Education | Learning: Theory into Practice
F401 | 6030 | Dr. Don Cunningham
Welcome to the course Education P312, Learning: Theory into Practice!
Your have the honor of participating in the first offering of this
new class in the recently restructured Secondary Education Anchor
Program in Teacher Education at Indiana University. You should be
aware that you will also be taking P313: Adolescent Development in a
Learning Community along with P312 and these courses will be
coordinated – there may even be some shared assignments. The purpose
of these classes is to provide you with the latest scientific
information about how people learn and develop so that you can better
understand your role in the educational process. In P312, we will
focus on the topics of learning, motivation and assessment to help us
design effective learning environments for our students. In P313, you
will learn about the unique characteristics of adolescent learners
that will need to be taken into consideration as you work with your
Let me introduce myself. I am Dr. Donald J. Cunningham (Ph.D.,
University of Illinois), Professor of Education, Semiotic Studies,
Cognitive Science and Informatics at Indiana University. That said, I
prefer to be called Don and try not to take my professional titles
and credentials too seriously. I have worked in the field of applying
theories of learning and cognition to education for over 35 years and
still find the topic challenging and rewarding. I have taught this
class or one like it for many years but am still in the process of
figuring out what are good ways to organize it to increase its
usefulness to students. I shall endeavor to be sensitive to your
needs and I hope you will offer constructive suggestions for making
the course more valuable to you and to those students who will study
it in the future.
The course is designed to provide you with the basic distinctions and
concepts necessary to apply various theories of learning, motivation
and assessment to the teaching learning process. These theories are
tools that you can use to make your classrooms and the experiences of
your students more productive and useful. This course will introduce
and illustrate the proper use of these tools in providing insights
into defining and solving problems of teaching and learning. The
emphasis will always be on the use of these theories to solve
realistic and relevant problems drawn either from your own personal
experience or from cases we will study. It is only when you have
experienced applying these theories to actual problems that you can
readily see their strengths and weaknesses.
I have used the word "tool" several times already and it is an
important one to understand in the context of this course. I claim
that theories are tools much like hammers and screwdrivers are tools.
A hammer is a useful and effective tool if your task is to drive a
nail into a board. You can try to use a screwdriver to drive a nail,
but I suspect you will fail and wind up with cuts and bruises.
Likewise, if you try to drive a screw with a hammer, the wood will
split and the bond is unlikely to hold - but a screwdriver will
accomplish the task very well. And despite the best efforts of our
most clever tool-makers, there is no such thing as a tool that meets
all of our needs. The analogy I am drawing is that a theory like
Skinner's operant conditioning is a useful and appropriate tool for
certain problems like dealing with a disruptive student but not for
other problems. Similarly, Piaget's theory is especially helpful when
considering the appropriateness of certain mathematics tasks for a
grade level, but not very helpful for many other problems. During
this course we will review a number of theories and theoretical
concepts because no one theory is applicable to all of the problems
one is likely to encounter.
But theories also carry with them a world-view, a conception of what
it means to be human: what it means to learn something, to teach
something, to know something, to be a person. It is important that we
examine these world-views so that we can better judge the
appropriateness of using a particular theory. To extend the analogy,
to a two-year-old child with a hammer in her hands, everything in the
world needs a good pounding. If we limit ourselves to one or a few
theories, or if we fail to see the kinds of assumptions that theory
makes about the world, we will commit a similar error. If we limit
ourselves to operant conditioning, for example, we run the risk of
regarding all of our behavior (from simple forms like disliking
broccoli to complex forms like understanding quantum mechanics) as
strengthened or weakened according to external consequences - rewards
and punishments. One of my major aims for the course is that you
carry away with you a variety of tools and a sense of when they are
and are not best applied.
Equal Opportunity Classroom
No one will be discriminated against for any reason, including
gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, language
spoken, differing opinions, physical or mental differences, by the
instructor or by any member of class. I believe collaboration is one
of the greatest assets of learning and teaching. As professionals, we
will be discussing a number of important, and sometimes delicate,
issues in class. To maintain an open and non-threatening environment,
everyone must teacher each person with respect and dignity.
Academic Integrity and Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct
As an educator, you will unfortunately have to deal with an
occasional student that attempts to gain credit falsely through
academic dishonesty. Naturally, you cannot permit deceitful
practices, and in turn, I expect you to show integrity in all of your
academic work as well. All university policies for academic honesty
as stated in the Undergraduate Bulletin apply in this course. If you
are unfamiliar with any of these, make yourself familiar with them
immediately. In addition, all guidelines stated in the student code
of rights, responsibilities and conduct will be expected and applied
in this course. You may download the code at
Adaptations or Modifications
Please let me know within the first week if you require adaptations
or modifications to any assignment, exam procedure, or due date
because of special circumstances. I will gladly accommodate religious
holidays, learning disabilities, medical conditions or other
appropriate needs if you let me know in advance.
