Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Attraction Theory: Revisiting How We Learn

Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Attraction Theory: Revisiting How We Learn

Article excerpt

TENSIONS AND CHALLENGES HAVE ALWAYS PERVADED EDUCATIONAL SETTINGS. Early in the 20th century, calls for intensified and rigorous educational research were based on the desire to develop a systematic analysis of knowledge (Ayer, 1952; Suppe, 1977). Particularly in the field of literacy, the search for the Holy Grail of instructional strategies has continued for more than a century without resolution (Ortlieb, 2012). Ample consideration has been given to not only strategies and interventions (Dewitz, Jones, & Leahy, 2009; Keene, 2008; Pearson & Gallagher, 1983), but also curricula (Apple, 2004; Hirst, 1975; Tyler, 1969), environmental considerations (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996), and even demographics (Luke, 2003). Meanwhile, students still struggle and teachers grow increasingly discouraged at their lack of progress.

The ebb and flow of what to include as content and how to deliver it has fluctuated alongside policy changes. Bishop (2014) attests that "literacy is a political battleground" (p. 51). The enormity of reading struggles has no limits with over one third of fourth graders and one fourth of eighth graders not reading at a basic proficiency level (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2005). These difficulties do not magically disappear; they continue into adolescence and adulthood, where approximately 23% of adults in the United States meet only basic reading proficiency levels (Pressley, Graham, & Harris, 2006). These statistics alarmed the public, leading to policy initiatives that emphasize the needs for effective approaches for teaching reading, particularly for struggling readers (Rapp, Broek, McMaster, Kendeou, & Espin, 2007). Furthermore, the recent inception of the Common Core State Standards across 43 states resulted in uniform expectations for students in an effort to raise achievement for all. Yet, the crux of the matter remains to be addressed: we cannot solely focus on what to teach without also consideration of how students learn.

To radically change an educational system that is saturated with existing failed policies and practices, a simultaneous revolution and evolution from traditional notions of curriculum and instruction is required. Yet, a reformation is difficult considering the political and societal pressures to relate curriculum to its traditional and historical contexts (Banks, 1988; Marsh, Day, Hannay, & McCutcheon, 1990). Aligning curriculum to cultural ways of learning requires a structural change far removed from previously kept routines and components. Pinar (1978) further states, "What is necessary is a fundamental reconceptualization of what curriculum is, how it functions, and how it might function in emancipatory ways" (p. 211).

Instead of teaching curriculum, it is time that pedagogues teach children using instructional techniques in accordance with how the human brain functions. By first examining brain functionality, we can better understand the mental structures related to knowledge formation. Addressing salient questions such as: "How does memory function towards the organization and retrieval of knowledge?" and "How is new knowledge synthesized with existing knowledge?" enables for a rich discussion necessary to provide a strong footing for structural change. Though these types of questions have been central to the field of cognitive psychology/science, they have not led towards improvements in daily curricular practices (Ortlieb, 2014). This paper attempts to connect understandings of thinking/learning processes with instructional design to foster meaningful learning and knowledge formation.

History of Learning Theories

Learning theories have emerged through sundry perspectives with some focused on the acquisition of skills learned such as reading and writing (e.g., Freebody & Anderson, 1981; LaBerge & Samuels, 1974), while others have attended to the creation and transformation of knowledge (e.g., Judd, 1908; Wertheimer, 1959); thus, they have historically been labeled as scientific or educational. …

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