Lecture 11 - Concrete Examples

In this lecture we covered concrete examples that the class gave to try and find out what psychological theories were being utilised. A number of you were kind enough to talk about different teaching situations that you'd recently been in. Some that I can remember were:

  • Learning how to draw a body shape in proportion
  • Learning how to place your body in the start blocks of a 100m sprint
  • Learning how to read the rhythm in musical notation

Some of the examples were too difficult to suggest which theory was being used. That is not because a theory, or theories weren't being used, but because the example given was very broad, or convoluted and so it was harder to identify where or at what point a theory is being used. Welcome to the 'real' world where things often get messier than the neat text book theories would have us believe.

Some Heuristics

OK, here's some rules of thumb that may help.

  • Any teacher that demonstrates something for the students/pupils to do by doing it themselves (rather than describing it) is using Social Learning Theory. 
  • Teachers that actively praise, or punish children immediately after they do an activity, are using behaviourism.
  • Anything that personalises the teaching to every student (or groups of students), is using a learning styles approach.
  • If a teaching situation requires a performance of some sort and the child/student either performs it, or doesn't - then this is normally a criterion assessment approach. The child can perform a handstand for 2 seconds, or they can't. The student can successfully come out of the 100m start blocks with no penalties, or they can't. A pupil can successfully keep time to a musical score by clapping, or they cannot.

Implicit vs. Explicit

There was some discussion about the confusion between 'implicit' and 'explicit' theories. Folks, don't get too hung up about this. Most teachers 'just teach'. They don't think 'today I'm going to use this psychological theory'. They're still using the theory even if they don't know the name of it. It's just picked up as a 'teaching wisdom'. These are the implicit theories. Most teachers use implicit theories. Very very few teachers, or facilitators would (even if they knew) state the theory that were going to use. I'm probably one of the few that you've encountered and that's because we're actually learning about these theories. In our discussion a number of you felt that this was an important detail to focus on. It isn't. I regret mentioning it now BUT I knew that if I didn't say this, then there was 'wriggle' room within the assignment for potentially someone to say 'but no psychological theory was used', or 'it's not my fault that they don't know how to interpret a psychological theory correctly, but this is what they said they wanted to use'. Not that any of you would do that of course (ahem!) but in order to avoid this wiggle room, I put in the text about implicit and explicit theories. If you want to take a 'simple' approach - assume that the teachers that you're describing are using implicit (unspoken, or unstated) theories. We don't know if the teacher knows if they're using a psychological theory - unless of course you're describing your own teaching.

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