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Richard Laprise

Self-Classification Paper
The study of the various learning theories has illuminated how humans learn.
This, in turn, has great implications for me as an educator. Having studied many of
these theories in my undergraduate program while earning my psychology minor,
very few connections were made to my teaching. Thankfully, connections are
currently being made for two main reasons: 1. I now have teaching experience and
a developing teaching style to compare these theories to, and 2. I am consciously
making connections between the theories and my practice by reflecting on what I
have previously done as a teacher and what I can use in the future. I have found
that I currently follow many principles outlined by the theorist but can now label
what I am doing, allow the theories to inform my methods of instruction, and be
able to articulate why certain teaching strategies are successful.
Since I can better label my approaches as a teacher, I can now examine
where my beliefs fall. I believe strongly in creating a safe, risk-taking environment
that allows students to express a variety of emotions through music and create this
culture in the first lesson. I made very clear to my students that I would never
intentionally lie to them and that I expected the same in return. I encouraged
students to share answers and never made students feel that they were "wrong" or
a bad person for incorrect answers. Although I always attributed creating this
environment to my personality and how I was raised, I now know that there is great
value in this classroom culture as explained by humanism.
Even though I can identify with many aspects of humanism, I cannot say that
it is my primary motivator as a teacher. Particularly in my first two years of
teaching, I believed firmly in behaviorism. This consisted of having many

procedures and visual and auditory cues based on stimulus I provided which were
then reinforced to modify behavior. I was effective in implementing different
behaviorist strategies but used them more for classroom management rather than
actual instruction. In my most recent two years of teaching in the public schools, I
was able to develop behaviorist strategies creating stimuli that resulted in a
response that would lead to learning in my students. One example is when there
was music playing at the beginning of class there would be notes on the board for
students to copy. The music (stimulus) created the response of the students to take
out their notebooks and copy the notes. As an instrumental teacher, I used
conducting gestures as stimuli to create different learned responses from my
students and note flashcards so that students would learn fingering, note names
etc. Even though I used reinforcement extensively, it was largely limited to just
praise.
I believe behaviorism is effective and has a place in my teaching. However, I
would classify myself most as a constructivist. I believe that the best way for
students to learn is for them to think. As a teacher, I should facilitate this learning
so that more thinking and learning can occur. What I believed as me using Socratic
questioning is deeply rooted in constructivism. Critically listening to music by posing
questions about the piece were a large part of my general music classes. From
there, sharing answers and building off of students' answers contributed to a social
constructivist activity. My firm belief in constructivism is evident in my work with
Junior Student Teachers. Almost all of my feedback has a question mark and our
meetings are always built from what they have thought of themselves. One student
eventually figured out that what I was trying to get him to do in his lessons was
exactly what I was doing with him in our meetings.

Ultimately, I believe that I need to create more opportunities for


constructivism and social constructivism in my classrooms. This is especially true in
an instrumental setting where I feel like my constructivist strategies were lacking. It
is a task I am excited for and even more motivated to work towards knowing the
immense amount of support behind it. As an educator, I believe that all of the
learning theories have a place in my teaching. I look forward to my continuing
journey in developing the most effective balance and blend of these methods.