Personal Learning Theory

As teachers, we already know that every student coming into our classrooms are their own unique people. They all speak differently, learn differently, and think differently. Not every trick you pull out of your magic teacher hat will apply or even work on every student. Just like we learned with Gardener’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences; since every student does not have the same skills and interest, they all need to learn in different manners. For this reason, I believe that learning theory needs to be approached from multiple angles. My personal learning theory would be drawn from many psychologist and teachers that have come before me. Since I believe that kids (and all humans for that matter) are mental, emotional, and social beings, a learning theory needs to be rooted in all three aspects of children’s lives. Children need to build all types of skills in school simultaneously in school in order to be successful. But this must be done in a particular way. My theory of learning would definitely include the idea of scaffolding- or that we build new knowledge and meaning on top of ideas and concepts that we already have. I believe that as kids progress developmentally, they can add more to their scaffolding to not only includes mental processes- but emotional and social processes as well.

If my theory was put up next Jean Piaget’s, they would seem similar in the sense that we both believe that as children progress, they move through different stages of development and can progress their life experience to mature prior knowledge. Piaget describes children as cognitive learners who have four distinct developmental stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operations, and formal operations (Darling-Hammond, Rosso, Austin, Orcutt & Martin, 2001). These stages span the child’s young life from birth until they are about 15 and related to their biological, physical, and mental development. What I do not like about Piaget’s theory is that it does not account for the social aspect of children. There is nothing more social for them than attending school and actively participating. It wasn’t accounted for until Lev Vygotsky came out with his theory adding to Piaget’s theory saying that a social-cultural component was absolutely necessary (Darling-Hammond, Rosso, Austin, Orcutt & Martin, 2001). Therefore, I am much more aligned with Vygotsky’s extension of Piaget’s theory.

My learning style would also be in line with what is called Structuralism. Structuralism is a cognitive theory that explores the way our minds make meaning of associations through introspection, or a type of self-analysis. I believe that self-reflection, or introspection, is a necessary part of learning and assessing learning because it proves that a more developed thought process is needed to effectively reflect upon it. However, scientifically, self-reflection is unreliable and quantifiable so this school of thought tends to be not held as true. Additionally, Structuralism seeks to make sense of the associations that our brains make. It does not, unfortunately, account for how or why the associations come about. These were the critiques of the Functionalist, who were in opposition to the theory (Schunk, 2016). Functionalists believe that how people behave and think is to aid in adapting to their ever changing environment. Functionalism resembles the theory of Charles Darwin, saying that we act the way we do to survive social environments.



Darling-Hammond, Rosso, Austin, Orcutt & Martin. (2001). How People Learn: Introduction to Learning Theory. The Learning Classroom, Session 1&2.

Schunk, Dale H. (2016) Learning Theories: An Educational Perspective. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill, Print.


by: S. Blaney (2016)

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