Week 1: Learning, Understanding, and Conceptual Change Essay

Learning, Understanding, and Conceptual Change Essay

 Learning is the acquisition of new information through personal experiences, observations, perceptions, cultural surroundings, language, and values.  Learning is innate. We are born with a natural curiosity of the world around us. We desire to know and understand. Our interpretation of reality is based on our interactions with the world. As we grow and are exposed to diverse experiences, we begin to alter our thinking and build on prior- knowledge. In turn, as we learn, our interpretation of the world changes.  The process of learning by making connections between old and new experiences is known as the theory of constructivism, generally attributed to Jean Piaget. This theory suggests that learning happens through our experiences and knowledge is internalized through assimilation and accommodation. We assimilate these experiences by relating them to old experiences and existing frameworks, or we can accommodate for the new information by reframing our mental representations to fit the new experience (Bransford et. al., 2000, p.10-11).

In order to create engaging, diverse learning experiences, I have to be able to identify with each of my students and provide them with opportunities to collaborate and hear each other’s perspectives. We are products of our culture and have developed understanding based on our interactions with the world. The experiences I provide in the classroom must be in tune with their needs outside of the classroom. I have to be aware of my learners’ pre-existing conceptions and misconceptions in order to help them build on what they know and achieve a more mature understanding (Bransford et. al., 2000, p.10).

There are several teaching methods that support learning and understanding. It is my job as an educator to provide authentic learning experiences that allow learners to experience a concept in more than one embodiment. By implementing differentiated instruction and multiple resources, learners will achieve understanding on how to overcome difficulties and organize new learning (Bransford et. al., 2000, p.45). I must create conditions for learning that require students to analyze abstract problems. If I fail to do so, my students will only be effective in completing routine tasks, and will fail to respond when systems change or problems occur. Teaching students to think metacognitively, using a framework that requires them to formulate the problem and reflect on their thinking, has proven to help enhance their ability to apply their learning and understand when more information is necessary (Bransford et. al., 2000, p.21). With experience, it becomes easier to know where to look, when to look, and what to look for. By giving them the opportunity to learn using several different representations, they will achieve conceptual understanding and transfer learning to life outside of the classroom; they will become flexible learners (Bransford et. al., 2000, p.63).

The main idea is that learning in school must follow the same natural process that learning outside of school does. That is, we must spark the curiosity of learners in such a way that they want to further explore the ideas and then we must give them the opportunities and resources they need to effectively do so. By using this process each learning style can be addressed and the learning will feel much more natural and not forced. They will take control of their own learning. (Bransford et. al., 2000, p.18) This makes learning not only relevant and meaningful, but also fun.

It is important to consider the foundational ideas of how we learn and understand in this program because technology is changing at an exponential rate. In order to be successful, we must be flexible learners. Being adaptable when learning technology reminds me of when I got my iPad. I was so confused on how to use it, but after a while it became second nature to me. Then, once I got my iPhone, I was able to use what I had learned about my iPad to navigate my phone. Technology is changing the world rapidly, impacting the way students learn and opening new possibilities for educators. By building on what we learn in this course, I hope to provide learning experiences that will prepare my learners for the globally diverse economy they will enter after graduation.


Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.) (2000).  How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368


One thought on “Week 1: Learning, Understanding, and Conceptual Change Essay

  1. Hi Kristen,

    Several points in your essay resonated with me. First, since you’re a math teacher, with the exception of very young student, I assume that you’re faced with dealing with a great deal of math anxiety. The fact that you take the time to provide your students with “authentic learning experiences,” that ideally, help the to learn math concepts in context, “following the natural learning process.” to see that math doesn’t have to be frightening.

    Also, I really appreciated your use of “we” when discussing being flexible, adaptable learners. As we rapidly move through these technological changes, I think it’s important to not lose sight that these changes are just as confusing for our students as they are for us. Since most of my students are college freshman, I’m often surprised at how much they don’t know. On page 45 of Bransford et al., they discuss pairing experts with “accomplished novices” when designing educational materials. What’s a more authentic learning experience (regardless of the academic discipline) than having the students occasionally become the teachers and vice versa? 🙂

    I look forward to “working” with you this semester.

    Take care,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s