The Art and Science of Effective Teaching and Learning

For English speakers - or non Spanish-speakers - background and outline of the DBM Integrated Learning Model and the Presentation John McWhirter will be doing in December 2009. The workshop will be valuable for English and Spanish speakers alike.

In all probability the most advanced training available in this area and certainly based on the most complete modelling available.

Learning is a defining experience of being human

All animals need to do things to meet their needs. Instinct supplies animals with the learning that fits their environment developed through evolution. We humans are born with very little built in learning, or instincts, than other species and therefore must create it through many years of learning. This gives us a survival advantage; we are not limited to behaviours that only fit a previous environment therefore we can more easily adapt to new environments. This means we start with less and have to learn a great deal more. As a species we become unique in the ability to learn; we become skilled at learning and building understanding and skills. We build our understanding and skills based on our experience. We continue to create and change our understanding and skills throughout our lives through “ long learning”. This means that the unknown is a bigger issue for us than other animals. The more effectively we investigate, ‘go into the unknown’ and learn, the more effectively we will be able to build an accurate and effective knowledge of the world and the practical skills for meeting our needs.

We call the understanding that each of us creates through learning and creativity our ‘Model’ of the world. By a model we mean "an organised dynamic experience or representation of our world". We do not respond to the world as it is. We respond to the sense we have made of it; how it is "meaningful" to us. We then respond to new things based on this “sense”.

A lot of the learning we acquire is through formal TEACHING. The more effective the teaching the more effective the learning will be.

Learning Theory

Over the last hundred years three main theoretical approaches have been created to explain learning. The first of these was behaviourism which emphasised conditioning of behavioural responses through both Classical conditioning (Pavlov) and Operant conditioning (Skinner). While many interesting results were obtained they did not actually study the process of learning itself, only how behaviour based on learning could be altered. They also did not study many of the specifically human types of learning choosing to study mainly rats and pigeons.

The second main theory was cognitive. This aimed to study the internal workings of the brain (often confused with mind). While this broadened the scope of investigation it was often too mechanical and not actually describing what real people actually did as they engaged in learning.

The third main theoretical approach is constructivism. Constructivism aims to explore how individuals construct their knowledge form experience. A limitation in this approach has been a lack of precise description as to how exactly learning works and the exclusion of other types of learning covered by behaviourism and cognitive theory.

While all of these approaches have increased our knowledge of many processes around learning they have not described exactly how learning works and offer little in the way of practical understanding to the teacher or individual learner. Gilbert Ryle has highlighted the difference between a theoretical understanding of how things work and a practical skills understanding of how to work things. New developments in the constructivist field, specifically Developmental Behavioural Modelling, effectively responds to these difficulties and has created a model of learning that includes ALL the main learning processes describing how they work and how to effectively work them.

Developmental Behavioural Modelling: Modelling Learning

Every individual understanding is a unique natural model. Every scientific theory, philosophy and religion is a formal model built from our natural models.

We build and use models; our clients build and use models. As professional we are more likely to build formal models (including theories) to extend our informal or “naturalistic” modelling.

Both informal understanding and the formal understanding of science are models (and theories) built through the process of modelling. No matter what the epistemology underlying a theory both the epistemology and the theory require to be created in the first place.

Developmental Behavioural Modelling DBM ®  is the formal studying of the complete range of modelling. This includes the structure and function of models, how models are formally and informally constructed and effectively applied. DBM ® is unique in studying all aspects of modelling.

Although DBM® was developed with particular emphasis on Therapy and Education it is applicable to all areas of life. Specific applications have been made in Health, Business, Sport as well as therapy, counselling and coaching as well as an effective life skill.

Modelling Learning and Teaching

With DBM® we can describe the all the processes used in both learning and teaching as well as creating new possibilities. Rather than applying a generic theory we can identify the uniqueness of each individual learner and teacher. We can identify how all the different learning types fit together including “learning to Learn” (Bateson) that greatly improves the ability for future learning. We can also identify in detail the various ancillary processes like motivation and core skills like concentration and memory and improve them.

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