Prepared and Alert Attendance
This class is driven by discussion, group work and cooperative
learning activities, which means the attendance of each person is
critical. Regular attendance and alert participation are expected by
me and the School of Education as part of your requirements for
graduation. You are allowed 2 unexcused class absences (two weeks of
classes) during the semester to accommodate any unforeseen problems
that may arise. Any absences that have documented and warranted
circumstances will not count against this total. If you are going to
miss a class, please e-mail or call beforehand to make appropriate
Due to the technical nature of this material, independent reading is
a necessity to be prepared for our daily discussions of current
educational topics. As you read, learn the “edu-speak,” generate
questions, and form your own opinions. Teachers talk about these
topics during their prep hours (and in job interviews); you’ll be
doing the same in our class. All of us have a responsibility to come
to class prepared so we can dive into interesting and provocative
discussions. See the course calendar for reading assignments and
Contesting a Grade
If you wish to contest a grade, please see me an e-mail detailing
your reasoning within 48 hours of receiving the grade. This will
allow both of us to think, reflect, and discuss the matter without
taking away class time from other students.
All assignments should be sent to me electronically if possible, but
in any case are due by the start of that day’s class. Please be
careful to get work in on time, as any late item will automatically
lose points for each day that it is late.
Is this the place for you?
This course emphasizes collaboration and discussion with your peers,
intensive observation and reflection, and it requires several hours
per week for reading and homework. Consequently, if you depend
heavily on lectures, prefer to work alone, or do not have adequate
time for reading and assignments or to commit to reflection, this may
not be the class for you at this time. One of your most important
tasks will be to convince me that you are ready and able to become a
teacher (and possibly the teacher of my grandchildren!).
Changes to the Syllabus
I reserve the right to change the syllabus as deemed necessary to
ensure adequate student progress. Any changes will be made in class,
based on student input and general class agreement.
Class procedures and assessment.
You will complete a number of projects for this class, some graded,
some ungraded. I expect everyone to complete all the projects and be
fully engaged. My overarching goal for you is that you develop your
teacher “voice”, that is you become able to think, see, hear, talk
and act like a teacher. Here are brief descriptions of some of the
1.Problem Based Learning Video Case Analysis (50% of grade). During
the semester you will complete three video case analyses using videos
of actual classrooms from the Inquiry Learning Forum. You will
complete one assignment by yourself, another with a “critical friend”
and a third with members of a group to which you will be assigned.
Your basic task in the first two assignments is to reflect upon the
instructional activities that you see in the videos and identify
issues for further analysis and study. In the second assignment you
will in addition offer feedback to a colleague who has conducted a
separate analysis and receive feedback from her/him. In the third
assignment, you will do all of those tasks once again but in this
case the goal of your group will be to design or redesign a lesson
based upon your analyses. In all cases, the emphasis of the analysis
should be on the instruction rather than the instructor – standards
of professional critique (e.g., constructive, respectful comments)
will be required. The first analysis will count as 10% of your grade,
the second as 15% and the third as 25%. Due dates for these
assignments are listed in the schedule below.
2.Midterm Examination (25% of grade). This examination will be a
traditional one, mixing objective and free response questions. It
will focus on concepts and ideas from the readings and class
presentations that I will expect you to know and apply in the PBLVCA
project and others. My purpose in giving this examination is as much
to teach you the strengths and weaknesses of traditional assessment
techniques as it is to test your knowledge.
3.Critical Reading Papers (20% of grade). At various times throughout
the semester, you will be asked to hand in 5 Critical Reading Forms,
the best four of which will contribute to your grade. These forms
will help you become a more critical, thoughtful and observant
inquirer into the literature on teaching and learning. Due dates for
these assignments will be available shortly.
4.Participation (5% of grade). This is my subjective estimate of your
engagement in the P312 community of learners – reliably attending
classes and being actively involved in class and small group
activities, both graded and ungraded.
5.Personal Theory of Learning and Teaching. At the third class you
will submit an essay (500 word limit) titled “My Personal Theory of
Learning and Teaching”.
I detest assigning grades but it is the Policy of the School of
Education that every student be assigned a grade for the course. I
will use the following guidelines in evaluating your work:
A Extraordinary high achievement; shows unusually complete command of
the subject matter;
represents an exceptionally high degree of synthesis and application.
B Very good, solid, above average quality of work; good synthesis and
C Satisfactory quality of work; average level of synthesis and
D Minimally acceptable performance.
F Unacceptable work, does not meet objectives of course.
Please note: It is a requirement of the School of Education that you
achieve a minimum of C to “pass” this class and continue in the
teacher education program. A grade of C- or lower will result in
having to retake the course.
Also note: I do not give incompletes except under extraordinary
circumstances. Keep up with the reading and attend classes and you
will have no trouble succeeding.
