Preservice Teachers and Formal Learning Theories: Valuations and Manipulations

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This qualitative study explored how nine graduate-level preservice teachers constructed meaning around the formal learning theories they encountered in a teacher education program. Four trends emerged from coursework-document analysis and extensive interview transcript analysis. First, unlike participants in prior studies, participants spoke positively about formal learning theories' usefulness. Theories were framed as "lenses” that helped them – and importantly all those they interacted with – make sense of classroom phenomena in a variety of ways. Second, participants "favored" certain learning theories over others. Participants seemingly valued those theories they linked to their perceived successful development as school age or adult learners. Third, participants comfortably manipulated time-tested learning theories by merging components of multiple theories together. Participants claimed that singular theories did not account for the complexity of the learner and his/her interactions with the environment, but their new arrangements did. Fourth, participants justified that these manipulations were acceptable because learning theory is based upon the "soft science" of psychology, which was open to subjective interpretation - including their own. Interestingly, even though all participants were explicitly aware that theories were created in social contexts, each participant held theories from scientific and mathematical fields to be beyond critique - including math and science preservice teachers. Implications for teacher education will be shared.


Keywords: Preservice Teacher Education, Learning Theory, Constructivism
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , , , , Pre-Service Teachers’ Manipulations of Formal Learning Theories


Dr. Daniel L. White

Assistant Professor, Teacher Leadership, Roosevelt University
Chicago, Illinois, USA

Dr. Daniel L. White is director of and assistant professor within the online Masters of Arts for Teacher Leadership program. His research interests include learner-centered teacher education, how teachers make sense of "naturalized" learning structures, online teacher education, and cultural foundations of education.

Ref: L09P1225