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A Multidimensional Model of a Learner

By Kelly McGonagil

Alverno College
SPE-611
July 18, 2017
Multidimensional Model of a Learner
As we know, learning is a very intricate process. Many different facets contribute to the
successful developmental milestones and educational experiences of children. We have
researched and learned of a wide range of theories, encompassing a wide range of viewpoints on
how learning takes place. My multidimensional model translates this intricate process to one that
is very relatable to us all through a comparison to cooking! My presentation and paper alike will
address overall takeaways from this course by explaining what I believe is essential framework
to develop in a classroom setting, and connecting relevant theories to the model itself.
Recipe for Learning
In making this comparison, I looked to connect one complex procedure with another,
more familiar one. As I thought critically about the process we go through when preparing a
meal, I identified a few constants. First, cooking can best be accomplished in an environment
that supports this process; the kitchen. Second, certain items are needed in order to effectively
make the desired dish; utensils, pots and pans, oven, etc. Lastly, how we combine and utilize
ingredients will affect the outcome of the food. It is through this reflection that I recognized
similarities with the learning process itself, and such began a “Recipe for Learning”. By using
the theoretical framework that follows, this multidimensional model suggests a cohesive
relationship among community, individual needs, and cognitive learning, which all play an
imperative role in the learning process.
Theoretical Support
The model I created calls on the theoretical support of Bronfenbrenner, Maslow and
Bruner. I find these theorists offer a wide range of educational and developmental ideas,
matching the complexity of the learning process itself. They come from a range of paradigms
demonstrating my belief that no sole factor is responsible for learning in and of itself.
Bronfenbrenner addresses the role of the community and societal factors that may have
an effect on development and learning. His Ecological Systems Theory separates the world
around us into five different environments, indicating the most influential, and the relationship
among them. The Microsystem is the first and most personal of the systems. It involves the
people and community places the child has a direct connection with. The Mesosystem is a
connection to the Microsystem and involves the interactions among the people in the
Microsystem and how those actions may affect an individual. Surrounding the Mesosystem is the
Exosystem. This system involves any indirect influence that may affect an individual’s home
environment. The fourth system is the Macrosystem, which incorporates cultural contexts,
beliefs and attitudes, as well as socioeconomic status. The final system, Chronosystem, is a
measure of time and informs on the individuals chronological age. These systems indicate that a
child is influenced by the world around them, indicating the major role community and
environment play in learning.
Abraham Maslow is well known for his Hierarchy of Needs which I feel relates directly
to special education and the overall educational world as a push for more individualized
instruction for all becomes more prevalent. As humans, we are motivated to achieve based on
our current level of needs. These explicit needs, as indicated below, drive our development.
Maslow’s pyramid demonstrates how obtaining certain lower level needs may take precedence
over meeting certain higher level needs. It is important for educators to realize that not all
students benefit from having their most basic of needs met at home. Our job is to determine what
exactly students need in order to benefit and gain from instructional time.
SELF-ACTUALIZATION: morality, creativity, spontaneity, acceptance, experience
purpose.
ESTEEM: Self-Esteem, achievement, independence, and status
BELONGINESS AND LOVE: social relationships, love, family, intimacy
SAFETY: protection from elements, security of employment, of health, of the family, of
property.
PHYSIOLOGICAL: breathing, food, water, sexual needs, sleep,
Jerome Bruner is the final contributing theorist to my “Recipe for Learning.” Bruner’s
theories offer a cognitive framework upon which individuals may use to input information. He
believed that learners create their own knowledge, and that this discovery-based process results
from past experiences and a current knowledge base. Bruner identified three modes of
representation which explain ways in which information is stored and encoded into our memory.
First is the Enactive Stage, where we encode action-based information into our memory banks.
Past events in this mode are represented through a motor response. Second is the Iconic Stage,
where information is stored visually, and last is the Symbolic Stage, which uses language to
understand abstract concepts. Here, information is stored as a unique code or symbol and can be
manipulated, classified and organized. While Bruner thought these stages to be fairly fluid and
flexible, he found individuals typically develop them sequentially. We must take into account the
different styles our learners will have, and adjust our instructional practices accordingly to reflect
students preferred style of learning.
Blending Theory with Practice
The idea for my multidimensional model of learning came to me while reflecting on all I
have learned in regards to learning theory, and its classroom application. I also found myself
reflecting on past years at the school where I currently work. My classroom consists mostly of
students with intellectual disabilities, and has a heavy focus on vocational and life skills. My
students spend many hours in our class kitchen, learning basic cooking and kitchen skills needed
for independent living. Our educational team often relates much of what we teach and talk about
in the kitchen to other subject areas as well. Thus, I think the “Recipe” concept can be used
across instructional areas to help provide additional support and point of reference to students.
For example, a “Recipe for Writing” chart displayed in the room might offer support on the
writing process indicating the need to plan, organize, write and edit a piece of work.
On a broader application note, this model can be directly applied to any classroom
setting. Teachers must not only create a sense of classroom community, but understand the
various backgrounds and cultures that their students come from. We must also be able to
determine individual student needs and develop a plan to help ensure that these needs are met.
Finally, addressing various learning styles throughout our instruction by using a range of
teaching methods, will help lessons be more effective and successful.