What promotes motivation for learning? The hallmark of successful individuals is that they love learning, they value effort and they persist in the face of obstacles. In the right environment, students can learn to become incremental learners. (Carol Dweck – Self-Theories, 1999) (Web reference 1) 1.1
Lev Vygotsky’s work on assisting the learning process has underpinned teacher training for the past few decades. His concept was of a way of assisting a student to learn in ways that developed ‘independent learners’, who had the ability to build on the knowledge they already had and make sense of new information in ways that really embedded the new learning. He suggested we learn best when new material is in the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) - not too easy, and just challenging enough that, with a little help from a more experienced person, we can master the material and shift our Zone upward. When I thought about this I realised this had been a model used widely for centuries to pass on skills and knowledge, from parent’s teaching their children basic survival skills or passing on cultural traditions to formal arrangements through apprenticeships.
The process of receiving help from others to master new material is called "scaffolding." If you think of a wall being built, it initially has scaffolding to support the structure, which is gradually removed as the structure is capable of standing on its own. Vygotsky said this happens in learning, too: We receive help from people who know more, until we know enough on our own and no longer require assistance to grasp that bit of knowledge and expand it. (Web reference 2)
Bandura’s theory states that behaviours are learned from the environment and from observing the people in that environment. Children learn from ‘models’ and this can be family, friend, teachers and even television characters. Children often imitate observed behaviours, whether appropriate or not, and through the reactions of the people around them will usually select behaviours that gain them approval. Bandura’s theories made me think more about the importance of role modeling and the ways we should try to develop positive relationships with learners to balance some of the negative experiences they may be getting from their peers.
Learners have to deal with a lot of turmoil during the 14-19 year old phase, as this is the time when they experience all the hormonal surges and cognitive development, which can result in the challenging attitudes and behaviours we all recognise during the transition to adulthood. These changes can affect their perspectives on school, their interest in what may previously have been favourite subjects and can also undermine prior aspirations for further education and training.
The style of educational provision learners experience also change at this stage. Whilst they are going through all this turmoil, they system appears to take for granted that they will all have reached the stage of ‘independent learning’ where they need less direction and guidance. So at a time when a young person may be dealing with the challenges of higher or further education or coping with the demands of work based learning and managing a full time job, we traditionally reduce the amount of support and coaching they receive. After doing the research on this course it has become apparent that the recent changes in Welsh Government policy in education are because some individual or influential group has recognised gaps in our provision when analysing the reasons for poor performance and the high numbers of drop-outs from learning programmes.
Learners need to feel secure and another very useful point from Vygotsky’s theory is that learners receive coaching assistance as they learn and that larger tasks can be broken down into smaller tasks so that these become more achievable. 1.2
Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs is concerned with the present and relates to