Education | Learning: Theory into Practice
P312 | 5771 | Amber Esping



Ormrod, J.E. (2003).  Educational psychology:  Developing learners
(4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice Hall.

Gardner, H. (1993). The unschooled mind:  How children think and how
schools should teach.  New York:  BasicBooks.  NOTE:  This book may
be needed during the second half of the semester. If so, it will be
made available.

Readings as assigned (available on e-reserve).

Welcome to P312!  You have the honor of participating in the first
year 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, and that these courses are
coordinated.  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 students.

This 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 and 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 the application of 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 clam
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 toolmakers, 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.

Another way of looking at theory is to view them as “lenses” that can
help you see what is happening in a classroom. Those of you who wear
glasses know that putting them on helps to bring the world into
focus.  What if you had several different pairs of glasses, each of
which brought a different part of the world into focus? Each time you
put on a different pair, you would view the same situation in a
different way.  Theories are like this—You can view the same teaching
situation many different ways, depending on which theory you are
using as a lens.

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 tool
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 a 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

A word must be said about the work-load in this course.  Extensive
reading will be required, and students will be asked to take control
over their own learning process throughout the semester. There simply
aren’t going to be many opportunities to cram or pull an “all-
nighter.”   I understand that some of you may feel that work best
under pressure at the last minute. For the most part however, that
strategy will not work in this class.  It is important to know
yourself well:  If you are a procrastinator (and many very talented
people are, by the way) please come talk to me, and perhaps I can
offer some suggestions to help you organize and prioritize the work-

Finally, it is important to note that this course emphasizes written
communication skills. Potential employers will get to know you on
paper first; this is how they decide whether or not to meet with you
face to face. The truth is, if you are not a great writer, you may
not have the chance to show what a great teacher you could be.
Therefore, a portion of your grade on each assignment will reflect
the clarity of your written expression. You will have plenty of help
and training, so if you are not confident about your writing, don’t
panic.  However, even if you are confident about your writing
ability, you probably won’t get a good grade if you turn in your
first drafts. I am extraordinarily picky, and I can usually tell.


Teachers are human beings, and this means that their personal values
will influence their pedagogical decision-making.  These values often
constitute a “hidden curriculum” which, while vitally important to
success in a particular course, is often not made explicit anywhere.
This is unfair to students; you should know where your instructor is
coming from.  To this end, here are four personal values (call
them “quirks” if you like) that infuse my teaching style:

1. I believe in cultivating a personal relationship with each
student. I used to be a private clarinet teacher, and I miss the 1:1
interaction with students.  This is one of the reasons for the 5-
minute reflections and the student information sheet.  You will find
that P312 will make use of your diverse talents and backgrounds.

2. I try to be very accessible to students; I check email often, and
respond quickly.  I will always make time to meet with you to discuss
this class, or anything else on your mind.

3. Procrastination REALLY bothers me.  If you want help, ask for it
early and I will bend over backwards to be flexible and helpful.
However:  Don’t bother emailing the night before something big is due—
I will either ignore you, or send a reply that politely tells you
that you are on your own. Of course here I mean “panic” emails
like “Do you have another copy of the assignment?” or “I’m not sure I
get what we are supposed to do.”  I understand that some things do
come up at the last minute, so use your judgment.  If you think your
question is reasonable, go ahead and email me.

a. I do not believe students who tell me the following: “I do my best
work under pressure.  My papers are better if I write them the night
before.” My response to this statement is this:  If you can do great
work at the last minute, think what you could accomplish if you
actually put some effort into it!  Your standards are too low.  There
is also much research to back this up.  Eminent creators do indeed
create beautiful things in euphoric fits of inspiration, but a lot of
polish work always follows the initial insight. (Legends to the
contrary have usually turned out to be myths.)  Remember:  Your best
work is a mix of inspiration and perspiration.

b. Some students will respond this way:  “ Okay. But I always get
good grades when I do my papers the night before.”  You may indeed be
able to pull it off.  However, it is also possible that the reason
for your good grades is that your teachers don’t have time to fix
your grammar. (Let the English instructors worry about whether or not
you can communicate clearly!) However, your instructors do notice
when you write sloppily—even if they give you a good grade--and this
hurts the reputation of the SOE undergraduates. I will make the time
to help you become a better writer, so please pay attention to how
you structure your papers.

