Personal And Professional Learning

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Personal And Professional Learning

Personal And Professional Learning


Any discussion about professional learning needs to be prefaced with a definition of learning. However, the act of defining learning is a complex task. Smith (1982) points to the complexity of defining learning as From the many definitions of learning (Dewey, 1933; Boyd, Apps and Associates, 1980; Kolb, 1984; & Brookfield, 1986; Mezirow & Associates, 1990 & Boud, 1993) Knowles, Holton 111 and Swanson (1998) have summarized key components of definitions of learning. These components included change; learning as a process; natural growth; development fulfillment of potential; personal involvement; self initiated learner evaluated, independent learning It was not until after World War 1 that theory of adult learning became apparent.

Lindeman (1926) strongly influenced by the work of John Dewey laid the cornerstones for a theory of adult learning. Lindeman advocated, “adult education is a process through which learners become aware of significant experience. Recognition of significance leads to evaluation” (1926, p.1691). Some of Lindeman's key assumptions regarding adult learning were identified as adults are motivated to learn as they experience needs and interests that learning will satisfy; experience is the richest source for adults' learning and adults have a deep need to be self directing. From the time that Lindeman stated that adults learn through experience many others have recognised the value and contribution that experience has on influencing adult learning. In 1967 the term andragogy was introduced by a Yugoslavian adult educator, Savicevic who differentiated adult learning or andragogy, from children's learning, or pedagogy. The andragogical model of learning is based a number of assumptions including: the need to know, the learner's self-concept, the role of the learners' experiences, readiness to learn and orientation to learning.

Savicevic's model provided a conceptual framework of adult learning that was not previously evident. Bandura (1970) and Vygotsky (1978) emphasised the importance of the learner's social context to learning. They believed that learning occurs through observation and modelling. Mezirow's (1990) transformation theory described learning as the process of learning through critical self-reflection. He stated that learning is the process of using a prior experience to understand a new or revised interpretation of that experience in order to guide future action. 

Kolb, (1984); Boud, (1993) and Dietz, (1998) identified learning as a cyclic model. These three models of learning will be discussed in this paper to examine learning through experience and through reflection. My understanding of professional learning is grounded in Dewey's philosophy (1938, 1966) that we learn from experience and reflection on that experience. Dewey (1966) has described the act of learning as “one of continual reorganising, reconstructing [and] transforming experience” (p.50). This paper relates learning to a person's experiences and the sense that is made of that experience for future action. 

Identifying the Professional Learning Cycle

From the review of the literature undertaken on adult learning three models of learning have been identified which describe learning as a cycle. (Kolb, 1984; Boud, 1993 & Dietz, 1998). Kolb's well-known model of experiential learning consisted of a four-stage cycle. He argued that learning starts with the learner's experience. This experience is then reflected upon and the learner tries to make sense of the reflection and forms generalisations about the ...
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