Since it represents a transitional stage, grade five children are not very easy to handle. Scholars have emphasized a need for those handling them in order to have a good knowledge on a good number of the learning theories and their applicability. These students are different from their juniors in terms of their social-emotional, cognitive, and language realms and to their seniors because they are still not able to solve complex problems. It is only with a good understanding of these students that their teachers will be able to create a good classroom space, appropriately group the students as well as design the lessons. This calls for a hybrid learning theory that can help the teachers handling this group of students to be effective in their work. This write up gives an in-depth analysis of such students and attempts to in look at different relevant theories come up with a singly hybrid theory that can be a solution.
I majorly expect to work with the 5th grade students. These are students in the fifth school year and normally either taking their final year in the elementary school or their first year in the middle school depending on the state in which one lives. They normally range between age 10 and 11. Even though the country has no single curriculum for this grade, there are certain expectations in the specific subjects that are offered to these students.
According to Northeast Foundation for Children (2011), fifth graders are different from their juniors in their emotional, cognitive, and language abilities. Understanding these general characteristics of the 5th grade students, therefore, enables the teachers to come up with a learning environment, well designed lessons, and learning groups all which helps in improving the learning process. First, the fifth graders generally enjoy chatting. This means that responsible teachers should never insist on subjecting these students to a quiet classroom and school environment. Instead, the students can be grouped into small clusters after which an interactive model can be used in training them how to interact but with low voices whenever they are walking along the hallways.
Additionally, the Northeast Foundation for Children (2011) notes that at this stage, the students are able to tackle more complex work, focus more on forming and maintaining peer relationships as well as the ability to be abstract in their thinking. Equally, there are characteristics which are unique with the younger 5th graders and those with the older fifth graders and should be known by their teachers. The research has shown that the younger 5th graders may prefer work and play groups which are smaller in size, they are also normally more anxious and tense, and they can also be attentive only for a limited period of time. On the other hand the older 5th graders may be more combative and argumentative and concerned with the social dynamics as well as begin think more critically due to their complex thinking.
Just as has been the case with the general learning, a number of theories can be used to explain the learning process as occurring during this stage in the life of a student. Such theories as has been utilized both by the teachers and the learners to aid the 5th grade students in the learning process include radical behaviorism, cognitive information process theories, the meaningful learning and schema learning theory as well as the situated cognitive theory. For example, the radical behaviorism which involves the association between specific actions and events in the environment can be utilized by the teachers to provide a good learning environment for these students. The emphasis by this theory on the role played by the environment in shaping behavior is particularly important as it helps the teachers to know the need of creating a positive environment for learning. This will require the teachers to arrange the class for success by coming up with designs that will engage the minds of the students while also inspiring them. B.F.Skinner’s operant conditioning explains that all behaviors are believed to be caused by the external stimuli.
Practically, whenever a grade 5 teacher is considering behaviorism, he/she should consider the stimuli and the reinforcement which comes from the environment as a critical part of learning. Naour (2009) noted that whenever an appropriate reinforcement from the environment is lucking out, learning would never be successful among the 5th grade students. He added that in cases when the inappropriate reinforcers are present, only the wrong behaviors will be reinforced. Consequently, the result will either be an incorrect learning or no learning at all. This is because behavior can only be learned whenever the same reoccurring stimulus produces the same reoccurring response. Equally, since this is the time during which the students begin to be much concerned with their peers’ feelings, the school environment should be favorable to give the students an opportunity to establish and develop their relationships and interaction with the peers.
Cognitive behaviorists, on the other hand, take into account the mental representation while overemphasizing on behavior. The cognitive theorists believe that even though the behavior is used to make reference about the mental state, the behavior itself should never be the center of focus. According to the cognitive theorists, any information that is to be processed is received through the sensory inputs, either auditory or visual. With a proper understanding of this theory, the 5th grade teachers are better off considering that they are also handling a group of students to which playing and chatting are hobbies. However, experienced teachers have learnt to take advantage of this to make the learning process more effective.
Various games can be introduced to help in teaching such subjects as mathematics. For instance, Northeast Foundation for Children (2011) notes that studies have shown that learning out loud through the games is able to greatly strengthen the mental math and logic skills far much beyond what could be possible in case a pure text book was to be used. Equally, this is also the time when students begin to analyze the scientific properties of the objects they see and thus the use of senses. These students also possess extreme interest in science as well as playing with various sporting equipments. That is why at this stage it is preferred that the teachers should incorporate games during in their lessons to help motivate the students enabling them to be more expressive.
Such games are also useful in enhancing comprehension skills to enable the students to have some level of understanding of what they are reading as well as making them more comfortable while reading. Generally it is such activities and games that help keep the students happy while learning and consequently produce positive results. It is also advisable to use games while popping quiz to students. This helps the students to avoid unnecessary pressure as well as keeping them motivated in the sharing of their learning experience. However, Naour (2009) points out that the learning environment setting must be organized and structured and that any failure to accomplish this will impair the learning process.
Cognitive theorists also underline the effectiveness of using a repetitive approach in the learning process involving the fifth grade students. For example, the teachers have utilized this theory in seeking to improve the math and logic skills of their students by exposing them to a few math activities which are carried out a number of times weekly. Such regular practice normally helps the students to grasp the concepts of basic subtraction and addition as well as enabling them to begin to tackle more complex problems.
Taking into account the radical behaviorism will also help the teachers know that while considering a plan of action, they have to determine both the positive and the negative reinforcements. This can involve leading the students in the creation of simple machines making use of such tools as pulleys, wedges, inclined planes and wages. Moreover, relevant experiments can also be used to create interest in these students. Wayne (2012) argues that performing such steps as in the case during the experiments helps ensure that the students retain a greater percentage of what is learned. A good example would be involving the students in building batteries through the use of common items. This could be an effective way of having them learn the way in which the batteries function. Such experiments can easily be repeated by the students at home enabling them to improve on the way in which they design.
