Monday, 10 August 2015

My name is Lori and I am an Experiential Cognitivist

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In our Learning Theories class, we have explored the meaning of education, perspectives on knowledge and perspectives on learning.  We have had in depth discussions around epistemologies (which I can now pronounce), learning theories as well as learning strategies and styles.  A recurring theme throughout these discussions has been that our epistemologies, or views on knowing, are at the core of how we learn, teach and with how we approach research.
In my final paper for Learning Theories, I have described myself as an experiential cognitivist.  Now I know what some of you might be thinking…you might be thinking that experiential belongs with constructivism, not cognitivism.  According to many theorists and researchers, you are right….experiential learning is often discussed in conjunction to constructivism. Linda Harasim (2012) described experiential learning in the context of constructivism as learning through experience and interactions with others.  However, my personal identification with experiential learning has a cognitivist twist. 
In both cognitivism and constructivism, the learner is active.  In cognitivism however, knowledge is acquired and built on a foundation through individual reflection and evaluation of experiences, as opposed to being created through social interaction, as per constructivist learning. 
As I have reflected on my assumptions about knowledge, learning and teaching and connected it with readings on those subjects, I have come to recognize some of my personal values regarding knowledge.  I value individual reflection and find that I require the time to think about things and make connections internally, before I feel like I can effectively engage with others on a subject. I value process, structure and organization. To deepen my comprehension on a subject, I need to experience it in some way. This may entail making connections through trial and error (and reflecting on the experience), organizing information, which often involves color coding, or creating a visual doodles that can help me connect with my prior knowledge.   
My position as an experiential cognitivist truly is at the core of how I work and learn.  It also influences how I teach, however, there is a time and place for everything and I recognize that different subjects and different students require different approaches.  My tendency as a teacher is to shift along the cognitivist-constructivist spectrum, towards constructivism.  I encourage interaction and collaboration in the classroom between me and the students and amongst the students themselves.  As students progress in the program, my teaching objectives evolve from strategies for students to acquire foundational knowledge, to applying and creating new knowledge.
“As an experiential cognitivist, I understand knowledge as a series of internal connections that are made through experience” (Kemp, 2015, p.8 ).  I can relate my way of knowing to previous and current experiences of learning and of teaching.  Through this research and reflection I have also developed an understanding of various other epistemologies, learning theories and strategies and have had stimulating discussions with my cohort about where some of these concepts fit and how they are related with one another.   

Harasim, L. (2012). Learning theory and online technologies. New York, NY: Routledge.
Kemp, L. (2015). My personal epistemological position. Royal Roads LRNT501

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