Bruner's Constructivist Theory and the Conceptual Paradigms Literature Review Chapter

Excerpt from Literature Review Chapter :

Bruner's constructivist theory and the conceptual paradigms of Kolb's Experiential Learning theory drawing on the associated theories are Kinesthetic and Embodied Learning. As also noted in the introductory chapter, the guiding research question for this study was, "What are the career paths for teaching artists seeking to deploy into the field of community art and development?" To develop timely and informed answers to this research question, this chapter provides a review of the relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly literature concerning these theoretical frameworks to investigate the different career paths teaching artists seek to deploy into the field of community art and development, including creative community building and adult community centers such as working with Alzheimer's Disease and stroke victims.

Adult Learning Theories

Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory. There are a wide array of theoretical models that can be used to identify and better understand teaching and learning preferences by educators and students, including Kolb's experiential learning theory which has been shown to be effective in explaining how adults learn (Akella, 2010). In this regard, Kolb (1984) defines experiential learning as a "holistic integrative perspective on learning that combines experience, cognition and behavior" (p. 21). Adult learning, from Kolb's perspective, is "a continuous process grounded in experience" (1984, p. 41).

The adult experiential learning process conceptualized by Kolb is a step-wise cycle that is comprised of four stages: (a) concrete experience, (b) reflective observation, (c) abstract conceptualization, and (d) active experimentation. According to Turesky (2005), "Individuals tend to emphasize different stages, resulting in different learning styles and their associated strengths and deficiencies. For integrated learning to occur, it is necessary to go through all of the phases of Kolb's learning cycle. When one or more of these dimensions are underdeveloped or overlooked, individual learning is blocked" (p. 59).

Conversely, learning is facilitated when all four dimensions are addressed satisfactorily (Turesky, 2005). In sum, "Kolb describes learning as a dynamic process, allowing for a more sophisticated way of understanding and working with the cognitive development of the individual by moving beyond stage development theory" (Turesky, 2005, p. 59). In contrast to linear theories of learning, Kolb's cyclical theory of learning is congruent with other adult learning theories including transformational learning. For instance, according to Baumgartner (2002), "The transformational learning journey was originally conceptualized as a linear process. However, further research indicates that it is more individualistic, fluid, and recursive, than originally thought" (p. 18). The introduction to the Kolb learning preference survey states that:

1. Learning is best conceived as a process, not in terms of outcomes. To improve learning in higher education, the primary focus should be on engaging students in a process that best enhances their learning -- a process that includes feedback on the effectiveness of their learning efforts. " must be conceived as a continuing reconstruction of experience: ... The process and goal of education are one and the same thing."

2. All learning is relearning. Learning is best facilitated by a process that draws out the students' beliefs and ideas about a topic so that they can be examined, tested, and integrated with new, more refined ideas.

3. Learning requires the resolution of conflicts between dialectically opposed modes of adaptation to the world.

4. Conflict, differences, and disagreement are what drive the learning process. In the process of learning, one is called upon to move back and forth between opposing modes of reflection and action and feeling and thinking.

5. Learning is a holistic process of adaptation to the world. It is not just the result of cognition but involves the integrated functioning of the total person -- thinking, feeling, perceiving, and behaving.

6. Learning results from synergetic transactions between the person and the environment. Learning occurs through equilibration of the dialectic processes of assimilating new experiences into existing concepts and accommodating existing concepts to new experience.

7. Learning is the process of creating knowledge. ELT proposes a constructivist theory of learning whereby social knowledge is created and recreated in the personal knowledge of the learner. This stands in contrast to the "transmission" model on which much current educational practice is based, where pre-existing fixed ideas are transmitted to the learner (The Kolb Learning Style Inventory -- Version 3.1, 2005, p. 2).

Certainly, there is an intuitive quality to these observations, but the important point made by Kolb is that adults have fundamentally different reasons for pursuing educational objectives and that these differences must be taken into account when formulating curricular offerings. According to Kolb's model, there is
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a "need for learner involvement in all educational activities" (Akella, 2010, p. 101), and Experiential Learning Theory can help determine what makes the learning experience meaningful for adult learners. In this regard, Kolb's learning style inventory can be used to: (a) match different student learning styles to complex subject matters, (b) understand individual preferences for certain learning experiences and, (c) facilitate the adoption of different teaching methodologies which suit various learning styles (Akella, 2010, p. 101). In addition, Kolb's model can also be used to analyze other issues concerning adult education, including (a) curriculum development and faculty development, (b) participant-centered learning, (c) brain learning and (d) management learning (Akella).