Equally, the teachers can also borrow from the schema theory which stresses on the need to acknowledge and utilize the students’ accumulated/previous knowledge. The theorists have underlined the need to acknowledge that learning occurs by building on previous knowledge. Even though certain trainings which teachers take their students through may not allow for the use of previous knowledge, the general lessons learnt by the students can be applicable in building the current knowledge.
However, as the teaching and training for the grade 5 students’ progress, what is being taught and learned would be useful to the students especially as they proceed to senior grades during which they would be needed to solve more complex problems. At this point, one would also construct the graphs and data containing chunks of beneficial information and anchoring new information to previous known knowledge to help accomplish the goal of progressive learning among the students.
On the other hand, the situated cognition theorists can help the teachers take into account the fact that the grade 5 students do not exist in isolation. This means that the learning process can be affected by the way in which an individual grade 5 student interacts and relates both with his/her colleagues, entire school and the community as a whole. The theory perceives learning as a process that involves enculturation and the various activities in which people within the setting are involved. The theory can thus help the teachers to view learning as a process through which every grade 5 student is slowly transformed to be able to handle complex work in future.
This means that whenever these teachers will be examining a situated learning in a social learning like the case of a class of grade five students, an individual students will most likely practice what he/she apprehends from his/her surroundings. With this theory, the teachers can reinforce the training of those in grade 5 class by reiterating whatever training sessions they conducted with a section of the class to all other students within the class. Their argument is that in this way the student would likely continue with the training even within the classroom. This enables the students to receive repeated instruction and practice on a full participation level.
A Hybrid Learning Theory
With the learning increasingly being understood as a complex process which can only be analyzed by a holistic approach, scholars have indicated that it is not proper to rely on a single theory in the study of any learning process. It is, therefore, necessary that a hybrid learning theory could be created to enable the instructor to achieve the desired learning outcome. As evidenced, every theory analyzed above, considers only a given aspect of life in its explanation of the learning process. This means that if only one theory was to be relied on to explain the learning process, certain aspects of the learning process may not be addressed. Consequently, a teacher who utilizes only one theoretical approach in teaching grade five students is certainly bound to be ineffective.
Therefore, it is necessary that educators come up with a hybrid learning theory that can take into account all the aspects of a child life. Such theory should incorporate the schema theory, the situated learning theory, and the cognitive theory in its explanation of the learning process. This will ensure that besides the environmental factors emphasized by the behaviorists, other factors like the repeated knowledge accumulated from the onset of the training as emphasized by the schema theory, the context in which the child is being trained emphasized by the situated learning theory, and finally the mental representation of the student which is emphasized by the cognitive theory are taken into account.
As argued by Piaget, incorporating the behavioral theory will ensure that the effects of observation and environment of the children’s learning process are taken into account. As discussed in the above section, the learning environment has a great influence on the grade 5 learning process. Equally, the experimentation is another pillar of an effective learning during this period. Thus, for easy understanding of new concepts, grade 5 students’ lessons must be accompanied by learning aids and games.
Additionally, the hybrid learning theory should also entail well-tested and research-based programs which are designed to prepare grade 5 children for the scientifically and mathematically complex problems. Such programs should be based upon sound scientific knowledge about how the brain functions, how humans think and learn, and how this knowledge relates to the understanding of the world. The mentioned experiments like that of allowing the children to make their own batteries out of materials that are common to them enables the students to repeat the same even while at home and thus greatly improving their designs. McLaren (2007) notes that teachers can also come up with continuous math and logic skills to help their students get into terms with the basic knowledge like that of addition and subtraction in readiness for solving complex problems in the senior grades.
In addition the hybrid learning theory should also take into consideration the students social networks. This will include the adult guidance and the students’ collaboration with other peers in the process of learning. Thus the hybrid learning theory would combine the biological basis of learning and memory, as well as motivation and self-regulation in learning. The common feature in the hybrid theory is the influence of the surroundings to the learning experience of the students. The biological basis of learning and memory is used to design programs to prepare children for scientifically and mathematically complex tasks in their learning environments.
Reasons for the Adoption of the Hybrid Theory to the Individual Theories
With the understating of the complex nature of human development, there has never been an agreement on such issues as how human beings’ social, emotional, linguistic and cognitive development takes place. Some of the theorists have described the process as that which results from a complex interaction between both the environmental factors and an individual’s biological disposition. This means that for us to come up with an all rounded grade 5 students, such theories as the schema theory, the situated learning theory, and the cognitive theory must all be incorporated in their learning process. Behaviorism, for example, will ensure that the effects of important environmental factors like the student’s culture, family, and such institutions like the school and the religious groups on the learning process are taken into account.
This dynamic way of incorporating various theories in the child learning process also enables the learners to be viewed as unique and be understood using any of the theories relevant to them. It is observed that even among the 5th grade students some grow, understand, and learn faster than their colleagues in class. Equally, some may portray totally different social and emotional behavior compared to that exhibited by others. The Northeast Foundation for Children (2011) notes that as some of the children in this grade will be showing social-emotional behaviors identical of grade four, others will have cognitive abilities identical of those possessed by grade 6 students. This means that even in this grade, students will have different learning abilities and skills.
In conclusion, the fact that some students in this grade will always have capabilities beyond or below the typical capabilities of this group, makes it hard to use a single theory of learning to boost their learning process. It is, therefore, only by embracing the hybrid system that the learning process of the grade 5 students can be effective.