Frau's Blog

Archive for May 2009

Constructivist learning theory is based on students learning information that is meaningful to them. They can make their own presentations and projects and because the learning process is student-owned they will retain and recall the information. This is the learning theory that I find to be the most effective in my classroom. Students tend to remember the information that is applicable to their lives. In this week’s reading on generating and testing hypotheses, there are learning strategies that apply the these same concepts as the constructivist theories.

When I think about generating and testing hypotheses I immediately think about science class and the scientific method. The hypothesis is the anticipated outcome of the experiment and then the hypothesis is tested and you discover if your hypothesis was correct or not. In actuality, however, a hypothesis can be formed and tested in any subject for problem solving. My favorite example from the text is historical investigation, where students “construct a hypothesis for historical events for which there is no agreed-upon resolution” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski). This same concept can be applied in my German classroom, perhaps on the advantages and disadvantages of the fall of communism in former East Germany. While it is a common agreement that communism is bad, there are many East Germans that miss the former government, everyone having a home and a job, free education and more. There are multiple viewpoints that the students could research on this topic.

In relation to constructivist theory, students can research the topic and discover the viewpoint that they agree with, making it meaningful to them. By sharing this information with the rest of the class, students are also taking ownership of the information helping them remember it.

On a side note, the course text keeps referring to spreadsheets and Excel as effective uses of technology in the classroom. I must admit that I have very limit knowledge of spreadsheets and really do not know how to use them aside from making address labels! The text mentions not wanting to use class time to teach students how to use the spreadsheet, but rather using the spreadsheet to teach the student. I’m afraid that this is the one area that I am not very useful when it comes to technology.

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


The cognitive learning theory focuses on how students learn. I think of learning as building blocks, where students learn new information based upon prior knowledge. In the chapter “Cues, Questions and Advance Organizers” from the text Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, there is a strong focus on KWL charts. A KWL chart is a cognitive learning technique that really fits with the building block illustration. The KWL chart has three columns, first what is known already, second what students want to learn about the new topic and third what the students have learned after researching the new information. This activity focuses on prior information and building onto it and learning new things. This process of learning is what cognitive theory is all about.

In the chapter “Summarizing and Note Taking”, it is a little more complicated. The text mentions that to summarize students need to delete some information, substitute some information and keep some information (p. 119). That is a lot for the brain to do, let alone to do it successfully! This is definitely a cognitive issue because the students need to decide what information is important, what information to keep and what information to filter out. The authors suggest giving students a guideline to filtering out unneeded and redundant information and they also suggest using a variety of notetaking methods.  One method is teacher-prepared notes. With teacher-prepared notes, the teacher gives the students the information that is needed. The students can identify and develop new information based on what the teacher has already given them. Teachers can present the information in a few different ways as well so that all types of learners receive the information. Different methods will give different students the opportunity to process new information in a way that effective to them – again, exactly what the cognitive theory deals with.


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

In our class text Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works by Pitter, Hubbel, Kuhn and Malenoski, a couple new strategies were discussed. First, teachers need to encourage strong student effort and a great way to enforce this strategy is to have students monitor their own effort and progress. Second, teachers should execute a homework policy, assign meaningful homework assignments and provide different types of feedback on the assignments.

These strategies are related to the behaviorist theory, mostly because both strategies require patterns and that is common in behaviorism. in regard to monitoring progress, the text suggests several ways for students to monitor and log their progress and efforts, including spreadsheets, bar graphs, surveys, and an effort rubric. As students complete and turn in assignments, they will record how much effort was put forth in the assignment. Upon receiving a grade on that assignment, they will also record that information. Hopefully the students will begin to notice a pattern. In theory, the assignments where more effort is exerted should yield a better grade. Students will then wish to provide more effort in order to continue getting higher scores. This is also a great form of positive reinforcement. Better grades should be a reward to a hardworking student, and earning these grades should encourage more positive behavior.

A homework policy that is strongly enforced can also be related to behavorist theory. Behaviorism relies on positive and negative reinforcement. Rewards for completing homework and punishment for not doing homework is exactly what behaviorism is about. A reward for doing homework could be a good grade, bonus points, or even a sticker or candy. Receiving these rewards will increase the chances that a student will do homework again for the next assignment. If a student does not do homework, a punishment could be a zero on the assignment and therefore a lower grade, or a lack of candy or stickers. The negative reinforcement should make the student want to complete the next homework assignment. The text also encourages students to monitor their homework progress and grades via word processor and spreadsheets and charts.

Although behaviorist learning theories do not seem to be in practice in classrooms as much as they used to, the basics of behaviorism can often be the basis of more complex teaching strategies. Homework is a very common part of teaching and there are roots strongly based on behaviorism there. Although I have never asked my students to monitor their progress in relation to their grades, I can see how this is a successful practice. Both are ideas that I would use in my classroom.

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


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  • Stephanie: Thanks Cesar! It is wonderful to have such support through our cohort. I appreciate your comments and kind words.
  • Cesar Rubio: Hi Stephanie, You are making great strides in completing your GAME Plan. I'm so jealous! I haven't gotten mine off the ground because I don't know
  • Toni Malvestuto: I hope you have a better week this week. I know how stressful it can be when you don't have the resources you need at hand. I have also learned not