ED 611 Theories of Teaching and Learning

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Unit 1
Unit 2
Unit 3
Unit 4
Unit 5
Unit 6
Unit 7
Unit 8


Dr. Mark Girod

Course Catalogue Description:

This course will apply key concepts, models, and strategies related to different theories of learning, including behaviorist, cognitive and socio-cultural perspectives. Students will examine epistemological frameworks, issues of transfer, social and cultural influences, as well as motivation and engagement to design powerful learning experiences. Additionally, students will learn key concepts, models, and strategies related to language acquisition and to cognitive, social, and emotional development.

Course introduction:

Three main ideas frame the design of this course and guide student participation within it: First, reflective analysis is essential to building new learning and crafting a professional identity. Second, learning is best facilitated within a community of involved, caring, committed individuals engaged in meaningful social experiences. Third, learning and the crafting of professional identity require continual examination and reconceptualization of ideas and practices. These three framing principles reflect this class' focus on students' past experiences, present professional efforts, and future professional identities. The content we cover must be molded and shaped to fit these orientations.

Course Goals and Objectives:

Through instruction, assignments, and class participation, the successful student will be able to:

Course Structure:

This course will be divided into units which address various aspects of Educational Psychology; the study of learning. After an introduction to the early history of the field, students will encounter the three main theoretical divisions in learning theory, the behaviorist, cognitive, and socio-cultural perspectives. We will then proceed to topics which bridge these three perspectives, including issues of motivation, meaning, purpose, value, and experience in learning as well as some conversations about intelligence.

There are eight units in the course so the idea is to complete one about every week or so for the duration of the 10-week session. Each unit is fully accessible from the first day of class to the last but please do not fall behind as the work will stack up quickly! If you complete a unit a week... you'll be fine and will find that your assignment due dates and content covered match. In other words, if you don't progress through the units you will find yourself ill-prepared to complete your assignments - not having read the necessary material and wrestled with the appropriate ideas. Due dates and a suggested pacing guide showing when you should have each of the units completed can be found at the calendar page. Again, however, all units will be open and accessible for the entire quarter.

Units are made up of readings, mainly educational articles, along with other resources, including websites, presentations, and videos. Students should take the time to read or watch all of the resources of a unit, using the guiding questions to shape but not limit their study. The entire course is located at the website... and you only need to link to Moodle for discussions. In fact, I have stripped down all the Moodle bells and whistles so it is just discussion forums.

Unit Discussions:

Much of the power of this course lies in readings and discussion questions designed to draw out the essential ideas of the field of educational psychology. To assist, our course is broken into 8 units each with readings, supplementary materials, and some guiding discussion questions. The idea is to read and study the materials provided with the discussion questions in mind. When you're ready to offer your thoughts... log into Moodle, go to the appropriate unit (and question) to post your ideas. Each unit has two discussion questions - these are big and multifaceted so focus on the conceptual space they delineate - rather than feeling the need to answer every subpoint within the question. So here's what we're looking for... for each question (2 in each unit, typically) post one well-articulated, thoughtful response of your own (shoot for about 200 words)... and then comment on at least two other persons' thoughtful response (shorter response). So you could, theoretically get away with 48 postings for the whole class - 3 posts for each question (1 long one, and 2 comments on somebody elses'), 16 questions (2 for each unit). However, in an online class the experience is enriched when the discussions really unfold online. Please discuss as much as you'd like - the class will be richer for your efforts!

Course Policies:

As a professional course, this class will be conducted with an expectation of responsibility and initiative on the part of the students.

This course aims to be useful and interesting - if it falls short of either of these aims, the instructor expects students to make the effort to improve their learning experience by adjusting their approach to the class and by contributing constructive suggestions to the instructor.

Major Assignments

Unit readings and discussions: Students will be expected to participate by reading all of the articles and resources provided on the course website, then sharing their thoughts and ideas through discussions on Moodle. These discussions are the primary way in which students will encounter one another and the instructor, and will serve to clarify questions as well as to extend ideas beyond the assigned readings and resources. Your participation in Moodle and discussion posts will count for 30% of the course grade. These are great readings... give yourself the time and space to read them and think deeply about the message! Again, units will close according to the schedule described at the calendar page... don't fall behind!

