Module 2

Understanding Learning


Education, like other subjects taught at university level, has a strong theoretical perspective which requires rigorous study. Many aspects of being a good teacher are about being practical. Good organisation, a strong classroom presence, an effective speaking voice, a resourceful personality and the ability to think on your feet - these are all qualities and skills that successful practitioners will display.

However, without an informed and personally interpreted theory of the role of the teacher in pupils' learning, these qualities and skills would be unlikely to result in high quality teaching. Theories about how children learn underpin the practice of teaching. You need to regard them as inextricably linked or as "two sides of the same coin".

Our presentation of each theory in this Module will attempt to provide you with an account of the ways in which learning takes place or, another way of putting it, how pupils develop intellectually. Through consideration of several theories, you will be given a number of tools to help you understand the practice of learning and teaching in a range of settings.

Intended Learning Outcomes
By the end of this Module, you will have done the following:
  • examined some theories relating to intellectual development
  • considered the implications of theories about learning for classroom practice
  • explored the role of the teacher in the learning process
  • created and revised a personal theory of learning.
Recommended Texts
If you are completely new to the field of learning theory, the following texts could offer you invaluable support:
  1. Wood, D. (1998) How Children Think and Learn. 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
  2. Child, D.(2007) Psychology and the Teacher. 8th edition. London: Continuum.
There will be several further readings available in each of the units.
  • Motivation for Learning
  • Theories of Intelligence
  • Skinner and Piaget
  • Vygotsky
Assignment Details
When you have completed the readings, tasks and activities in the following Units, you will be required to write and submit a formal essay of approximately 3,000 words. In this essay, you will need to draw widely from the Module's content areas and show evidence that you understand how the theoretical issues raised relate to teaching and learning in your own subject area or classroom.

The aim of this assignment is to provide you with an opportunity to explore how children learn in your subject or classroom. A possible starting point could be to reflect on yourself as a learner: you might consider the practices, conditions and opportunities under which you feel learning has been most effective for you.

You are asked to propose your own focus and title for the assignment, but please make sure that you discuss it with your tutor, and have it approved, before you begin writing. Whichever theory you choose to study, you are encouraged to treat it critically. You are also encouraged to read the writings of your chosen theorist in the original.

This is not intended to be a purely theoretical essay in which you discuss theory divorced from practice. Conversely it is not intended that you should be purely descriptive, merely talking about something you saw, did or could imagine taking place in the classroom. In your writing, try to demonstrate the inextricable links between theory and practice.

Relate an aspect of your classroom practice to an important area of learning theory in order to deepen your understanding of the ways in which children learn.

You should give an example of some practical teaching and provide an analysis of the theory that underpins this teaching.

Include reference to your own personal theory of learning which you will be developing at the end of each Unit.

Your assignment could include, as appendices, examples of children's work, copies of relevant lesson plans and any associated resources.

Your assignment will be assessed according to Masters level criteria and you will need to use the Harvard system of referencing.

In order to achieve the highest marks:
  • You will need to show that you have understood the practical applicability of theoretical ideas.
  • You will need to show originality.
  • You will need to provide thoughtful and critical arguments.
  • Your writing will need to be well organised and skilfully written.
  • Your referencing of supporting literature will need to be accurate.