Running head: HOW WE LEARN; A COMPARISON OF FIVE PHILOSPHIES 1
How We Learn: A Comparison of Five Philosophies
Laurie L. Kinder-Lang
University of Arkansas
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Laurie Kinder-Lang,
EDLE Program Area, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701.
Draft Copy: Do not use without permission from the author.
HOW WE LEARN; A COMPARISON OF FIVE PHILOSOPHIES 2
The singular title of our book may be somewhat misleading, until it is recognized that
all of the discussed philosophers have contributed to the modern philosophy of learning.
Some donated in large part, such as the five to be discussed in this paper, and others with
very small, but lasting contributions. The course as a whole was based loosely with
metacognition at its core, thus the yielding of this final paper. While a “favorite” theory
does not stand alone, several portions of theories and philosophies wren combined and
fostered properly lend themselves visibly to the treatment of the youth in our
classrooms—not my own educational philosophy or how I teach—but how I believe the
culmination of the studied philosophical ideas can transfer to the modern student.
To begin, it is necessary to review Bloom’s Taxonomy. While his original taxonomy
(1956) might have sufficed for this document, a glance at the revised (2001) might prove
itself a stronger connective tissue for the following philosophers. According to
Vanderbilt University, the more primitive “noun-based” qualities of the original
taxonomy offered a static view of learning—one that is too generic and broad to gain
deeper understanding. In this first rendition, nouns such as knowledge, comprehension,
application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation were used to describe the qualities
necessary to learn (www.vanderbilt.edu). However, in order to reflect the actions
necessary to achieve these nouns, a group of theorists and philosophers sought to
incorporate verbs to elicit the necessary process required. In 2001 the taxonomy became:
“remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, create” (www.vanderbilt.edu).
HOW WE LEARN; A COMPARISON OF FIVE PHILOSOPHIES 3
These values seem to be the root of my (quite novice) learning philosophy. Stemming
the omnipresent battle of nature vs. nurture, Bloom and friends decipher the core of
learning, as it applies to all skill and ability levels. In the Woolfolk text on page 175, a
clear example can be viewed of “nurture” playing a vital role of the prodigy’s (musical)
success with structure at home-- practice, private lessons, tutoring, etc., The text is also
quick to point out that this nurturing came “after the children showed early high level
achievement” (Woolfolk, 2013, p. 175), meaning that while some aptitude was evident
early in the child’s life, the combination of this aptitude (nature) and the nurture were
necessary to enhance the individual’s ability. One without the other does not seem to
have the same rapidity of result nor the impact of the team (nature and nurture) effort.
Learning takes place more internally and rapidly when employing the ideals of Bloom’s
Social Cognitive Theory
Over the course of the last twelve weeks or so, the most “comfortable” of the theories
we have been introduced to is Bandura and his Social Cognitive Theory. The “social”
facet derives from a person’s human connections. In his “Bobo Experiment,” small
children watch as adults become aggressive with an inflatable doll. In a video from K.T.
Heuer, it is reported that eighty-eight percent of children mimicked the aggressiveness
shown by the adults to the doll, and even after eight months, forty percent were still
exhibiting hostile behavior. In another clip it is noted that people react differently to
different (socially accepted) appearances. For example, a nicely dressed man carrying an
HOW WE LEARN; A COMPARISON OF FIVE PHILOSOPHIES 4
attaché case crosses the street before the “walk sign” turns green. A group on the corner
waiting on the light, decide to follow the man’s lead, and jaywalk as well. The same
man, wearing baggy, tattered and dirty clothes repeats the experiment, and those waiting
at the light just shook their heads in what appears to be annoyance or irritation, and do
not follow the man. Following role models is a large part of Bandura’s theory. The
cognitive portion includes “thinking, believing, expecting, anticipating, and making
comparisons and judgments” (Woollfolk, 441). Part(s) or all of this theory happen on a
daily basis to every individual, regardless of age, gender, race, etc., whereas some of the
other theories change or deviate slightly between subgroups. This notion feels the most
visible and viable. Combined with Bloom’s duet of nature and nurture, seems to be, from
a mere eight years of teaching, my slowly developing learning philosophy.
