In the essence, teaching and learning are very much tied up to each other, teaching being meant to influence the kind of learning a student chooses. Over time, the teaching styles have changed significantly, according to the specific paradigms.
The ancient style of teaching was based on the Socratic dialogue. This would take place in the nature, thus in a less informal environment, and the student was actively involved in the process of teaching. The teacher, or the master, would ask questions which would eventually lead the young student to discover the answers. This type of teaching was effective because it represented a guide for the intellectual development of the students, especially the critical thinking. Moreover, the less formal environment made the students feel at ease and also contributed a lot to build a proper relationship between the teacher and the students.
As time passed by, the way of teaching changed radically, reaching its peak in the beginning of the 20th century when a new paradigm was born. Behaviorism concluded that learning is the result of systematic repetition.
Two laws are found at the base of this principle. The first one is called the law of the stimulus and it refers to the fact that the more a stimulus is repeated the easier it is reproduced later. The second law is called the effect law and it says that the more the effect is reinforced the more it leads to the repetition of the behavior which led to it in the beginning.
Therefore, the teachers began to consider themselves as the only true possessors of the information, while the students were seen as passive recipients of information. There was always a correct and an incorrect answer, and the correct answer was always given by the professor. The students only had to memorize it and then reproduce it the same way. Because of this, their learning strategies were reduced to only acquiring the most prolific memorizing strategies. They were not encouraged to critically think over the information but only to encode inside their mind. If they reproduced it accurately, they were rewarded with high marks and appreciations. On the contrary, if they failed to give the answers expected by the teachers, or if they had different opinions about a subject, they had been punished with low marks and indifference.
Eventually, the students were drawn to learn only by the extrinsic motivation of the reinforcements. Therefore, they didn’t have a self-regulated type of learning, selecting what they like and believe it’s useful for them. This was an unwanted consequence and another one raised from the fact that they were not encouraged to actively processing the information. Because of this, they did not make connections with information for other domains, and what they’ve learned had little applicability to daily life. Thus, those years gave a lot of students who won prestigious knowledge contests, but only few who contributed to the development of science through their critical, innovative and creative thinking.
These above mentioned problems led to the development of another paradigm, the social-cognitive one. They promoted the following principles: each person is an active processor of information and intrinsic motivation is a crucial part of successful learning. Only intrinsic motivation would lead to self-regulated learning and it is only developed when there are different options for one to choose. The teachers were not seen anymore as being the only possessors of information. They admitted other sources and more than that, they encouraged the students to learn from various sources. The classes became less formal and there has been place an important accent over the teacher and student relationship. Teachers became co-workers with the students in the process of learning. Their role was especially the one of guiding the students to develop their critical thinking and also their emotional and social skills. Students were again encouraged to ask questions, to form and express their own opinions and to make connections between the information gathered from various domains. This led to a high degree of transfer of information to daily life.
In conclusion, there is an important connection between the teaching styles and the learning ones, the first one determining the other. A less restricted environment and a less rigid style of teaching bring out of students the most wanted critical and creative thinking.
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