Education P312 (F401) - Learning: Theory into Practice
Tentative Schedule: Fall 2003, Section 6030
Date,Topic,Readings (completed by date)
Sep 1 Introduction, Definitions None
Sep 3 Scientific study of learning/HPL: Chapter 1
Sep 8 Scientific study of learning/Stanovich reading/Pers Theory due
Sep 10 Behaviorist foundations/Gredler reading (on ILF)
Sep 15 Behaviorist found/classroom management/AE: 31, 32
Sep 17 Motivation and behavior/AE: 18, 26
Sep 22 Learning foundations: Learners/HPL: Chapter 2, 5
Sep 24 Learning foundations: Learners/AE: 15,16, 17
Sep 29 Learning foundations: Learning/development/HPL Chapter 4
Oct1 Learning foundations: Learning/development AE: 7, 8, 12/First
Oct 6 Learning foundations: Learning for transfer/HPL: Chapter 3
Oct 8 Learning foundations: Learning for transfer/AE: 19, 20
Oct 13 Motivation and learning/AE: 27, 28
Oct 15 What have you learned? MID TERM!/Review all
Oct 20 Standardized testing/AE: 34, 35, 38
Oct 22 Standardized testing
Oct 27 Teacher assessment/AE: 36, 37
Oct 29 Teacher assessment/Second VCA due
Nov 3 Designing learner centered environments/HPL Chapter 6, 7, 9
Nov 5 Designing learner centered environments/AE: 23
Nov 10 Designing knowledge centered environments/AE: 22
Nov 12 Designing knowledge centered environments/AE 28
Nov 17 Designing community centered environments
Nov 19 Designing community centered environments
Nov 24 Designing assessment centered environments/AE: 24
Nov 26 Thanksgiving vacation
Dec 1 Teacher Learning/HPL Chapter 8, 10
Dec 3 Teacher learning/AE: 1-4
Dec 8 Review, wrap up, catch-up
Dec 10 Review, wrap up, catch-up/Third VCA due
Dec 19(F)Final Examination (2:45- 4:45) ?
Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R. (Eds.). (2000). How
people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington, D.C.:
National Academy Press (HPL). This book is also available on-line at
Cauley, K., Linder, F. & Mcmillan. (Eds.). (2004) Annual Editions:
Educational Psychology 03/04. Guilford, CT: McGraw-Hill (AE)
Other readings will be made available in electronic reserves or on
Standards and Principles of Teacher Education
This course is structured around a set of core principles developed
by the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium
(INTASC), the educational task force responsible for constructing
model standards for the licensing of new teachers. These principles
represent the knowledge, dispositions, and performances deemed
essential for prospective teachers in all subject areas. You can
read about the principles at http://www.ccsso.org/intasc.html . This
course will specifically address five principles by covering the
topics of student development and learning (Principles 2.1A and
2.1B), individual and group motivation and behavior (Principles 5.1A
and 5.1B), and assessment strategies (Principle 8.1A). .
Additionally, this course, like all courses offered by the IU School
of Education, is developed within a framework comprised of six major
principles. If you are not familiar with these principles, please
read about them at
http://education.indiana.edu/~tep/sixprinciples.html. Below is a
brief description of how this course reflects the six IU School of
Community. Group building activities during the first week will be
the basis for a creation of a community of learners within the class.
Open discussion of course teaching and assessment techniques as
members of pre-service teachers’ future repertoire will be
encouraged. The collegiality that will develop will be used to push
students into seeing themselves more as teachers as less as students.
Critical Reflection. Using original literature to facilitate critical
reflection on topics under consideration will be commonplace in this
course. Several debates will be set up between groups of individuals.
Good topics for this type of reflection might include1) Should
students be rewarded for learning? 2) Can cognitive development be
accelerated? 3) What’s wrong with memorizing? 4)Is inquiry learning
effective? 5)Can teachers’ expectations affect students’ learning? 6)
To test or not to test?
Intellectual, personal, and professional growth. Critical reflection,
combined with an emphasis on application of knowledge, should set up
an intellectually demanding classroom. In addition, with choices
built into each assessment (whether performance or objective based),
a highly personalized view of learning should also develop. Students
will also be pushed to think about their current viewpoints as well
as changes they would like to see themselves make.
Meaningful Experience. Meaningful experience can be facilitated in
several ways in this course. First, all discussions will focus on use
of information in future contexts (i.e. the students’ classrooms).
Second, application of much of this information will be required in
the virtual field component. Students will be required to use these
virtual observations for various components of the course.
Knowledge and multiple forms of understanding. Students will leave
this course well-versed in learning theories but will also have begun
to understand the connections to their content areas. Some
integration of the content area knowledge in this course will be
accomplished through the use of examples from cognitive research on
thinking and learning processes within science, math, social studies,
reading, and writing. These will be used mainly as illustrations of
particular concepts but also will facilitate early thinking about
content area knowledge. Multiple forms of understanding will be
encouraged in this class through the effective use of multiple forms
of assessments (objective tests, debate preparations, performance-
based assessments, and application-based assessments).
Personalized Learning. Students will have choices as to the specific
assessments which will be used to demonstrate competency in the
course for many of the assignments, including which cases they wish
to view in the virtual field experience.