While Bloom and Bandura comprise the largest percentage of my learning philosophy,
there are a few other names that bear mentioning, in having helped customize by rookie
opinions. Brofenbrenner’s bioecological model seems logical. The bioecological model
is based on context (Woolfolk, p. 86). Context includes a person’s inside and outside
environments, and is ever-changing and shaping a person. When reading this chapter
several weeks ago, I took this to mean that the context was more important to the
developing child, and to his personality, mannerisms, likes, dislikes, etc., however, after
comparing this model, it appears that a person’s internal and external forces play heavily
on his learning, i.e. the ability to learn, as well as the desire to learn.
HOW WE LEARN; A COMPARISON OF FIVE PHILOSOPHIES 5
When compared to Bloom, it appears that Brofenbrenner tends to the nurture option in
the microsystem (family, friends, school). He then leans toward Bandura in the
exosystem, which describes “social settings that affect the child- even though the child is
not a member” (Wooolfolk, p. 87). If ever Bloom and Bandura were to battle,
Brofenbrenner might be the bridge to reconnect them, but is not strong enough to stand
by himself. A learning philosophy is not just how a child learns in the classroom; it is his
whole aptitude for learning.
Another partner in the alliance of the learning philosophies, like Brofenbrenner, is
Vyotsky. Woolfolk mentions on page 399 of our text that even educational psychologists
argue a bit over which category to place him. Many, since a large quantity of work
focused on the “social interactions and cultural contexts” (Woolfolk, 399) call him a
social constructivist. However, Vygotsky was primarily interested with the development
within the person, thus earning him the moniker of psychological constructivist.
Essentially, we read that he is both, making him the perfect candidate to host a party
with our aforementioned psychologists. Vygostky’s work with the zone of proximal
development also solidifies his participation in the creation of my learning philosophy.
Determining that there is a specific level at which a child is most likely to learn, and
targeted by an adult or more advanced peer, is a staple in most classrooms. Every child
(or adult, for that matter) has that “look.” He or she is close to “flipping on the light
HOW WE LEARN; A COMPARISON OF FIVE PHILOSOPHIES 6
bulb,” but needs just a bit more guidance. Peer tutoring ebbs and flows in pedagogical
popularity at times, but has a happy home in my classroom.
Theory of Multiple Intelligences
While this theory obviously cannot stand alone, and is heavily disputed by many
scientists, it still manages to pique the interest of the classroom teacher. Gardner might
be better friends with nurture and try to bring Bandura and Brofenbrenner into a bully-
group to thwart away the social- constructivist side of Vygotsky, but essentially, as stated
earlier, a person’s learning capacity involves all, parts, or individual pieces at different
venues. Gardner‘s intelligences, found on 134-135 of our text are merely a suggestion of
eight main learning foci. If a parent were aware of these targets, perhaps the child could
be given more fitting stimuli at a younger age to find his or her strength(s). Teachers
mistakenly, I believe try to incorporate too many of these in each lesson. Encouraging
children to become stronger in even one of these might aid in his learning both
intrinsically and externally.
Essentially, my learning philosophy is a culmination of Bloom, Bandura,
Brofenbrenner, Vygotsky and Gardner. The strongest of these can still not be a sole
provider for a child’s learning appetite. When pieces are used with planning and data
driven decision making, any learner will become stronger. We live in a social world, one
that is less and less conducive to home-schooling, or very “cut-off” sorts of education.
While a child is perfectly able to learn in part with curiosity, ultimately, it is still his
HOW WE LEARN; A COMPARISON OF FIVE PHILOSOPHIES 7
environment sparking his interest. When the same child later pores over his books, it is
his environment that will get him over the “hump”- whether with the aid of a helpful
peer, or other external motivation. However, we are all born with unique strengths that
may or may not ever be honed. These strengths are internal and external and need “help”
to become stronger. Nature is a strong contender, but I must side with the more social
side of the learning endeavor.
HOW WE LEARN; A COMPARISON OF FIVE PHILOSOPHIES 8
Armstrong, P. (2014). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Center for learning. Nashville Tennessee.
Retrieved from http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/#bg
Bandura. A. (2010). Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory: An Introduction (Davidson’s
Films). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4N5J9jFW5U
Heuer. K.T. (2010). Social Theories of Learning: Social and Constructivist Theories.
Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yTxm1KEGeE
Woolfolk, A. (2013). Educational Psychology: Modular active learning edition with
Myeducationlab. (12 edition). Ohio State University.