This paper analyzes Piaget’s Theory of Learning in the context that the main purpose of learning is to produce persons with the ability to invent and not simply re-create what others have done. The paper also discusses the need for learning objectives and the controversy surrounding the same.
Finally, it explores the usefulness of teaching through inquiry and teaching through modeling in the learning environment.
Theory on Adult Learning
There are various concepts and/or theories which can be used to contextualize Piaget’s argument in relation to adult learning. The ones discussed in this paper include the Holistic Model, the Elemental Model, and Thorndike’s Theory.
The Holistic Model advocates for learning that is transformative, meaningful and that has an orientation of helping the community. People are able to see things differently after going through education.
They see things in terms of how they affect society. Hence, education enlightens them on how to deal with emerging issues in the society (Knowles, Holton & Swanson, 2012).
An adult learner is a person who is very ready to go through the learning process, having seen the need to have education. According to Thorndike, it is satisfactory to engage in learning when one is ready and willing to do so (Fiske, 2013). An adult learner also appreciates the outcomes of education, and this stimulates him or her to go through it regardless of the hardship that may be experienced. Thorndike argues that a stimulus which causes a good response is more likely to be repeated while one that causes a disgusting response tends to diminish (Fiske, 2013).
The Elemental Model suggests that stimuli are groups of elements and generalizations shared by stimuli with similar elements. This model is a discrimination theory that examines how learners discriminate stimuli with common features.
An adult learner discriminates elements better than a younger learner. This is due to background knowledge that serves as training or a conditioning. As Knowles, Holton and Swanson (2012) put it, the adult learner can easily draw more correct associations as compared to a younger learner.
Knowles et al. (2012) support most of these arguments. They argue that an adult is self-directed, experienced and uses his/her experience as a resource for learning and is ready to learn. Accordingly, his/her learning orientation is not subject-centered, but problem-centered.
The need for Learning Objectives
Scholars have given different views about learning objectives. Some argue in support of these objectives while others argue against them.
According to Knowles et al. (2012), those in support of the need for learning objectives insist that they are like a covenant between the learners and their teachers.
Learning objectives compel teachers to ensure that learners acquire certain behaviors and attitudes by the end of the learning session. Therefore, the teacher has the responsibility of ensuring that learners acquire those attitudes and behaviors.
Scholars also argue that having these objectives helps the teacher to prepare well before going to class and hence improves content delivery.
Teachers can also monitor the effectiveness of their teaching methods and possibly decide on how to improve them (Knowles, Holton & Swanson, 2012).
Scholars who argue against learning objectives, on the other hand, say that these objectives limit the scope of the learning process. Consequently, learning objectives leave out other important elements. These scholars also assert that teaching is not acquisition.
They argue that teachers might teach, but learners might not acquire knowledge and skills due to factors like learner’s background knowledge, relevance of content and the teacher’s skills (Knowles, Holton & Swanson, 2012).
Teaching Through Inquiry Versus Teaching Through Modeling
Inquiry is a method that allows learners’ inquisitiveness to control the direction of the learning process. Learners make discoveries by themselves, and the teacher learns with them. Students learn how to solve problems on their own.
They make observations, analyze information which they collect, synthesize this information and later make conclusions. In the process, they develop problem solving skills applicable to future needs (Warner & Myers, 2011).
This method is good and very relevant in the modern world which requires problem solving skills rather than memorization of facts. Skills for solving problems are, therefore, more important than memorization of facts, because facts change over time.
The best way of equipping learners with these skills is by letting them participate as opposed to being passive during the learning process (Warner & Myers, 2011).
Learning through modeling, on the other hand, is a method where the teacher is a model (Instructional Strategies: Modeling, 2012). The teacher uses multi-sensory techniques in describing the required skills. They also check learners’ understanding through questions.
This method is effective in the learning process since teachers serving as models clarify concepts and make them learnable. Learners can also easily make meaningful cognitive connections due to high levels of teacher’s support and guidance.
The multi-sensory technique used by teachers provides learners who have problems related to attention, processing information, retrieving information from the memory among other difficulties with more options of dealing with such problems so that they do not hinder learning.
The Behavioral Theory and Adult Learning
The behavioral Theory asserts that people acquire behaviors from their environment and the society around them through conditioning.
Proponents of this theory believe that anybody can be trained to be whoever he wishes to be. According to them, behaviors can be measured, conditioned and altered (Fiske, 2013).
Adults, therefore, can also be trained to be anything they wish. Just like it is in the case with Thorndike’s Theory, adults know very well that it is rewarding to be educated (Fiske, 2013). They know that one gets a good life and knowledge after going through education.
The good life is, therefore, the stimulus that causes a response, seeking education. These adult learners also know that lack of education is unrewarding and will tend to avoid it.
There is no need of using punishment and reinforcement like those used on young learners, because adults are so willing to learn and they have their own intrinsic reinforcements and punishments (Parker, 2010).
It is true that learning should produce men who can create rather than re-create. The Holistic Model suggests that education enlightens adult learners on how to deal with emerging issues in the society. It is satisfactory to engage in learning when one is ready and willing to do so.
The Elemental Model proposes that an adult learner discriminates elements better than a younger learner due to background knowledge that serves as training or a conditioning. An adult is self-directed, experienced and uses his experience as a resource for learning and is ready to learn.
Scholars have given different views about learning objectives. There are various aspects that distinguish between teaching through inquiry and teaching through modeling. This paper demonstrates that anybody can be trained to be whoever he wishes to be.
Fiske, S. T. (2013). Social Cognition: From Brains to Culture. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
Instructional Strategies: Modeling. (2012). Retrieved from https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/homepage.html
Knowles, M. S., Holton III, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2012). The Adult Learner. London: Routledge Publishers.
Parker, J. (2010). Technology as Integral to a New Paradigm of Adult Education. The International Journal of Adult Vocational Education and Technology (IJAVET), 1(2), 10-18.
Warner, A.J. & Myers, B.E. (2011). Implementing Inquiry-Based Teaching Methods. Web.