4. I believe the quotes presented in the front of this syllabus.  I
am in awe of the power that each of us have to touch other people’s
lives.  It is a beautiful thing. However, it also means that if you
don’t care about this course, or don’t put forth your best efforts,
you are not just hurting yourself—you are hurting your future


--Do not make these mistakes on your papers--

1. Do not begin sentences with the word “So”

2. When you start a new topic, start a new paragraph

3. Use apostrophes (‘) to show possession.  For example, “I will
bring the student’s book to school.”  The book BELONGS to the
student, so you use an apostrophe.  Do not use an apostrophe unless
you are talking about ownership.  (For example, do not say “The
student’s are going to class today.”

If you are talking about more than one student, then the apostrophe
goes AFTER the s.  For example:  If the books belong to several
students, say “I will bring the students’ books to class.”

If the word ends in an s, put the apostrophe AFTER the s, even if you
are only talking about one person.  For example,  if you are talking
about someone who is named Mrs. Elias, you would say “I will bring
Mrs. Elias’ book to school.”

4. In formal writing, avoid overuse of  the word “you”. For example:
Don’t write: “You should be aware of your students’ learning
styles.”  Instead, write:  “Teachers should be aware of their
students’ learning styles.”

5. The person who runs the school is the principal. (Think:  “The
principal is my pal.”) Do not confuse this word with “principle.”  We
will study learning principles in this class, but the principal runs
the school.

6. Brevity = clarity.  If you can say something in fewer words, do
it.  The object of great writing is not to use the biggest word, but
to use the right word.  Check your definitions!

7. Let your papers sit for a couple of days, then check them for
grammar mistakes and clarity of thought.  (This is
called “incubation.”)  There is often a huge gap between what you
meant to say and what is actually on the page.  There are very
interesting psychological reasons why you won’t catch mistakes right
away.  We will talk about these reasons when we discuss cognitive
information processing theory.)

8. When in doubt, bring your work to the Writing Tutorial Services,
206 Ballantine Hall. Ph. 855-6738.
( Of course, you can also
turn your drafts in early.  I am always happy to help.


Attendance:  Attendance is very important. The P312 participation
grade is based on your responses to the 5-minute reflections that
take place at the very beginning of class. If you are not present,
you cannot get your points. (All of us need a “mental health” day
from time to time, and I understand that.  Just be smart about it!)
Also, please keep in mind that all assignments are due at the
beginning of class on the due date, whether you are present or not.

Prolonged absence due to extraordinary circumstances such as illness
will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. In all cases
documentation will be required. An example of appropriate
documentation for an illness is a physician’s note on professional
letterhead, accounting for all days of absence.

Email:  I send a lot of emails though Webmail.  (I do not use
Oncourse to send email.) Please check your IU account regularly for
course updates and information. I check my email account several
times a day, and make every effort to get back to students quickly.
Also, if your Webmail account goes over quota, I can’t reach you.
Please clean it out periodically.

Oncourse:  I will post all course assignments on Oncourse.  If you
need an extra copy of anything, please go there first.

Inquiry Learning forum:  This course will make use of virtual field
experience on the ILF.  You will be provided with training on how to
use this site.  (

Assigned Readings:  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 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 dates.

Late Papers and Assignments:  No late papers will be accepted unless
you make arrangements with me well in advance. All assignments are
due at the beginning of class, on the due date--whether you are
present in class or not. Items turned in more than a half hour after
class has begun (on the due date) will be docked ½ letter grade  (so
don’t miss class to finish your paper!) I am a reasonable person. If
you are having a problem, come talk to me—just do it early.

Academic Honesty:  As an educator, you will unfortunately have to
deal with an occasional student who 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.  Please
familiarize yourself with the policies outlined in the Code of
Student Rights, Responsibilities & Conduct. This can be viewed at Students who are caught cheating
or plagiarizing will receive a zero for the assignment and may fail
the course.

Syllabus Changes:  The syllabus is flexible. Modifications will me
made as needed.

Religious Holidays:  Reasonable accommodations will be made for any
student who wishes to miss a class for religious observance. If you
plan to miss an exam, you must submit an Accommodation Request Form
to me by the end of the second week of classes.  If you have
questions regarding the Indiana University Religious Holidays Policy,
please see   An
Accommodation Request Form can be downloaded from  A
calendar of religious holidays for this semester can be found at

Students with Disabilities:  Modifications and accommodations will be
made if appropriate documentation is provided.  Please let me know
the first week if you will require adaptations or modifications
because of special circumstances.

Grading Procedures:
I will use the following guidelines in evaluating your work:

A - Extraordinarily 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 application.

C - Satisfactory quality of work; average level of synthesis and

D - Minimally acceptable performance.

F - Unacceptable work, does not meet objectives of course.

Important Note:  It is a requirement of the School of Education that
you achieve a minimum of a 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.

