Education Theories Knowledge of Learning Term Paper

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Dr. Frank Pajares, writing in Reading and Writing Quarterly (Pajares 2003), points out that in his view of Bandura's social learning theory, individuals are believed to possess "self-beliefs that enable them to exercise a measure of control over their thoughts, feelings, and actions."

As has been mentioned earlier in this paper, but put a slightly different way by Pajares ("Self-Efficacy Beliefs, Motivation, and Achievement in Writing: A Review of the Literature") based on Bandura, behaviorists can better predict what individuals are capable of based on "their beliefs about their capabilities" than by what they are actually capable of accomplishing.

This aspect of self-efficacy carries over into a student's writing abilities; and a writer with a "strong sense of confidence" may excel while writing an essay because there will be less apprehension over the quality of what the writer is trying to express. The writer may have some doubts about whether the essay is going to be strong enough (or not), but self-efficacy provides the "resiliency in the face of adversity," Pajares explains.

There are three ways of measuring writing self-efficacy, Pajares explains; and it should be pointed out that this section of his journal article relates to the pragmatism and potential effectiveness of using the Bandura learning theory in the classroom. Teaching writing is tricky, as any teacher knows, but using Bandura's self-efficacy method with Pajares' brand of in-class planning, could be productive in helping students master (or at least get their arms around) the writing process.

Pajares' first step: an assessment is made of students' confidence level that they do indeed possess the necessary writing skills to get the job done well (that includes having the confidence to "perform grammar, usage, composition and mechanical skills" as well as explaining the characters' thoughts and feelings); the second way of measuring a student's writing self-efficacy is to challenge his or her ability to complete a "task" such as a term paper, a short fiction story, "or writing a letter to a friend."

Because the research questions given to the student to work with have a direct bearing on the link between self-efficacy and performance assessments, Pajares asserts that "the relationship between self-efficacy and academic outcomes will be strongest when self-efficacy items are closely matched to the outcome under investigation." Indeed, in a writing experiment, Pajares and Johnson found that using writing skills self-efficacy "predicted students' skills in composing essays "but writing tasks self-efficacy did not."

Meanwhile, the third method of measuring students' writing self-efficacy beliefs is "to use items asking students to provide a rating of their confidence that they can earn either an a, B, C, or D. In their language arts class." The teacher then compares these student judgments about their confidence level to the actual grades they obtained in the language arts class. Pajares notes that research has shown "consistently" that writing self-efficacy beliefs and actual writing performances "are related."

To conclude this review of Bandura's theory - as employed by Pajares in teaching writing - it is important to mention that studies have shown that the influence of students' "perceived value of writing" and students' "writing apprehension" can be "nullified" when self-efficacy beliefs are included in the statistical models." Again, Bandura believed that "self-efficacy judgments in part determine the value that people place on tasks and activities"; hence, students who "expect success in a school subject tend to value that subject," Pajares continues. Recapping: the outcomes students expect (in a writing exercise) "largely depend on their judgments of what they can accomplish."

Meanwhile, a research article - published in the journal Addiction - analyzes potential approaches to "developing new instruments for assessing tobacco dependence among adolescents" (Brandon, et al., 2004); and one of several models used in this research was Bandura's self-efficacy. The article points out that when self-efficacy and "outcome expectancies" are "high," a tobacco-using individual, if the Bandura formula is functioning well in this instance, "should be motivated to perform the behavior." However, when it comes to tobacco behaviors and self-efficacy, the outcomes are not as cut and dried as with the writing task experiments, for example.

Human behavior is "not solely the result of previous learning" (operant conditioning) and of biological factors" (genetics) Brandon explains, which is Brandon's recap of what Bandura believed. And so, self-efficacy is utilized as a model through which people's goals are influenced, the "effort they expend to achieve" those goals, and "how long they will persevere when confronted with obstacles and the likelihood that specified goals will be achieved." But self-efficacy is not, readers are reminded, a "global trait" like self-esteem, but instead is merely "hypothesized to vary across behavioral domains."

The conclusions reached by Brandon and colleagues in this article - which reported over 170 references in the bibliography - is that Bandura's theory of self-efficacy (used in conjunction with the other models, Wills, Goldman, and others) shows "rich possibilities for developing multi-modal assessments of adolescent tobacco dependence." And beyond the traditional approaches (using questionnaires), Brandon writes that there is potential for "novel measurement approaches" like "real-time assessment using ecological momentary assessment," and "implicit memory tasks," among other innovations.


What is Instructional Scaffolding (IS)? According to Dr. Hope Hartman, "scaffolds" - the kind used in construction - are "temporary structures" provide physical support to workers while they work on jobs off the ground that would "otherwise be impossible." The scaffolds are two-pronged in their application: they give workers a place to conduct their work activities, and also help workers "reach work areas that they could not access on their own" standing on the ground level.

That having been pointed out, Hartman explains that "instructional scaffolding" is a teaching strategy that was "cleverly named for the practical resemblance it bears" to the physical scaffolds just described that are used for building and construction projects. The instructional scaffolding strategy engages students collaboratively in tasks that lend assistance to the learning process. When new skills are needed, but the tasks are too difficult to master on their own, students embrace instructional scaffolding, to help students "build their understanding of new content and process," Hartman continues.

The "temporary scaffolding provided by the instructor" is removed as soon as the students "internalize the content and/or process" and are competent to assume "full responsibility for controlling the progress of a given task," Hartman explains. And moreover, there are two major steps involved in IS; one is the creation of instructional plans that will "lead the students" from what skills they hitherto have mastered into a "deep understanding of new material." And those scaffolding plans must be carefully presented, in a way that "each new skill or bit of information that the students learn" can provide a logical next step, "based upon what they already know or are able to do." To go along with this first step, the instructor must be sure to "continuously assess student learning" and make a solid connection (or linkage) between the new information and the prior knowledge the student had already understood and put to use.

The second of the major IS steps, Hartman points out, is "execution of the plans," by initially modeling the process, and then guiding the students through the task so they can perform it independently.

ZONE of PROXIMAL DEVELOPMENT (ZPD): The person who created the concept of ZPD, Lev Vygotsky, believed basically that "humans use tools that develop from a culture, such as speech and writing, to mediate their social environments" (Riddle, 1999); also, Vygotsky understood the importance of a teacher becoming a collaborator rather than "dictating her meaning...for future recitation..." In the e-Book Learning, Teaching & Technology (Lipscomb, et al., 2004), it is emphasized that the ZPD is "always changing" as the student's knowledge expands; and as the scaffolding is gradually removed (a process called "fading"), teachers should soon see whether or not they correctly judged the ZPD, or if in fact they went too far beyond a student's ability to learn in the first round of scaffolding.

Hence scaffolding has become a major component of making sure that ZPD is fully functional; as Hartman explained earlier in this paper, successful scaffolded instruction builds a "shared understanding" of the task at hand.

The Center on English Learning and Achievement (CELA) explains that if instructional scaffolding is correctly employed - using "carefully constructed materials and activities and interactions with teachers" and advanced peers, those students involved with scaffolding "internalize" the needed skills and strategies through what Tharp and Gallimore allude to as "assisted performance."

The CELA ( also identifies an eight-year study in which two types of scaffolding put into action in "envisionment-building" English classrooms; those types include "ways to discuss" and "ways to think." In the first, the scaffolding offered support for "discipline-appropriate interaction routines" like agreeing with others, disagreeing with civility, turn-taking and elaborating on one another's spoken thoughts; the "ways to think" strategy helped students "sharpen their ideas, analyze, and provide evidence for their growing understandings."


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