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A at In

A at In

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Published by: api-3731377 on Oct 15, 2008
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The Learning Cycle
The learning cycle follows a definite pattern that is modeled after the way Piaget and others have described
concept development. This instructional strategy (teaching model) consists of three distinct phases: (1)exploration
phase, (2) concept introduction phase (invention or term introduction) and (3) concept application phase(expansion,

1. Exploration Phase- This is the first phase of the leaning cycle. During this phase, die teacher plays an indirect role. The teacher is an observer who poses questions and offers assistance to students and small groups of students. The student in this phase explores a concept through the use of materials.

2. Concept Introduction Phase- In this phase, the teacher assumes a more "traditional role". The teacher gathers information from the students, with regard to their exploration experiences. The students explain or define and the teacher introduces terms or labels. This part of the lesson is the vocabulary building time. Materials such as textbooks, audio-visual aids and other written materials may be used to introduce terminology and appropriate information.

3. Concept Application Phase- At this time, the teacher poses a new situation or problem which can be solved on the basis of the previous exploration experience and the concept introduction. It is critical that the teacher use any new terminology and insist that the students do the same. Like in the exploration phase, the students engage in some type of activity and the teacher is an observer who poses questions and assists individual students and small groups of students.

The learning cycle approach creates opportunities for students to manipulate materials, socially construct their knowledge, and work in cooperative groups. These experiences can encourage assiniilati6-n-or may cause students to question their current thinking about a specific concept (disequilibration.) To begin with the exploration phase provides students with materials to manipulate, and creates opportunities to interact with peers. The physical experience helps students build mental images of the new ideas or new terminology that is presented in the concept introduction phase.

As new ideas and/or terms are presented in the concept introduction phase, students have the opportunity to interact with the new ideas and with their teacher and peers. This interaction may be enough to help the students assimilate or accommodate specific ideas.

The concept application phase encourages additional physical and social interaction by providing students with an opportunity to use these new ideas or terms in different situations. These experiences may aid students in finding answers to questions that they have generated during the exploration and the concept introduction phases, providing additional opportunities for self-regulation to occur.

With attention being directed to the learner, the fourth variable of concept formation (physical maturation) can also be accommodated by the learning cycle. According to cognitive theorists, students can only internalize concepts for which they are "mentally ready." Therefore, with careful selection of the concepts/topics for each lesson, the students can be provided with the learning experiences that fit within their reasoning abilities.

Different Types of Learning Cycles

Anton Lawson (1988) has identified three different types of learning cycle lessons: (1) descriptive, (2) empirical- inductive (abductive) and (3) hypothetical-deductive. The main difference between each of these lessons is the manner in which students gather data and the types of reasoning patterns they use during lessons. According to Lawson, in descriptive lessons students only describe what they observe. In empirical-inductive and the hypothetical-deductive lessons, students not only describe what they observe but also attempt to generate hypotheses to explain their observations. Plus, in hypothetical-deductive lessons students design and conduct experiments to test out their hypotheses. Therefore, the empirical-inductive and the hypothetical deductive lessons require more complex reasoning than the descriptive lessons.

Descriptive learning cycles only require the use of basic process skills (observation, classification, communication, measurement, inferences, & prediction) while the empirical- inductive and the hypothetical-deductive learning cycles involve basic and integrated process skills (identifying variables, constructing tables and graphs, describing relationships between variables, constructing hypotheses, analyzing investigations, defining variables operationally, designing investigations, & experimenting). Because the integrated skills require more complex reasoning, it appears that descriptive lessons are appropriate for students who are developing proficiency in the basic skills. Students who have gained proficiency in the basic skills and are developing proficiency in the integrated skills would not only benefit from descriptive lessons, but also from empirical-inductive and hypothetical deductive lessons.

Applying the Learning Cycle to Current Science Materials

Science education research indicates that the majority of schools in the United States are using textbooks to teach science. Although most science textbook lessons are not organized to follow the learning cycle, with a few alterations these lessons can be modified to fit this approach. Hands-on activities suggested by textbook authors often work well near the beginning of the lesson to form the exploration phases, while enrichment activities are sometimes appropriate for the concept application phase. The extent to which modifications are needed may vary depending upon the organization of the science materials. One lesson (exploration, concept introduction, and concept application) can be completed in one class session or may extend over several sessions, depending upon the nature of the science topic(s) or concept(s) being presented.

Guidelines for Modifying Lessons into the Learning Cycle Format
1. Select the lesson you want to teach.
2. Refer to the Learning Cycle Check List to determine what components of the learning cycle are absent in the
lesson you are modifying.

3. Supplement the missing components by using appropriate resources (e.g. Activities and enrichment exercises from textbooks, science source books for the exploration and concept application phases; audio-visual materials and supplemental written materials for the concept introduction phase.)

4. Construct the lesson according to the learning cycle format.
5. Use the Learning Cycle Check List to evaluate you newly developed lesson.
Source: Barnum, C. R. (1989). An expanded view of the learning cycle: New ideas about an effective teaching strategy. Council for
Elementary Science International, Monograph and Occasional Paper Series #4.
I Exploration Phase
A. The lesson contains an exploration phase that is activity-oriented.
B. Ample time is provided for the exploration phase.
C. The exploration activity provides student-student and student-teacher
II Concept Introduction Phase
A. The concept(s) and term(s) is/are an outgrowth of the exploration phase.
B. The concept(s) is/are explained by the student or the term(s) is/are defined by _____
the student.
C. The concept(s) is/are named by the teacher or appropriate vocabulary is
developed after explanation or definition by the students.
III. Concept Application Phase
A. The student extends the concept(s) to a new situation.
B. Appropriate activities are used to apply the concept(s).
C. The teacher and the students have opportunities to use new vocabulary.
Learning Style Categories

People who have a visual learning style learn best if a major component of the material or lesson is something they can see
or watch. This learner works best with written material and instructions, diagrams, posters, and demonstrations. The
information which the visual learner takes in is translated into and stored as pictures or images in their brains. These
learners are usually neat and well organized. They may use statements with visual cues such as "I get the picture".
Unnecessary movement can be a distraction to a visual learner.

This learning style will work well for anyone wanting to do course work via distance education. Although technology is
now allowing for more auditory components, the written component in distance learning is still prevalent whether it be
through text books, web sites, conference boards or e-mail. Distance education allows the learners to control their learning
environment making it more conducive to their learning.

Careers which suit the visual learner would include executive positions where a vision of the future is important,
architects, engineers, and surgeons.

People who have an auditory learning style learn best if there is an oral component to the material being learned. Verbal
instructions, taped lectures and face to face instruction work best. These learners filter the information they hear and store
the relevant data but don't necessarily form pictures around it. When problem solving, auditory learners prefer to "talk it
out". While talking they may use phrases which relate to how they learn such as "I hear you". Unnecessary noise can be a
distraction for the auditory learner.

Although this type of learner could have more difficulty with distance education than an auditory learner, it is still possible to be successful. Some distance education courses have audio and/or video taped components. These learners could read materials aloud or have it read to them. Also they can control their learning environment thereby avoiding unnecessary distracting noises.

Because of their excellent listening skills, auditory learners would make excellent pathologists, disc jockeys, and

People who have a kinesthetic or tactile learning style learn best when they can touch or feel what they are learning about.
The use of their body and feelings are very important to these learners so hands-on projects work best for them.
Kinesthetic learners do not always have a good time sense or sense of orderliness or neatness. They often live for the
moment and do not have a vision of the future. Kinesthetic learners will often speak of their learning in terms of feelings,
prefacing statements with "I feel". People with this learning style will have a tendency to move around while trying to solve
a problem.

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