27 SES 03 B, Learning Theories and Curriculum Innovation
The lifelong learning agenda (European Commission, 2009) is instrumental in promoting a developmental curriculum with constructivist understandings of learning and teaching which has implications for educators’ practices and their relationships with students (Reeves in Priestley and Biesta 2013). An example of this is evident in the discourse of ‘active learning’ currently enjoying a resurgence of interest in education policy from early years through higher education and beyond (Drew and Mackie, 2011) and which appears to be promoted by policy makers as a way of inculcating the transversal skills deemed necessary by the European Commission for learning, life and work (EC, 2009).
However, there appears to be a lack of clarity and understanding surrounding this construct in policy, research, and practice; this has repercussions for educators who are expected to translate policy into practice. This exploratory study was designed to elicit teachers’ understanding of ‘active learning’ which currently permeates the 3-18 education policy being implemented in Scotland (Scottish Executive, 2004; Scottish Executive, 2007). The aims of study were:
- to explore how teachers understand the policy construct of ‘active learning’
- to determine how they develop these understandings and make sense of them in their practices
- to further thinking about the debate about whether active learning may be considered a theory or some kind of pedagogical construct
The definition of active learning used as a framework for analysis in this paper is four fold: behavioural, cognitive, social and affective (Drew & Mackie, 2011; Watkins, Carnell & Lodge, 2007). This definition is underpinned by cognitive and social conceptions of a constructivist epistemology (Mayer, 1998 in Watkins et al., 2007) where knowledge and understanding is constructed both by individuals and through interaction with others (Fosnot, 1996), and making meaning is central to learning (Simons, 1997 in Watkins, 2007).
Anthony, G. (1996) Active learning in a constructivist framework, Educational Studies in Mathematics, 31: 4, 349-369 Cohen, L., L. Manion, and K. Morrison. (2007) Research methods in Education, London: Routledge Denscombe, M. (1998) The Good Research Guide for small-scale social research projects, Buckingham: Open University Press Drew, V. & Mackie, L. (2011) Extending the constructs of active learning: implications for teachers' pedagogy and practice, Curriculum Journal, 22:4, 451-467 Engestrom, Y. (2001) Expansive Learning at Work: toward activity theoretical reconceptualization, Journal of Education and Work, 14:1,133-156 European Commission (2009) Education and training 2010 work programme: Assessment of key competences, Brussels: European Commission. Retrieved from: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture. Fosnot, C.T (ed) (1996) Constructivism Theory, Perspectives and Practice, New York: Teachers College Press Grabinger, S., Dunlap, J.C., & Duffield, J. A. (1999) Rich environments for active learning in action: problem-based learning, ALT-J, 5:2: 5-17 Kane, L. (2004) Educators, learners and active learning methodologies, International Journal of LifelongLearning, 23:3, 275-286 Larochelle, M., Bedwarz, N. & Garrison, J. (1998) Constructivism and Education, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Phillips, D.C (ed) (2000) Constructivism in Education: Opinions and Second Opinions on Controversial Issues, Illinois: The National Centre for the Study of Education Reeves, J. (in press) Successful Learners: A Progressive or an Oppressive Concept? In: Priestley, M. and Biesta, G. J. J. (2013) Reinventing the Curriculum New Trends in Curriculum Policy and Practice, London: Bloomsbury Publishing Salomon, G. and Globerson, T. (1987) Skill may not be enough: The role of mindfulness in learning and transfer, International Journal of Educational Research, 11:6, 623-637. Scottish Executive (2004) A Curriculum for Excellence, Edinburgh: Scottish Executive Scottish Executive (2007) A Curriculum for Excellence, Building the Curriculum 2: Active learning in the early years, Edinburgh: Scottish Executive Watkins, C., Carnell, E. & Lodge, C. (2007) Effective Learning in Classrooms, London: Sage
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