Teaching and Learning on the Edge of the Millennium: Building on What We Have Learned

Teaching and Learning on the Edge of the Millennium: Building on What We Have Learned

Teaching and Learning on the Edge of the Millennium: Building on What We Have Learned

Teaching and Learning on the Edge of the Millennium: Building on What We Have Learned

Synopsis

In honor of the new century and the twentieth anniversary of New Directions for Teaching and Learning, this issue reviews the past and current research on teaching, learning, and motivation, and envisions where the field is headed in the next century. Chapters revisit the topics from the best-selling NDTL issues, offering the latest developments in group-based learning, effective communication, teaching for critical thinking, the seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education, teaching for diversity, and teaching in the information age.

This is the 80th issue of the quarterly journal New Directions for Teaching and Learning .

Excerpt

Marilla D. Svinicki

Half of the mandate for New Directions for Teaching
and Learning is to monitor developments in learning
theory and research. This chapter discusses the changes in
learning and motivation theory that have influenced the
field since the beginning of the series
.

At the time of the inaugural issue of New Directions for Teaching and Learning in 1980, psychological research and theory in the area of learning and motivation were about to undergo a sea change, one that would have important implications for the design of instruction. The shift was from a behavioral perspective on learning to a cognitive perspective and its successors in constructivist and personal responsibility models of learning. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss each of these models in turn and the instructional paradigms that were based on them. We have not abandoned earlier instructional methods as new theories have come along, but we have realigned some of our interpretations of what is going on when learning takes place.

The Behaviorist Model

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the behaviorist model had become the dominant model in psychology (Greeno, Collins, and Resnick, 1996). According to that model, learning was the development of associations between stimuli and responses or stimuli and other stimuli through the act of pairing and the delivery of contingencies based on responses. Behaviorism was a very important movement for psychology at the time, even though it had rejected much of the work that had gone before it as unscientific. The reasoning was that in order for psychology to be a science, it had to focus on repeatable, verifiable, observable events that everyone could agree had taken place. There was no advantage to resorting to nonobservable mediating events like thinking because environmental consequences were capable of explaining even very complex chains of behavior (Skinner, 1953).

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