Examination of Current Institutional and/or Classroom Practices: Students will employ the ideas and theories introduced in ED 611 to analyze a current institutional or classroom practice. The specific topic of the paper is up to the student, and the possibilities are many. Students may choose to analyze a school or a school system; a federal, state, or local educational policy; a particular school policy or practice; the environment or practices of a particular classroom; or even a specific lesson or activity. Whatever the topic chosen, students will be expected to describe the topic, then provide an analysis and evaluation of it using one or more of the theoretical frames discussed in ED 611 (behaviorism, cognitve psychology, situative or social perspectives, motivational ideas, or even big ideas). The analysis should relate the topic to ED 611 theoretical frames and judge the topic in the terms of the analysis. For example, if your school has a strict policy around behavior and student conduct... you could examine the policy and explore the theoretical perspective best aligned with it describing how the policy came into being, how it is aligned (or not) with the theoretical perspective you're writing about, the consequences of the policy, the effect of it... and so on. The goal is to think carefully about why we do the things we do in education... and link them to major ideas from the field of educational psychology. Need another example? How about analyzing the workings of the No Child Left Behind act from the perspective of motivational theory, or classroom practices and relationships from a socio-cultural point of view, or of a particular lesson in light of what cognitive theory tells us about retention and transfer. There's lots of room to tackle something of personal interest... do it!

This paper will be graded on the quality of the description of the topic, the depth of the analysis and evaluation, the skillful and knowledgeable use of ideas from ED 611, and the clarity and consistency of the evaluative judgments made. The paper should be about 6 pages long, and should follow the general assignment guidelines provided in this syllabus. This assignment will count for 40% of your grade.

Send your assignment to Mark via email by midnight on Sunday, June 3rd.

Big Ideas Assignment: This assignment is really rooted in the ideas of unit 8. The hope is that through our study of educational psychology, John Dewey, and powerful experiences you'll be ready to challenge yourself to design lesson plans to help teach big ideas through transformative, aesthetic experiences. Your first task will be to identify a big idea in some content that you might teach in the future. Make no mistake, this is the hardest part of this assignment and you should spend considerable time and energy working on this first step. If nothing comes to you right away, have a conversation with Mark via email.

Idea - what's your big idea?

Select content that is fundamentally powerful. This is one of the hardest things to do in teaching a big ideas lesson. Mull over carefully what are the important and powerful content ideas that exist in your area. Remember to make a distinction between ideas (causes re-seeing) and concepts (bold-faced words). Also, keep in mind that ideas will lead to bold-faced words and conceptual understandings... but that isn't where inspirational teachers begin.

Metaphor/analogy/story - how will you help people get their heads around it?

One of the best ways to introduce a big idea is to use a metaphor. Metaphors seem to allow us to make connections between disparate things in ways that few other tools allow. Design a metaphor (simile, analogy, or even a story) that connect learners with your powerful idea and illustrates its power in ways that blow minds. If a metaphor doesn't work for you... consider some of these other suggestions:

World - what do you want people to see differently?

Model how the idea changes your world and encourage and reward your learners for acting and being different in the world - on fire with the idea you've shared. In the process, model the transformative power of the idea for your students. Help your students to see through your eyes - eyes that see differently through your big idea! Set the bar high for yourself and your learners. Yes, your students should learn something important about the world... but they should also learn something about themselves and be more alive (aware, interested, happy, sad, mad...) because of your idea! The hope is that you will literally play with these ideas and see if they might buy you anything useful in your setting and with your students. The other hope is, of course, that you might actually implement your design but… that is not a requirement. Have fun with this!

NOTE: The Big Ideas Assignment is really written for students that are classroom teachers. If you are not, and this assignment seems foreign for you or difficult to complete, here is an alternative assignment that will help solidify the theoretical perspectives of educational psychology. If you select this assignment is has the same due date as the Big Ideas assignment.

Send your assignment to Mark via email by midnight on Friday, June 15th (last day of spring term).

Assignment Weights:

Assignment Formatting Guidelines:

Unless otherwise stated , all assignments should be word processed, double-spaced, and proofed. Please use Times New Roman font in 12-point and set 1-inch margins. Your name, the date, and the assignment should be in the upper left corner of the page. Please edit your work for clarity, grammar, and spelling. Citations of journals, books etc. should use the American Psychological Association (APA) style. Assignments should be submitted by email, and should be sent by midnight on the day which they are due.


If you have a documented disability that may require assistance, you will need to contact the Office of Disabilities Services (ODS) for coordination in your academic accommodations. Location: APSC 405. Phone/TTY: 503-838-8250.