There is definitely room for improvement, especially since this was the first year we did a science fair. However, we all believe the number one reason for this increase of achievement was because of the science inquiry-based science fair. Students were invested in a problem they chose and really learned the science inquiry model first hand. In the end, they also created an artifact and had to share their findings with others in a science fair setting. Click here to link to my classroom website that has last year’s science fair project.

This is just one example of how generating and testing hypotheses can fit into the constructionist learning theory. I am curious to find creative ways to use these strategies in other subject areas. Does anyone have some clever ideas? I would love to hear them!

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Instructional Strategies Connection to the Cognitive Learning Theory

One essential question all educators must have a grasp on is, “How do students learn?” To answer this question, it is important to understand what the Cognitive Learning Theory is. Click here to go to a webquest discussing the Cognitive Learning Theory. It is also essential for educators to understand the four main components of the Cognitive Learning Theory as discussed by Dr. Michael Orey. (Laureate, 2011) These components include:
                *Short –term memory (working memory)
                *Elaboration (making connections)
                *Effective use of images (visual images used to help make connections)
                *Episodic experiences (experiences that tie the learning together)
When working with a variety of instructional strategies, it is important to keep in mind these different components of how people learn. Some important strategies that take these concepts into account are cues, questions, and advanced organizers. All three of these strategies specifically try to explicitly provide connections through experiences and images to help students transfer information from their short-term memory to long-term memory (Laureate, 2011). One way to do this is through concept maps. Concept maps are a way to organize information in a very visual way (Novak & Canas, 2008). Programs such as Inspiration and SpiderScribe are excellent ways to create a visual connection to promote student learning. Advance organizers that can also been made through these programs, can help students focus on their learning (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007).
Another instructional strategy that helps promote the cognitive learning process is summarizing and note taking. In these skills, students have to synthesize information in their own words (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). When synthesizing information, students have to use HOTS and develop an understanding on the information they are learning. When note taking and summaries are combined with visuals and specific summary frames, students are even more likely to develop connections. For example, while going on a Virtual Field Trip online, it is important for students to take notes on their experiences and learning. By using concept mapping software, the class can take notes and make connections about the field trip. The teacher can then print up the class concept map for the students to use as a guide to summarize what they learned from their VFT experience. The class can add pictures and other details to this concept map to help make even more of those essential connections that promote learning. In using a program like Inspiration, students can even convert the map to an outline for the students who are more linear learners and need their information more organized.
All of these instructional strategies, as well as many more, exemplify the cognitive learning theory process and help promote student learning. By using these strategies, students are more able to make the essential connections that help them truly understand and grasp concepts presented to them.
-Jill Morris
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program five: Cognitive learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from
Novak, J. D., & CaƱas, A. J. (2008). The theory underlying concept maps and how to construct and use them, Technical Report IHMC CmapTools
2006-01 Rev 01-2008. Retrieved from the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition Web site:

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Behaviorism in the Classroom

Behaviorism in the Classroom

As an educator, I have been learning about various learning theories since starting my education program in the mid-nineties. Interestingly, I find that as I gain more experiences in the education realm, my own personal theories morph. At this time in education, it is unpopular to think that behaviorism is a viable learning theory and part of the classroom. However, the resources I read this week definitely paint a different picture of behaviorism in the classroom. Behaviorism is found in most classrooms, especially in reinforcing effort and homework.

One of the common ways to find behaviorism in a classroom setting is in behavior management. All teachers find methods that encourage and promote learning in the classroom. One area that is important to promote in the classroom is reinforcing effort. According to Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, effort is the most important factor in achievement (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). Since this is so important, many teachers put a lot of time and effort into reinforcing students’ effort. Some ways teachers reinforce effort may include: having positive effort bulletin board, tracking data on a spreadsheet to show success with effort, verbally encouraging students to continue effort, giving certificates and a variety of awards for hard work, etc. Each of these methods try to reinforce the behavior of working hard by motivating the student through external measures. This reward conditions the student to continually put forth effort into his/her work. Therefore, the learning theory of behaviorism is an essential component to reinforcing effort.

Another area in education where the evidence of behaviorism can be found in the classroom is with homework and practice. As a 6th grade teacher, I feel it is my responsibility to teach the students accountability. One area students are accountable for is their homework. If a student does not finish their homework, that student misses a recess and goes to study hall. This could be viewed at both a negative reinforcement and a punishment, which are both important components to behaviorism (Orey, 2001).  Study hall is a negative reinforcement, because a recess is being taken away from the student. It is also a punishment because the student has to go to study hall instead of recess. In addition to this, in my school we celebrate students who have their work down and behave appropriate throughout the week. Student that have all of their work completed go to an extra 30 minute recess on Friday afternoons. Those students who have not completed their homework or practice work end up going to a special study hall where they can finish their missing work.  As for technology, I often have my students work on the Compass Odyssey Learning program as homework. This is a tutorial program that gives students practices on specific skills at their learning level.  Students are reward by the program with games and visual rewards as they complete assignments. All of these rewards and consequences are just a few ways behaviorism influences homework and practice in the classroom.

Does behaviorism have an important role in the classroom? I think it does. It is definitely not the only learning theory that has valid ideas on student learning. However, there is no doubt in my mind that most students respond to rewards and consequences. I also believe that many of students’ behaviors are learned and can be “fixed,” especially in elementary school. Whether it is for a tangible reward or just a great job and smile from their teacher, students are very much affected by these behavior reinforcers. Therefore, behaviorism can be found in most classrooms today.

-Jill Morris


Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom
instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.