This is a question all educators should have an opinion on, their own personal point of view - not only of how their students learn, but how they learn and how people in general learn. How you view learning shouldn't be confused with how you view teaching, as they are two different philosophies. Teaching philosophy is how one believes instruction should be approached and how curriculum, assessments, classroom management and discipline should be handled. It addresses how the teacher addresses working with students, whether that be individually or as a group. A learning philosophy is all about the learner and how they best process and retain information.
As an educator who firmly believes in maker education, it should be no surprise to those who are familiar with the maker movement (or those who have read my literature review regarding makerspaces) that my learning philosophy is deeply rooted in the learning theories of Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert and their shared belief that knowledge is constructed by the learner, who should be in control of their own learning. I am also an educator who has experienced the questions and doubts of others in my field when it comes to allowing the learner to be in control of their own learning. It is a discussion I have found myself in numerous times with colleagues when I am forced to defend my makerspaces and the logic behind why I am spending so much time, money and resources into creating my makerspace environment. I believe to successfully convince someone of your own beliefs, you need to be armed with facts and research that support your point of view.
I don't want this to read like a research paper, but I can't explain my learning philosophy without discussing the philosophies of Piaget and Papert. While I was researching the maker movement, I learned about these two theorists and their beliefs in Martinez and Stager's (2013) book "Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom".
Seymour Papert has been called the "Father of the Maker Movement" (Martinez & Stager, 2013) and is who my learning philosophy currently relates most to. With that being said, you can't believe in Papert's theory without agreeing with Piaget's as well, since Papert worked with Piaget and his constructionism philosophy is built upon constructivism beliefs. Kurti, Kurti, and Fleming (2014) say it best when they describe constructionism as the application of constructivist learning principals to a hands-on learning environment, where learners are actively constructing something with their hands while constructing learning inside their brains.
...So, what is my learning philosophy?
My learning philosophy is based on 4 core beliefs or principals:
1. Real-world experiences enables real-world learning.
2. Learning happens when learners take control over their learning.
3. Everyone is both an active learner and teacher.
4. The learning environment ignites learner curiosity and accepts failure.
Real-world experiences enables real-world learning.
People are natural learners and are constantly trying make sense of the world that surrounds them. When learners have real-world experience or first hand knowledge of something, they can make connections to what they are learning. If learners don't have that experience or knowledge, I believe it is the job of the educator to provide the space and resources for them to gain it. Why tell learners about gravity when they can discover it themselves and gain personal experience dealing with gravity? This is how learning occurs best, when learners are able to experiment with the topic by constructing something physically while their learning is constructed mentally. Makerspaces provide learners the chance to gain real-world experience in an educational setting and allows them to connect formal classroom learning to informal learning experiences gained through the makerspaces.
Learning happens when the learner takes control over their own learning.
Everyone learns best when they are completely immersed in what they are doing - whether that be building a model, coding a robot, or writing a story. This type of immersion can be achieved when learners are presented a choice in their own learning activities, allowing them to take ownership over it. Makerspaces have the potential to build autonomy because it gives learners the freedom to choose the projects they work on and how they work on them (Apodaca, 2017). Learning flourishes in these spaces because makers are allowed to tinker and explore their own passions through independent projects.
Everyone is both an active learner and teacher.
The line between learner and instructor should be blurred for everyone to be both a learner and a teacher. This is clearly evident in the makerspace environment because everyone is learning from each other. Often you will notice one student runs into a dilemma while tinkering or creating and it is common for another student to come and share a solution. The students then work together to overcome the problem, with one student being the "classic learner" and the other being the "classic teacher" (Kurti et al., 2014). I believe that when we sit learners down and spoon-feed them their education, for one, aren't really learning anything and two, we are taking away their chance to learn it on their own and discover yet to be known things about it.
The learning environment ignites learner curiosity and accepts failure.
I believe the environment is the foundation for any learning to take place. I believe that when we allow students the freedom to explore an idea or concept in their own way they will not only learn it, but understand it. The importance of the learning environment can not be underestimated when discussing any type of learning philosophy - for it is what speaks to the learners from the very first moment they walk inside. My belief is that the environment should inspire awe, provoke playfulness and spark curiosity. It goes beyond the 4 walls of the physical space and transcends into the atmosphere, changing the culture of all those involved. The maker movement is the perfect way to introduce this type of environment to a school or classroom because they naturally create an environment where learners have the freedom to create, tinker and play.
I believe our learning philosophies on how people learn are rooted in our own personal experiences, beliefs and passions. It is what drives us as educators and learners. It is my belief that as we learn and grow, our philosophies do as well. They are always changing and adapting, just as we as learners do.
Ackermann, Edith. (2001) Piaget’s Constructivism, Papert’s Constructionism: What’s the difference? Retrieved from http://learning.media.mit.edu/content/
This publication provides information on Piaget's constructivism and Papert's constructionism philosophies and discusses the differences between them.
Apodaca, A. (2017, Winter). Makerspace Next. CSLA Journal, 40(2), 5-8.
This article highlights what makerspaces are now and learning manifesto that supports it. It also discusses the maker movement outcomes, needs and motivations.
Kurti, S., Kurti, D., & Fleming, L. (2014). The Philosophy of Educational Makerspaces: Part 1 of Making an Educational Makerspace. Teacher Librarian, 41(5), 8-11.
This article discusses the philosophies behind the maker movement and how it can revolutionize the way we view learning and how educators approach teaching.
Constructionism & Constructivism: Makerspace for Education. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.makerspaceforeducation.com/constructionism--constructivism.html
This website overall provides great resources and information regarding makerspaces, but this particular page illustrates the constructionism and constructivism philosophies, providing helpful videos and graphics.
Martinez, S. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. Torrance, California: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.
This book promotes the power of learning by doing and constructing. It acknowledges the natural curiosities of children and puts the learner at the center of the learning process. The authors begin this book with a history of Piaget and Papert's philosophies.