How well do you understand the Learning Cycle? Part 1

I can remember hearing about the "Learning Cycle" since I first started teaching, and every time someone mentioned it they said something different from the previous person I heard discuss it. I will admit that after almost twenty years as an educator, I just now really understand it. Am I an expert at implementing the learning cycle? No. But I'm getting better.

Let me explain. I did not go to college to be a teacher. I actually studied clothing and textiles. (I like to say that I went to college to learn how to sew.) About 5 years into that career, I decided it sucked. So, I entered an alternative certification (AC) program. My district still has the AC program, and it is much more rigorous now. (Which is a nice way of saying that when I entered my very own classroom after a summer of "training", I was on my own and didn't know jack. I didn't have a solid foundation of the theories of Piaget, Vygotsky, and Ausubel. I didn't really know how children learn. I just thought "If I teach it, they'll all be brilliant." Wrong.) Now, a lot of veteran teachers didn't much like the AC's, so when the learning cycle came up in staff meetings and such, I sure as heck wasn't going to raise my hand to ask for clarification.

I've grown over the years - lots of on the job experience and plenty of staff development. Then last year I began my master's degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in science. I learned so much. Especially about....the learning cycle (I bet you weren't expecting that). So, what is the "Learning Cycle" (as it applies to science and math in particular)? Well in a nutshell, it is a method of implementation based on the constructivist theories of the fellows I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Okay, so what does that mean?

Let me back up just a bit. Traditional instructional methods revolve around textbooks, memorization, pre-teaching of vocabulary, and an inherent assumption that children come to us with the background knowledge and experiences necessary to assimilate new learning. Now you and I both know that is not true. When implemented properly, the Lesson Cycle provides experiences, builds foundational knowledge, and leads to applying new learning to new concepts. Let me be clear about one thing: The lesson cycle is not pre-teach, teach, assess, re-teach. Those four steps are teacher centered. The lesson cycle is learner centered.

This is getting lengthy, so I'm going to stop here for today. In my next post I will go into further detail about the lesson cycle and post links to some good background information about the evolution of the "Learning Cycle".

Y'all have a great day,
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