Kinesthetic Learning. There appears to be an inextricable connection between sensory feedback, physical movement and effective learning for some adults (Weggelaar, 2006). For instance, Dunn (2009) emphasizes that, "Every individual has the capability to learn, regardless of academic aptitude; however, each individual learns in a different manner" (p. 31). Likewise, according to Symons and Clark (2011), "Creative activities have been used as a therapeutic tool since the inception of occupational therapy. The role of creative activities has varied over time due to the changing focus of treatment in favor of kinesiological, neurological and psychodynamic approaches" (p. 45).

For some adult learners, kinesthetic learning can promote engagement and subject retention in ways that are not possible using conventional teaching methods (Dunn, 2009). For instance, according to Dunn (2009), "Students with kinesthetic preferences learn through their senses, hands-on experimentation, and real-life application" (p. 31). Moreover, Dunn notes that when teachers recognize adult learner's learning preferences, they can develop curricular offerings that match these preferences in ways that contribute to the learner and as well as teacher's experience:

Perceptual preferences influence how individual students learn. Students with a main visual preference will prefer to gain information through diagrams, charts, and posters. Teachers can then reinforce or enhance new knowledge through advanced presentations in other perceptual modes such as the auditory (e.g., lecturing, class discussion) or kinesthetic (e.g., experiments, hands-on activities, simulations). (p. 32)

Likewise, citing the need for reliable sensory feedback when writing or typing, Weggelaar emphasizes that, "The ability to feel and recognize your own movements plays a crucial role at several points in the process of reading and writing. Kinesthetic feedback is implicit, preverbal, at the silent level, but it is an indispensable link in recognizing speech sounds and in writing" (p. 145). Much like the cyclical learning model conceptualized by Kolb, individual learning can be blocked when kinesthetic feedback is impaired or unavailable. In this regard, Weggelaar concludes that for many adult learners, "When you have reliable kinesthetic feedback and can feel your own speech movements you know implicitly how speech sounds merge. Without kinesthetic feedback, these patterns of movements are not recognizable units" (p. 146).

Taken together, it is reasonable providing adult learners with kinesthetic learning opportunities will enhance their learning experience, and the research to date indicates that a significant percentage of adult learners prefer these hands-on opportunities. A survey of general population participants, teachers' and students' learning-preference profiles found that teachers and students differed from each other in three main preferential modalities: (a) auditory, (b) read/write, and (c) kinesthetic preferences. According to Dunn, "In each group of 30 students, a teacher could expect to encounter a diverse mix of learners. One would prefer the visual mode, one would prefer the auditory mode, four would prefer the read/write mode, six would prefer the kinesthetic mode, and the remaining 18 preferred a combination of modalities (i.e., they were multimodal)" p. 32).

Embodied Learning. Embodied knowledge is defined by Kerka (2002) as "knowledge that involves senses, perceptions, and mind-body action and reaction" (p. 37). Embodied knowledge is acquired through embodied learning experiences that are different from the conventional text-lecture approach used in many schools today. According to Alsop and Bencze (2005), "Everyday learning recognizes that learning involves the body as centrally as the mind and embraces cognitive, emotional, physical and social dimensions. In embodied learning, cognition, perception, cultural tools and action all work together in the learning process" (p. 143).

Similar to kinesthetic learning, embodied learning involves using sensory feedback and environmental cues to facilitate the learning process. This approach represents a sea change is pedagogical thinking because it draws on recent innovative research that challenges current approaches to delivering educational services to adult learners. In this regard, Kerka (2002) emphasizes that, "Western culture has been dominated by the separation of cognitive knowledge from embodied knowledge and the distrust of…

Sources Used in Documents:

references to improve coaching and athletic performance: Are your players or students kinesthetic learners? The Journal of Physical

Education, Recreation & Dance, 80(3), 30-34.

Fowler, J. (2013, March). Art rescue in a troubled world. Arts & Activities, 153(2), 36-39.

Kerka, S. (2002). Somatic/embodied learning and adult education: Trends and issues alert. ERIC

Kessler, R. (2000). The soul of education: Helping students find connection, compassion, and character at school. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum

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