Extra Credit:  I do not give extra credit assignments. Come and talk
to me if you are having trouble! I want you to do well, and I have
tremendous respect for students who ask for help. However, I do not
respect students who wait until the last minute and then ask for

Writing Tutorial Services:  For obvious reasons, future teachers
should be concerned about proper spelling and grammar. Please
thoroughly edit your papers before you turn them in. (There are some
grammar hints in this course packet.) If you want help improving your
writing skills, there is a wonderful, free service available at:
Writing Tutorial Services, 206 Ballantine Hall. Ph. 855-6738. Check
out this website for more information: Of course, I am always
happy to help as well.

Incompletes:  Incompletes will only be given in extraordinary
circumstances. It is your responsibility to keep up with the course
material. If you are having difficulty doing so, come see me during
office hours or make an appointment. Don’t wait until it is too late.

Withdrawals:  The automatic withdrawal date for the Spring, 2004
semester is March 10th. After this date, it is up to the instructor
and the Associate Dean for Teacher Education to determine whether to
give a W or an F.   The School of Education policy reads as follows:

“Ordinarily, the only acceptable reason for withdrawal is illness or
obligation of employment.  It’s the student’s responsibility to start
the withdrawal procedure by getting the form and asking the
appropriate people to sign it.  The application for withdrawal must
be processed within ten days of its receipt.

Standards and Principles for 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  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 %.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


P312 is divided into three units, each of which centers on a guiding

Unit 1:  What are learning theories and how can they help us?
Unit 2:  How are students motivated?
Unit 3:  What is “understanding” and how do we assess it?

5 Minute Reflections:  (5 % of your grade)
This your informal opportunity to tell me what you think about the
various topics we will be covering in class, and it is what I will
use to determine your participation grade.  When you arrive for
class, you will see an interesting (and sometimes strange!) quote or
question on the overhead.  For the first few minutes of class, you
may write on this topic, or any other educational psychology topic
you wish. When you are finished, put your reflection on my desk.  I
will read and comment on your reflection before the next class
period.  I will not be “grading” these per se; if you give a
thoughtful response, you will get full credit.  You should know,
however, that these reflections take place during the first 5 minutes
of class. If you are late, you cannot make them up.

This kind of informal journaling serves many purposes:  It is a great
way for you to figure out what you really think about the topics we
will be discussing in class, it solidifies your understanding of our
course material, and it lets you communicate with me. (You may write
questions or concerns on your reflection as well.)  Also, your
reflections will help me get to know you better! Also, you will want
to keep your reflections; they might prove helpful to you as the
course progresses.  Please keep them organized in a binder or folder.

Personal Theory Of Learning and Understanding: (15% of your grade)
You will turn in a two-page essay titled “My Personal Theory Of
Learning and Understanding” on the second day of class. You will
rewrite and extend this paper for your final exam.  This may seem
like an odd assignment (Why is she making us write a paper so early?
We haven’t even discussed any of these topics yet!) The reasons for
this assignment will be clear by the end of the semester. Most
students find it particularly enlightening.

Theory Application Papers (4):  (5% each, totaling 20 % of your grade)
During the first part of the semester, you will be asked to write a
two-page paper on each theory we discuss (behaviorism or social
learning theory theory, Vygotsky’s social cognitive theory, cognitive
information processing theory, and constructivism).  These
assignments serve two purposes:  First, they provide an opportunity
to explore how you might use each learning theory in your own
classroom. (Why are we learning all this stuff, anyway?) Second,
these short papers will also help hone your writing skills so that
you will do well on the bigger papers that come during the second
half of the semester.

Unit 1 Exam: (15 % of your grade)
This exam will cover behaviorism, social learning theory, Vygotsky,
cognitive information processing theory and Constructivism.

Movie Analysis:  (15 % of your grade)
For the midterm, you will analyze the movie Searching for Bobby
Fischer in terms of the motivation theories discussed in class..

Inquiry Learning Forum (ILF) Video Case Analysis:  (15 % of your
Towards the end of the semester you will complete a case analysis
using a video of an actual classroom from the Inquiry Learning
Forum.  This assignment will help you hone your observation skills as
you develop into a true connoisseur of educational practice.

Inquiry Learning Forum (ILF) Lesson Redesign: (15 % of your grade)
For your final project, you will be collaborating with three of your
classmates to produce a new instructional design for one of the
lessons you viewed on the ILF.  Your group will have to meet outside
of class. However, you will also be able to work on this project
during class time.  Group work can be challenging, but there are lots
of safeguards in place to reduce your stress level.