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Understanding Learners

Our student population is diverse. It's important to design a learning environment to meet the individual differences of inquirying minds. What motivates one child might bore another. What is meaningful in one context, might be misunderstood in another. By understanding student thinking processes, intelligences, and learning styles, teachers can develop individual paths of learning.


Mental Models

Mental modeling concerns a student's ability to visualize or comprehend the demands of information processing. Terms such as schemata, mental representation, and cognitive mapping are associated with the cognitive framework involved in individual perception, understanding, and reaction.

Over the past century, much debate has centered on how people think, organize understandings, and learn. In the 1940s, psychologists focused on communication to understand learners. Behaviorists following the work of B.F. Skinner in the 1950s and 1960s placed emphasis on modifying observable behavior through step-by-step procedures and reinforcement.

By the 1970s, Cognitivists shifted the focus to how learners store and recall information. For example, Jean Piaget stresses schemata (mental structures for organizing their perceptions), assimiliation (integrating new information into existing schemata), and accommodation (modifying or creating new schemata).

In the 1990s the Constructivist movement emerged stressing the active engagement of learners in authentic, meaningful experiences to assist in the "construction" of schemata.

eye means readRead Key Word: Mental Models in THE BLUE BOOK by Callison and Preddy, 431-434.

Key Words

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Learning Styles from Mindtools

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